When last week’s budget rolled out, it was revealed that the fiscal lion Prentice had pretended to be, was, in fact, a whimpering, six-week-old kitten.
Three years ago, Alison Redford tabled her first budget. It was an outrageous document that the National Post referred to as Alberta’s first NDP budget. Redford’s PCs opened the spending taps wide. Per capita spending in Alberta reached a record $10,800, compared to $9,000 in Ontario, and $8,400 in Quebec.
Redford projected a great big deficit, yet happily insisted it didn’t actually matter because the PCs had a terrific long-term plan. We now know that Redford’s long-term plan was a fraud and that her budget was a calculated act of political irresponsibility.
Last week, Alberta’s second NDP budget was put forward by Jim Prentice.
Originally, Prentice travelled the province telling Albertans that the provincial government was too big, too wasteful, and too expensive. He insisted that the looming deficit demanded spending cuts. He hinted at tax increases—but promised spending cuts.
Prentice even ponied up $100,000 of our tax dollars to get on TV. On television, he said his government “need[ed] to get [its] costs under control.”
Regardless of whether people agreed with Prentice’s statements, his message resonated. Many Albertans recognize that government really is too big and too expensive, particularly at the very top of the bureaucracy.
Yet when the time came for Prentice to act upon everything he’d been saying, he utterly and absolutely refused to act. No courage. When his budget rolled out last week, it was revealed that the fiscal lion Prentice had pretended to be, was in fact, a whimpering six-week old kitten.
Rather than address the province’s genuine fiscal crisis that he had so accurately defined, Prentice instead made a last minute decision to embrace tax hikes and deficit spending on a colossal scale. He now wants to deliberately put Alberta deep into debt. This year he is going to rack up the single biggest deficit in Alberta’s history—all inclusive, that one-year deficit will be roughly $8 billion.
Prentice says by 2019; Alberta taxpayers will owe $31 billion.
The yearly interest on the Prentice debt will be $1-$2 billion, requiring taxpayers to shell out billions in taxes while getting absolutely nothing in return.
Prentice’s budget established new taxes or hiked the rates in 59 tax categories. By way of example, the cost to register a home with a $400,000 mortgage will quadruple, going from $290 to $1,230.00. The single rate income tax, which was a big part of the Alberta Advantage, is gone. Healthcare taxes will cost Albertans $400 million in this first year, the kicker being that the PCs have already admitted that its “healthcare premium” will not even be directed toward healthcare. Every tank of gas or diesel is now more expensive. Yet spending on MLA offices and MLA budgets is up $54 million.
Overall, spending is still rising.
Prentice’s budget, in a way that has never been seen in Alberta’s history, openly places a higher priority on protecting the size and cost of government than it does on upholding the fiscal viability of the province or ensuring the advantages that for such a long time have been unique to Alberta.
Prentice is pushing the province deeply into debt, guaranteeing that taxpayers will be obligated to pay billions in interest. He’s creating an ongoing financial debacle that should cause every free-minded Albertan to shudder.
Scott Wagner, Banff-Cochrane
Danny Hozack, Vermilion-Lloydminster
Glenn van Dijken, Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock