Alberta Politics
Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews reads his Budget Speech in a COVID-19-safe Legislature as Premier Jason Kenney looks on (Photo: Government of Alberta).

Alberta Budget 2021 hot take: Sweeter language, same old ‘fiscal reckoning,’ and no path to balance

Posted on February 26, 2021, 1:14 am
9 mins

When Finance Minister Travis Toews got up on his hind legs in the Alberta Legislature to read his 2021 Budget Speech Thursday afternoon, there wasn’t as much tough talk about the coming “fiscal reckoning” as Albertans are accustomed to.  

Instead of the kind of language the United Conservative Party used to love using to fire up its perpetually angry base, Mr. Toews talked soothingly about a “historic investment in health care” and thanked medical workers for their courage on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19. 

The two masked amigos take a Budget Day stroll through the Legislature Building (Photo: Government of Alberta).

But while his tone was sweeter than the language we used to hear from Premier Jason Kenney in the first days after he united the right and defeated Rachel Notley’s NDP government, beneath the honey lurked the same old reckoning. 

Across the public sector, the UCP plans to pay public employees $1 billion less this year than it did in 2020.

“To each and every Albertan who works in the public sector, I say thank you for the work you do,” Mr. Toews piously intoned. “Many of you have gone above and beyond your regular responsibilities responding to needs created by the pandemic. Your contribution matters and has not gone unnoticed.”

But they’re still going to have to take a pay cut, he added. The details weren’t spelled out in his speech, though. You’ll have to estimate them from what you can find in the Fiscal Plan. 

But if you want to know how quickly front-line pandemic heroes turn into to back-of-the-line zeroes in Jason Kenney’s Alberta, there’s your answer. 

You can tell from the Fiscal Plan that the UCP proposes to slash $1.2 billion from public health care workers’ pay and benefits over the next two years. They also plan to add 2,940 new full-time equivalent health-care jobs this year – which will come to quite a few more than 3,000 workers. 

So, obviously, something’s gotta give there. The government will say these changes can be implemented without hurting the quality of care. That is a dubious proposition, of course. If they manage to do it, it won’t be pretty.

Opposition Leader Rachel Notley, back in the less viral and less indebted time when she was premier (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Post-secondary education will also take a brutal hit. Colleges, universities and technical institutions face14-per-cent funding cut. Public schools will lose at least $27 million in instructional funding, the Alberta Teachers Association said, while private schools will get a $20-million boost.

So by the time the dust has settled, it looks like another 15,000 Albertans will have lost their jobs. That’s the estimate of the NDP Opposition, which may or may not have its flaws, but it’s all we’ve got tonight because the government hasn’t provided us with its estimate. 

It doesn’t take a Nobel Prize in economics to know that’s not going to do anything to help the province’s post-recession, post-pandemic economy, even if it makes a few bitter folks in the private sector feel better. If you ask a Nobel Prize winning economist, he’ll confirm that for you. 

In other words, while the radical austerity talk seems to be over – presumably a response to some analysis by the UCP of what’s making Premier Kenney so unpopular and causing their once-assured re-election chances to rapidly diminish – radical austerity remains his agenda. 

Different vocabulary, same old ideology. 

It must have almost broken Mr. Toews’s hard heart, but he conceded in his speech that “it has become clear that, even after we’ve beat the pandemic, there will be a residual need for extra resources in health care.”

But many things in the budget came from the same old UCP playbook. 

Alberta will be sticking with fossil fuels, thank you very much. “Oil and gas are still among the most productive and highest-paid industries in the nation.” We’re still fighting carbon taxes where we find them. We’re still blaming the federal government for our problems. We’re still basing our plans on the tendentious claims and dubious Fraser Institute research of the MacKinnon Panel, named for Janice MacKinnon, the former Saskatchewan NDP finance minister notorious for closing down rural hospitals throughout that province. 

Plus, of course, there will be no new taxes. 

Some observers thought they heard a hint in Mr. Toews’s speech that the UCP might actually be pondering a sales tax, if not now, maybe someday. 

That’s how the Calgary Herald’s Don Braid interpreted Mr. Toews’s aside that “a third-party review of the efficiency and appropriateness of our revenue structure will be important in the future.”

Don’t bet the farm on it. Even what’s left of the premier’s strategic brain trust must realize that Opposition Leader and former premier Rachel Notley’s NDP could legitimately campaign against a sales tax without embarrassment. 

One thing that certainly hasn’t changed from generations of past Alberta budgets is that despite a big deficit and uncomfortably high debt, there’s no real commitment to that hardy perennial of Conservative rhetoric, getting the budget back into balance. 

“Once we can see our way clear of the pandemic, we will present a clear path and timeline for balancing the budget,” Mr. Toews promised. That’s one horizon likely to recede if the UCP can recover a firm grip on power, as long as corporate taxes stay low and they can use it to claim social programs aren’t affordable and there’s no alternative to privatization. 

Even the reliably supportive Globe and Mail gently mocked Mr. Toews’s promise in its headline: “Alberta budget projects $18.2-billion deficit and spending freeze to rebuild from pandemic – but no path to balance.”

Mr. Toews did say he was disappointed U.S. President Joe Biden pulled the plug on the Keystone XL Pipeline. But he expressed no regret for the way Mr. Kenney gambled more than a billion dollars – $1.3 billion according to a passing reference in the books – on a bad bet that Donald Trump would be re-elected president and let the pipeline proceed. Indeed, he didn’t mention that at all. 

So if you’re looking for auguries more promising than the one about the sales tax, it’s in the plan for big cuts to public sector pay. 

Will the UCP brain trust’s next risky bet be that if they can provoke a public sector strike in health care or government, they can smear the NDP as too close to unions and thereby win the 2023 election? 

Don’t put it past them to try. 

27 Comments to: Alberta Budget 2021 hot take: Sweeter language, same old ‘fiscal reckoning,’ and no path to balance

  1. Dave

    February 26th, 2021

    Oh I believe t is going to be an interesting ride on the Alberta fiscal roller coaster in the upcoming couple of years. Mr. Kenney was musing about a $14 billion deficit recently that somehow mysteriously become $18 billion days later in this budget. That is quite a swing and if anyone wonders how that happened, I would look at the low ball oil price projections in this budget.

    I suspect the UCP figures they were in such a hole they might as well turn this one into a total bad fiscal news budget. It also allows them to continue their plans for cuts. In a year or two, if oil prices hold up, they then start to use more realistic price projections and the deficit will magically melt by billions. Of course, probably just in time before an election for them to claim their good management and cuts have helped to get finances on track.

    Will this plan work? I don’t know, but it is clear to me there is a lot of fiddling on oil price projections in this budget that points to this as a big part of their plan.

    Reply
  2. Anonymous

    February 26th, 2021

    This is a very ugly and dark budget by the UCP. No matter how anyone tries to view this, it is going to be painful. People were warned about how bad the UCP were going to be, and they just plugged their ears, and closed their eyes. It’s not going to get better. Peter Lougheed is likely rolling in his grave. What else can be said? Congratulations, Albertans! You basically got another Ralph Klein clone. You got the government you wanted, and all the problems that go with it. This is the halfway point in the UCP’s tenure. The other two years won’t be any better. They will be worse.

    Reply
  3. Paul

    February 26th, 2021

    The outcry of regular Albertans only momentarily startled Kenney’s vultures off the emaciating corpse of the public sector. They’ve flapped down again to continue the feast, tearing off strips for their already plump corporate dependents.

    Reply
  4. Farmer Brian

    February 26th, 2021

    Certainly the projected deficit of over $18 billion is a huge disappointment for me. And David surprise surprise I agree with you on certain points. While there is no doubt many in the private sector have either taken pay cuts or lost jobs this continued attempt at cutting public sector wages seems petty. On the other hand Rachel Notley had a quick interview on QR770 radio yesterday post budget and when asked about a sales tax she answered and I am going from memory so not a quote she said how do you ask an unemployed energy worker to pay additional tax when the Kenney government has given billions away to business. I find history is a great teacher so I looked up 2 Alberta budget summaries, first 2014-2015, second 2018-2019.

    Budget Year. 2014-2015. 2018-2019

    Personal tax revenue. $11.042 billion. $11.874 billion.
    Corporate tax revenue. $5.796 billion. $4.871 billion
    Non-renewable resource. $8.948 billion $5.429 billion

    Now 2014-2015 was obviously the P.C’s and 2018-2019 was the NDP. What is interesting is that of $27.786 billion in revenue the P.C’s took in in 2014-2015 39.73% was from personal income tax. In 2018-2019 of the $22.174 billion that the NDP took in 53.54% was from personal income tax. Also remember the NDP raised personal income tax rates on high income earners and raised the corporate tax from 10% to 12% and the end result after 4 years of NDP tax policy was for personal tax revenue to increase and business tax revenue to decrease. Also remember the NDP lower the small business corporate tax rate from 3% to 2%. It would seem to me this was a mistake. It would seem to me while Rachel Notley attacks the UCP for giving away billions to business her record wasn’t any better. Also remember 2018-2019 was the best year for revenues of the 4 years the NDP were in power.

    Reply
    • Mickey Rat

      February 27th, 2021

      Hi Farmer Brian,

      So I see your figures as a 1.8% annual increase in personal tax revenues – about the rate of inflation. You say that the NDP raised income tax for high-income earners, but it seems that item resulted in no significant change in the total revenue from personal taxes. So during tough times high-income earners carry slightly more of the tax load than low-income earners – that seems ok to me.

      Now the reduction in corporate tax revenues you cite surely would have something to do with the oil price/demand collapse starting about 2015 – no? You say it was a mistake to lower the tax rate for small businesses? I think maybe it was to try to help small businesses (who we are told is the great generator of jobs) to get through the Alta oil crash struggles? Help small businesses (like farms) to stay operational and pay their workers. Again, I can understand why the NDP accepted this strategy.

      Rachel Notley wasn’t any better? Bullshit – I don’t recall Ms. Notley giving $1,300,000,000 to a private corporation (yes gifting with nothing in return). Let’s try to talk reality here…

      Reply
  5. Kang

    February 26th, 2021

    A hundred billion dollar deficit? Norway with less than half of Alberta’s fossil production has more than ten times that amount in its heritage fund. Alberta could have collected similar royalties for itself (those who make the argument Ottawa took it through transfer payments are either wholly ignorant or simply liars).

    We don’t need a sales tax, we need proper royalty levels and corporate income tax levels. Oh, and stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry. It is already profitable and can take care of itself.

    Reply
    • Farmer Brian

      February 26th, 2021

      I certainly agree on how bad a $100 billion dollar deficit is. There is no doubt that in hindsight that a proper level of taxation should have been applied and 70% of all non renewable resource revenues put into savings. I am interested in your math though on how you believe corporate taxes can eliminate an $18 billion dollar deficit. I agree that an 8% provincial corporate tax rate is to low but the projected corporate tax revenue for 2020-2021 is $2.242 billion at an 8% tax rate. Raising that back to 12% raises that to $3.363 billion but only reduces the deficit by just over a billion dollars. A 5% sales tax is supposed to bring in 5 billion dollars. In 2021-2022 the government is projecting $1.891 billion in corporate tax revenue at a 8% tax rate. To raise an additional $5 billion from corporate taxes, the same as a 5% sales tax, would require raising the provincial corporate tax rate to 28%. How many businesses do you think would stay in Alberta when provincial corporate tax rates in other provinces are in the 11.5% to 14%?! On the other hand a 5% provincial sales tax would still be the lowest in Canada!

      Reply
      • Mickey Rat

        February 27th, 2021

        Farmer Brian,

        Small point, but I think you & Kang mean a $100 B debt, not deficit. I agree that you’re not going to get out of this only on the back of an albeit necessary increase in corporate taxes. As much as I don’t like the regressive principle of sales taxes now it’s needed. When oil goes back to $100/bbl the govt can always cut it back and be a hero.

        Reply
        • Kang

          February 27th, 2021

          Mr. Mickey: Point taken on the terms, but a debt or an operating deficit is only a bad thing if it buys nothing. This is not the case with a government deficit (with the notable exception of the thoughtful $1.3 billion dollar gift Kenney gave to that pipeline company).

          Reply
          • Mickey Rat

            February 28th, 2021

            Agreed, an operating deficit is not necessarily a bad thing and what you spend it on is more important. Maybe $100B+ debt is ok for Alberta, but at some point even a provincial govt has to respect it’s debt because it can’t just print more money like a federal govt can.

            Someone mention flat tax? Didn’t AB have a flat 10% income tax and the NDP changed that to a progressive scale?

            It seems to me that raising royalties on new oil extraction projects would be worthwhile because if the companies refuse to develop them then the stuff stays in the ground – not a bad thing. But I think you can only raise royalties for new projects, once a project is negotiated and agreed I don’t think the govt can retroactively increase the royalties?

    • Scotty on Denman

      February 26th, 2021

      If bitumen mining and smelting is a sunset industry, then the companies will be producing less and, by most accounts, will be doing it less profitably. Increased revenues from bitumen royalties cannot be relied on to cover the government’s needs, even if royalties and corporate tax rates are increased (which, presumably, would make these big companies even less profitable). It rather looks like petroleum companies will take care of their profits and themselves by divesting high-cost-of-production/ low-market-value dilbit (as they are already doing). There goes the corporate income tax, too. What happens when so much of Alberta’s revenue comes from companies in a single industry —which, as mentioned, is past its prime?

      Market-fundamentalist theory holds that low taxes (in the case of sales tax, no taxes at all in Alberta) attract investment. But petroleum companies’ waning profitability has already been subsidized, yet provides less revenue, as you point out, than what Alberta needs—the current situation illustrates. The minister likes to talk about how much money the industry used to make, even excuses the UCP government by citing the market downturn, but never talks about how little revenues it collected from, nor how much Alberta’s economy is dominated by, this single industry. Since it is on the wane, and the remaining balance of the economy not diverse or big enough to replace its contribution to public coffers—even as little as it is—then Alberta badly needs investment in the non-petroleum sectors. Low-tax policy is supposed to attract this kind of investment.

      Then how come, with all the Alberta Advantage as could possibly be raised, that investment in diversity hasn’t happened already?

      One wonders how attractive any jurisdiction with substandard healthcare and education really is to investors from away. One wonders why other jurisdictions which do have a sales tax manage to attract diversifying investment.

      All in all, I think Alberta does need a sales tax—whether Albertans know it or not is another question

      Reply
      • Farmer Brian

        February 27th, 2021

        Looking at the 2021-2022 projections debt servicing cost is $2.764 billion. Non renewable resource revenues from Bitumen are projected to be $1.482 billion which doesn’t even cover Alberta’s debt servicing costs. No doubt some will say the royalty structure is flawed but in good times Bitumen royalties were well over $5 billion a year. What is really sad is that with debt services costs going up if a sales tax is implemented over half of the revenue from a 5% sales tax would go to service debt instead of going to pay for services. The inevitable result in Alberta is going to be higher taxes with less being able to be spent on services regardless of who is running the government.

        Reply
      • Kang

        February 27th, 2021

        Farmer B: a $100 billion debt is an embarrassment only if it buys us nothing, which is not the case.

        Scotty: The oil and gas sector in Alberta is hardly a sunset industry in any realistic time frame. When farmers start buying electric grain trucks and tractors you can get back to me on that. Oh, and it looks like the hydrogen tech being touted is just greenwashing of oil and gas. Remember “white asbestos” bad, “blue asbestos” harmless?

        But to your point: Let’s set aside the false analogy Farmer Brian likes between a household deficit and a government operating deficit. Like royalties and corporate income taxes they are two different things. The Government of Norway (Statoil) takes equity in all oil plays and takes what amounts to an 80% royalty. If they can do that on stuff at the bottom of the North Sea, we can do it on tar and oil and gas on the back 40.

        Which is pretty much what the last independent review of Alberta Royalties found. It was undertaken for the Stelmach government by a panel of independent academics. Had it been implemented Alberta’s budget deficits would have been non existent and/or the Heritage Fund could have been built up.

        The Notley government should have implemented the recommendations of the Stelmach royalty review and that is what voters expected. Their behavior on this and other economic files, as Farmer Brian has pointed out, was hardly different from the Cons they replaced.

        As to the tar babies or others leaving if royalties are raised. So what? If they want to surrender their leases and forfeit their plants we can do what Premier Lougheed did: start a crown corp to run them. If the history of mining in Canada is any indication, the public is going to end up owning them anyway so we might as well get some money out of them now.

        However, if you look at their financials you will see the majors are still profitable even as they manufacture operating losses by investing in automation. Like farmers burying income in new equipment, they understand investing for the future. For example, Suncor reduced its operating costs, mostly through automation by $1.3 billion (12%) last year.

        It is a matter of judgement whether to raise royalties or income tax rates. I favour royalties because they come off the top and it is too easy for a business to bury income in new plant and equipment not to mention other less productive delights. However, a corporate income tax rate of 40% on that sector would assure they would be the most automated and cleanest plants in the world as they picked up their socks to avoid income tax. Fewer jobs of course, but those are going to robots anyway. Since there is a finite amount of tar and oil/gas to be mined, why would we want any more expansion there anyway? Our children and grandchildren may come up with better things to do with it than burn it.

        Lest anyone has plans to hold a fund-raising bake sale for the tar babies, in spite of posting operating losses in 2020, Suncor had an operating margin on its refinery of around $30/bbl and paid a dividend to its shareholders of a buck ten on a twenty-five-dollar common share, which sure beats Tesla.

        The point is these are very well-run companies that can afford to pay a proper royalty rate on this non-renewable tar. The conventionals are even better. It is long past time for Alberta to quit playing TV cowboys, grow up, and act like an owner. As you quite rightly point out, without a sophisticated public sector, knowledge workers and other skilled people will not choose to live here, and who can blame them?

        A sales tax? So, the poor get to finance the rich. Stockwell Day loved flat taxes as well – enough said.

        Reply
        • Farmer Brian

          February 28th, 2021

          In 2020 Suncor had a net loss of $3.796 billion on its oil sands operations. It had net earnings of $866 million on its refining operations in 2020(down from $3 billion the year before). Suncor has 4 refineries, one in Alberta, 2 in Eastern Canada and 1 in Colorado. It is fortunate that Suncor is an integrated company, otherwise they would be in much worse financial shape. All royalties are payed before the oil is refined. The 2 eastern refineries would be supplied by line 5 so their futures could be affected if Line 5 is shut down in May. Interesting that Suncor’s refineries are very profitable but the Sturgeon Refinery in Alberta still isn’t profitable. As for government ownership of the oil companies, yes that has worked well in Norway, how is it working in Venezuela?!

          Personally I don’t remember comparing a household deficit and a government operating deficit. As for a sales tax creating a situation where the poor financing the rich, nothing is further from the truth. The higher a person’s income the more they spend so the more tax they pay. Wealthy people successfully defer income tax but the only way to avoid a sales tax is to not spend money. If you look at the last year retail spending was down just over 3%, the revenue form a sales tax wouldn’t have gone down near as much as revenue from corporate taxes!

          Reply
          • Kang

            February 28th, 2021

            Your misunderstanding of the nature of a sales tax and its differential effects on various income levels is profound.

            For a farmer you seem innocent of how to shelter money from income tax by improving plant and equipment, something most successful companies do very well. You need to read several tar baby Annual Reports rather than just one quarterly press release to learn how. Then you would understand why restructuring royalties has to be job one.

            But I do understand your caution because the UCP make the Venezuelans look like managerial geniuses. But it is not too late for better people in Alberta to emulate the Norwegians. Just because Notley was too gutless to restructure royalties has not changed the validity of implementing the Stelmach royalty review.

            Most of the assumptions implicit in your concerns about government operating deficits are based on the mistaken idea they are like household deficits, otherwise you would frame your concerns differently. As on a farm, there are times when debt is a good thing if it is building for the future and that always includes operating costs.

            How about this for a good use for public debt? For the price of Kenney’s $1.5 billion gift to a foreign pipeline, we could have connected to the BC grid with a 500 kV DC line and used their dams and reservoirs as giant batteries. Then we could have stopped burning things to make electricity. There would likely be enough money left over to buy all the photovoltaic panels needed to finish the job. Now there is a good thing for public debt we could debate. Not a single cow would have to be sacrificed to meet our carbon targets. Done right, even the tar babies might be let off the carbon hook. Just a thought.

        • Farmer Brian

          March 1st, 2021

          Actually Kang as a farmer certainly there is a tax benefit from depreciation on new to me equipment but “sheltering money from income tax” is done more efficiently by incorporating the farm business.

          As far as your desire to emulate the Norwegian’s why do you only go half way? You only talk about their savings of royalties rather than looking at how they were able to afford to do that. Norway has always had a sales tax. For 2021 that rate is 25%, they fund government with taxes and bank the royalties for future generations. The biggest mistake in Alberta is we spend our royalties on day to day operations.

          As far as deficits, investing debt in capital projects for future generations is fine, when you are going in debt to cover the costs of daily operating expenses that doesn’t work and isn’t sustainable in government or business!

          Do I think Kenney was wrong to spend $1.5 billion on Keystone XL? Yes! But as far as hydro dams go Site C in B.C. was originally projected to cost $6.6 billion, Premier John Horgan revealed the other day the cost to complete the dam is now $16 billion, how is that for good project management?! Muskrat falls in Labrador originally projected to cost $6.2 billion, that has now ballooned to $12.7 billion! How affordable do you think electricity from site C dam will be Kang?

          Reply
          • Kang

            March 1st, 2021

            Farmer B: just to work backwards on your points:
            BC Hydro’s site C will have no choice but to provide stupidly affordable electricity because there are simply too many cheap electrical generation alternatives keeping a cap on the cost of electricity. We already have the over-developed transmission grid that will make it so.
            The only reason renewable electricity is not already 100% of the grid is development time and the lack of electrical storage. Pumped-hydro storage using BC Hydro as a battery to make Alberta’s grid wholly renewable is workable and in fact about 15% of our grid load is already from BC Hydro providing battery storage services to Alberta generators at a considerable profit to both. Once you start cooking the tar using renewable electricity, Alberta’s carbon foot print goes down substantially. BC Hydro can rename itself “copper top.”

            If we get on it, higher royalties on the tar babies and conventional producers will generate enough cash to make a viable Heritage Fund over the next years. When we both buy battery-electric tandem grain trucks, that is the time for the Alberta government and the oil companies to get worried.

            Norway and Alberta are only comparable when it comes to oil and gas resources. Alberta Cons screwed up and Norway did not. Compared to Alberta, Norway has virtually nothing else of significance in the way of natural resources. Never-the-less, like Europe, they have developed a very pleasant cradle to grave welfare state since the end of the second world war in 1945.

            Using public debt and government planning to keep civilization running is a very sensible practice. If you had relatives who had lived with the consequences of not doing so, especially in Europe, you might not be so casual about the consequences of privatizing the state services created to keep things civilized.

            Unlike a household, a province and a country are immortal and have substantial and varied resources. So, I do not see any need to panic about Alberta’s operating deficits. If the UCP leave the universities alone we will continue to have talented and creative people to provide the intelligence and government planning needed to ride this out and build better for the future.

            Lastly, yes it is very efficient to shelter income by incorporating. But this is really robbing from the community and does not give you the same incentive to improve your farm and community that high corporate tax rates do. Which is analogous to what the Cons have done to cripple Alberta since the end of the Lougheed era.

          • Mickey Rat

            March 2nd, 2021

            Actually I don’t think the cost of Site C will have anything to do with the cost for Alberta to buy power from it. Site C has cost over runs and it’s going to come online too soon when BC doesn’t need the power – but it’s being built and when it’s built BC Hydro (the BC public corporation building it) will have to market the power it produces according to those good old supply & demand laws. They will have the option of selling the electricity at prevailing market rates or dumping the water out to flow downhill to the next dam. Alta & BC should look past disagreements like TMX and seriously work on an east/west power interconnection. As Kang says these reservoirs are great batteries to augment the future Alberta could have in wind & solar. After all, the BC Site C hydroelectric project is closer to Edmonton than any large community in BC.

            The story line seems to be that for the next few years Site C is going to have much more capacity than BC can use, so get together with BC and the Feds to get access to that probably under priced power before BC Hydro sells it to California at the discount prices. Remember that once the dam is built the marginal cost of power is near zero so Alta should be able to get a great deal. Hell, maybe Sask would like to get in on it.

            This isn’t going to happen with a UCP/Conservative/Wildrose/Progressive Conservative or whatever-they-call-themselves govt. This takes leadership-type thinking and ability and I wish Rachel Notley had seriously explored this before she got replaced. You can disagree with someone yet still have a good business relationship.

          • Mickey Rat

            March 2nd, 2021

            I see Kang got in there first with my point about taking advantage of inexpensive, clean BC Hydro energy.

            I’ll re-iterate the point though that I don’t think you can raise royalties on existing projects, only projects-to-be. To a certain extent we have to work with what we have…

  6. tom

    February 26th, 2021

    And, amidst the fine print. a 20-million dollar increase for private schools. It must be nice to be among the elect.

    Reply
  7. jerrymacgp

    February 26th, 2021

    The politics of envy are in full force in this budget. Toews is quoted in the Journal as saying, “we no longer have the revenue to justify higher comparative wages, especially at a time when many Albertans throughout the province have either experienced a wage reduction — or lost their job entirely”. So, let’s talk about that envy.

    Firstly, those of us in the public sector have been living with wage restraint — either falling behind or barely keeping up with even the modest levels of inflation prevalent in this century — for over a decade, even while private sector workers, especially those in the oil patch, were making out like bandits in the years before 2015.

    We also get virtually none of the perqs common in private industry: work truck? No. Year-end bonuses? No. Travel to trade shows in sunny destinations (here I’m referring to pre-2020 conditions)? No. Sure, we have generous benefit plans: negotiated by our unions over many years, & cost-shared between employers & employees, not free. We also have pensions — for now, at least, until the Alberta Government steals them to dump into a sunset industry. Job security? No, not really, although we do have more protection than non-unionized workers in either the private or public sectors.

    Secondly, if the recession is brought about by people losing their jobs in a global pandemic & downturn in oil prices, why put even more hard-working people out of work & deepen the recession? Do we not also contribute to the economy through our labour & our consumption paid for by the wages earned? Do they want to convert the recession into a depression? Don’t our incomes also contribute to government revenues through income taxes? Do they want to make the deficit even worse?

    Reply
    • Kang

      February 27th, 2021

      Jerry: You have pointed out the fatal flaw in the austerity policy. It collapses effective demand in the economy. I like seeing my grain and cattle sell and the poor and unemployed really don’t do it for me. Austerity is also economically illiterate because as you point out, most of that money is just taxed back by government anyway.

      We have been here before when the Cons followed an austerity agenda and kicked off the Great Depression in the 1920s and 1930s. They finally had to deploy snipers on roof tops in Edmonton during demonstrations to intimidate people and they systematically murdered the unemployed in Regina before they learned that a little bit of government spending buys a whole lot of civilization.

      The problem with too many of these UCP types is they want it to come to that again.

      Reply
  8. Athabascan

    February 26th, 2021

    Remember, just 2 more years to go.

    Next time, don’t fire a competent woman and replace her with a corrupt and incompetent man.

    Reply
    • Scotty on Denman

      February 26th, 2021

      I think, to be fair, you’d have to say voters didn’t know the man they voted for would be so incompetent. So now they know—at least most of them.

      I think voters didn’t quite know the woman they elected last time is actually quite competent—they just didn’t want to believe the bitumen bonanza was over, so her cogent policy to deal with that fact wasn’t even a consideration. So now they know—at least most of them. In two more years, probably more…

      Reply
  9. Abs

    February 26th, 2021

    In summary, the UCP are Reverse Robbin’ Hoods.

    “…$1.2 billion from public health care workers’ pay and benefits over the next two years,” while increasing the number of part-time jobs by more than 3000? This tells me that full-time jobs are going the way of the dodo bird, and the spotty, part-time hours that you do get will be at a much lower rate of pay, never mind no benefits. Thanks for all your hard work, now go suck an egg, because in our tiny brains, the pandemic is over. Pssst: New York variant.

    So it seems that the UCP ‘s $1 3-billion pipe dream investment in Keystone XL was taken directly out of the pockets of public health care workers.

    Ordinary Albertans who cannot afford private schools will be subsidizing those who can, to the tune of $20 million, while their own schools are ravaged and pillaged by even more, $27 million. The rich get rich, and the poor pay for it. Let the peasants sit in squalid classrooms with 50 students, and pay for the wealthy to have very small class sizes, because who holds this economy together: the wealthy! Where would we be without the wealthy working the line at meat-packing plants…oh, wait, they don’t do that?

    Post-secondary education? Forget about it! Why do you need an education to work at a meat-packing plant, and your crappy public education won’t prepare you for that anyways, losers! The premier of the province has a high-school education, and look at where it got him — running a province, FGS!

    Look forward to two more years of labor unrest, lawsuits and the march of the PSE penguins. The UCP incompetence and nincompoopery continues.

    Reply
  10. Scotty on Denman

    February 26th, 2021

    It seems strange, but if a ship is heading for an iceberg or about to be wrecked on an atoll, we don’t say it’s ‘on course for disaster’: we say it’s ‘off course.‘

    Even if a new course can be set to avoid disaster, the ship founders if maneuvered too late, and can only be saved by a sudden miracle of reversing tide, current or wind. If the good ship is about to be lost, the skipper is duty bound to save passengers and crew by any and every means possible, say, by lowering life boats or hailing the coast guard. It is a wily captain, indeed, who abandons ship with an eye to minimizing damage for eventual salvage off the bottom—all while seeing to the safety of passengers and crew first.

    It seems stranger that we’d still call a captain a ‘captain’ if he put his crew off first, before the passengers, especially if the ship hasn’t foundered yet and setting a new course would avoid disaster in good time. Oh, we might call the captain crazed or mad—even drunken—but we’d still call him ‘captain,’ as in ‘Captain Crazy’ or something like that, even though he does something no real captain would ever do. It’s like we’d never ask, before boarding a jetliner, if it’s being flown by a good captain or a bad one. We put such an extraordinary amount of trust in these officers, they get to keep their title—at least before a court passes judgement and takes it away—which can take years.

    What to say about the budget outlined above? In the most pithy analysis, I think the UCP government should get the ‘F’ on with it. Allow me:

    “Plus, of[f] course, there will be no new taxes.”

    Reply
  11. Abs

    February 26th, 2021

    For those who ascribe to black swan theory:

    “For example, what may be a black swan surprise for a turkey is not a black swan surprise to its butcher; hence the objective should be to “avoid being the turkey” by identifying areas of vulnerability in order to “turn the Black Swans white”.”

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_swan_theory

    Kenney said we’ve gone through a “triple black swan”. We’re the turkeys. He’s the butcher. The butcher intends to triple the slashing with this budget. Don’t expect any white swans on the other side.

    Reply

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