Budget woes bad news for West Central Alberta

Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012 06:00 am | Dan Singleton

The Redford government’s recently released financial update, which shows the province’s deficit on the rise, is anything but good news for West Central Alberta.

The first quarter fiscal update shows the 2012-2013 deficit could reach as high as $3 billion. That contrasts with the spring budget that called for a much more modest $886-million deficit, which the PCs at the time said would be the last of five years of deficits before returning to a surplus in 2013-14.

Finance Minister Doug Horner says the downturn can be blamed on lower than projected energy resource revenues. At the same time he also says the changed financial situation will impact upcoming negotiations with teachers and health-care workers.

“I think there should be a message in this for them (the unions) in the sense that we are going to hold the line on our spending. We are tightening our belts, so we would expect all others to do the same,” said Horner.

Whether the thousands of members of the key education and health unions will be prepared to ‘tighten their belts’ so the PCs can get their financial house back in order remains a very big unanswered question.

The Wild Rose opposition says the deficit situation has as much to do with Tory mismanagement as it does with resource revenues, and that any resulting labour unrest can be placed squarely at the feet of the PCs.

“The Redford government has not been truthful with Albertans on the financial mess their political gamesmanship has caused,” said finance critic Rob Anderson. “You can’t budget for high oil prices based on hurricanes and Middle Eastern conflicts.

“These guys used phoney numbers to try and boost their fortunes for the election, and now they’re asking Albertans to trust them that this is just a temporary blip? I don’t see how anyone could honestly trust this government anymore.”

With communities all across West Central Alberta counting on the Redford government to address outstanding infrastructure, transportation, health and education funding concerns left unattended due to the recession, this downturn in the province’s financial situation is anything but good news.

And of course throwing labour disruptions on the health and education fronts into the mix would only make matters worse.

The only good news, if any, for the Redford Tories in this whole mess is that the next provincial election is still more than three years away, giving the government at least some chance to turn things around.

Wildrose finance critic Anderson says the Redford government is “playing Russian roulette with Alberta’s finances and it’s beginning to look like there may be a bullet in the chamber this time.”

Strong words, but maybe not too strong for a serious situation.


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