By Jamie Rieger
The provincial NDP government rolled out its 2016-19 on Thursday and while many were not expecting a rosy financial forecast for Alberta, the 140-page document, dubbed “The Alberta Jobs Plan” had many shaking their heads in disbelief, particularly with the amount of spending and being planned for the next three years and no plans to balance the books for eight years.
Finance Minster Joe Ceci, in making the announcement, said this year’s deficit will amount to $10.4 billion, $10.1 billion in 2017, and $8.4 billion the following year.
“This is a deplorable budget. It is all about tax and spend; it is not going to front lines, not to communities, not to rural Albertans. It is about an NDP government that has an ideology about centralization and spending,” said Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes.
On top of spending the $3.8 billion Contingency Fund this year, the NDP also plan on borrowing $5.4 billion for operations. It is expected that there will be $58 million in debt by 2019.
“Spending has gone up $11 billion over the past two years and there will be 60 billion of debt in three years and the Interest expense will be $2 billion,” said Barnes. “Their borrowing ways are causing problems now and will for generations to come. There’s going to be perennial debt for generations.”
The NDP provided no solid plan on how they will pay down this debt.
Starting on Jan. 1, 2017, the controversial Carbon Tax will go into effect, potentially impacting industries to the point of moving out of the province.
“Industries will be moving their operations elsewhere. The concrete, fertilizer, and methane industries will move where they do not have to pay this onerous tax and all Albertans will have to pay,” said Barnes.
The carbon tax will not apply to farm fuel or manufacturers who produce products from petroleum, as opposed to burning it.
“This carbon tax will do nothing to reduce emissions. It is not going to incent our behaviour one way or another,” he said.
According to the budget, the carbon tax is expected to raise $274 million in 2016-17 and $1.7 billion in 2018-19.
A rebate program is to be established to assist lower and middle-income Albertans. Eligible Albertans are to receive up to $200 for single adults, $300 for couples, and $30 per child under 18 years old.
Whether or not the rebate will provide any actual savings for Albertans is disputable. On Monday morning, Wildrose Party leader, Brian Jean issued a statement on the carbon tax. Citing an analysis in the Canadian Tax Journal, a $30 per tonne carbon tax will increase electrical costs by 7.5 percent, food by two percent, and shelter by 1.2 percent, increasing household spending by hundreds of dollars annually, $500 to $700 in many cases.