Premier Jason Kenney’s second budget sends a clear message to working people that they don’t matter. His 2020 budget doesn’t create jobs, it kills them, while exposing Alberta’s most vulnerable to even more insecurity.
Kenney is doubling down on the same austerity strategy that has failed to produce results in Alberta or anywhere else in the world. His massive spending cuts coupled with tax breaks for the rich are the last thing Alberta needs.
There is no doubt the provincial economy is struggling given the global decline in oil and gas prices, and working families are hurting. While the first priority of any government should be to help those families, Kenney instincts are the opposite.
Nearly every policy decision Kenney has made since forming government has been for the benefit of his rich and powerful allies, rather than working people. Last fall’s provincial budget cut spending to programs and services and froze education spending while handing billions to wealthy Albertans through corporate income tax cuts and generous capital cost allowances for corporations.
The result—a culling of 7,000 public sector jobs that include nurses, teachers, healthcare workers, and government employees.
Last week’s 2020 Alberta budget continues the destruction, despite the failure of the last UCP budget to reverse the economy’s decline.
This budget continues down the same foolhardy austerity road with frozen education spending, which is a major cut when factoring in population growth and inflation. Kenney is also cutting another 138 teachers and 106 support staff, introducing massive tuition fee increases, along with cuts to financial assistance for students, childcare, homeless support service, drug and benefit, acute care, and employment and income support.
And there’s more. Albertans will pay a whopping $460 million more in premiums and user fees—nearly all of them unfair flat fees that hit lower income families hardest.
What Kenney is doing highlights his economic illiteracy. What he is missing is the role governments play in stimulating the economy during economic downturns. He fails to grasp that government spending is an important component of GDP and economic growth. When public sector jobs disappear and public sector spending shrinks, so does the economy because there are fewer people working and spending money.
This actually puts downward pressure on economic growth. A recent study shows that Kenney’s cuts to the budget actually put Alberta on a path to recession.
The combination of corporate tax cuts and cuts to public services doesn’t balance the budget, it simply shifts money from the pockets of public sector employees into bank accounts of corporations already paying less than their share of what it takes to make the province work.
The UCP’s economic strategy also involves a shockingly naïve understanding of global energy trends.
The energy sector is one of the key economic engines that creates good jobs in many Alberta communities. No matter how hard the UCP wills it otherwise, the sector is evolving as the world gradually shifts away from fossil fuels. No politician, including Jason Kenney, can control global economic trends.
Premier Kenney needs to invest in new energy infrastructure, skills training, and transitional income supports for Alberta’s workers to prepare the province—in advance—for inevitable economic change. The longer they wait the more expensive it will be, and more pain will be inflicted on working Albertans.
To say that Budget 2020 is a missed opportunity is a massive under-statement. Kenney’s lack of vision and leadership, by continuing down the path of austerity and tax breaks for the wealthy, instead of investing in new economic infrastructures and programs to support working people and the most vulnerable endangers the future of the province.