After a long wait, eight months to be exact, the provincial government released the 2015 budget on Tuesday afternoon.
Alberta will now run the largest deficit in the province’s history, which is a tough pill for many Albertans to swallow.
Now with this financial road map finally locked in, we can clearly see spending is up, debt is up, but there have been no cuts made to services.
“Albertans told us they want a plan that supports good jobs and a strong economy,” said Minister of Finance Joe Ceci on Tuesday. They told us they want their families’ health care and education to be protected, while ensuring every public dollar is well spent—and that’s exactly what we are going to do.”
The government stated this budget aimed to achieve three key priorities: stabilize front line public services, stimulate economic growth and set out a path towards returning to a balanced budget. The path towards balance seems to indicate borrowing for daily operations, a first in two decades.
Under the Prentice government, the 2015 budget had a surplus of $1.1 billion. The new budget under the Notley government includes a deficit of $6.1 billion.
Budget 2015 also includes funding for hospitals, social services and schools including 380 more teaching positions and 150 more support staff positions.
It also shows increases in infrastructure investment, supports trade development and attempts to improve access to funding for small and medium-size businesses.
One place where it is clear that Albertans will pay more again, just like eight months ago, is through sin taxes. Starting on Oct. 28th, a bottle of wine increased by 18 cents and a bottle of beer increased by approximately two cents. Tobacco taxes again took a hike with another $5 increase per carton.
Was this the budget we were expecting? At first glance, yes. The budget was everything Premier Notley and the government said it would be. We did not receive any real surprises except for the fact that the budget will not be balanced until 2019-20, a few years later than the NDP promised in their election platform.
It will take a few weeks for opposition parties, pundits, municipalities and regular Albertans to fully grasp what this presented budget means and its lasting impacts. For now, we will just have to accept it as it is presented, at face value.