Last week the 2015 Provincial Budget was released and it was a tough pill to swallow for most Albertans.
The government vowed to reduce the revenue gap, mainly created by plummeting oil prices, by making a $1.9 billion reduction in government spending as well as generating $1.5 billion in new revenue.
One of the ways the government will create new revenue is through a new health-care levy, only included through payroll deductions, which will be introduced in July. It’s expected to generate an estimated $396 million in this budget year. It’s also thought to be more progressive than previous health-care premiums that were scrapped seven years ago by the PC government, as only those who make more than $50,000 annually will be asked to pay more.
Another way to increase revenue will be through increased fuel tax and sin taxes, as many had so thoughtfully forecasted. Starting last Friday at 12:01 a.m., the tax on gasoline and diesel was raised by four cents to $0.13 per a litre.
Immediately after it was announced on Thursday afternoon that the gas tax would be increased, piles of people headed to the pumps to fill up one last time to hopefully save a few dollars before the price went up that night.
An increase in liquor taxes (an additional 10 cents) and a hike in tobacco taxes was also implemented the next day. A bottle of wine saw a $0.16 increase, a case of beer $0.90 and a carton of cigarettes an increase of $5. Perhaps these sin taxes didn’t send people in flocks to the store, but it did mean Albertans would indeed be paying more.
Other highlights included job cuts within the government, tax breaks for the working poor and a general increase in government fees all across the board. Government fees went up for marriage certificates, court filings, camping and traffic tickets. What was most disheartening is that corporate taxes remain untouched along with oil royalties, but Albertans can breathe a sigh of relief as a provincial sales tax was not proposed.
Was this the budget we were expecting? At first glance, yes. The budget was everything the Premier and government warned it would be and more. We did not receive any surprises.
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.