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Alberta Party: UCP Budget 2023 meant to secure election future

The Alberta Party takes their crack at the UCP's Budget 2023, with a submission from their leader, Barry Morishita.

Budget 2023 is titled “Securing Alberta’s Future” but it is, in fact, a fiscal plan meant to secure the UCP’s electoral future.

Budget 2023 is increasing spending by more than $8 billion dollars from 2021/22 but does not provide any significant results.

The Alberta Party will provide a better approach to budgeting, prioritizing needs and linking investments to spending to achieve measurable results. Integral to our strategy is transparency around spending taxpayers’ money and ensuring Albertans receive good value for their money…and it is your money.

The UCP seems unable to consider helping the tremendous number of Albertans not currently receiving assistance; we must immediately address their affordability issues. Implementing targeted measures to assist struggling Albertans would be a priority for the AP.

We would look at underserved groups like working families without children, singles without children and post-secondary students. It makes sense to reallocate assistance from those that need it less to those that need it more.

Specifically, we would accept the recommendation from the Council of Alberta University Students of a one-time cost of living payment of $54 million for students currently enrolled in post-secondary programs in our province.

We welcome the added funding for health. However, the increase must be linked to specific outcomes and flow to front-line resources. The budget shows a 3.9 per cent increase in overall spending on healthcare, but there is a 9.1 per cent increase in health administration costs.

That is not acceptable.

Heavy administration costs are prevalent throughout this government, with the Premier’s office budget increasing by 23 per cent — hardly a fiscally responsible decision.

Clearly, this Premier is not committed to more efficient management.

Primary and post-secondary education

The increase in the education budget is also appreciated, but without specific allocation details, it’s unclear how this funding will improve classroom conditions. Another troubling trend in the budget shows private school investment increasing by 15 per cent over three years while public education is rising by only half that rate at 7.4 per cent.

The Alberta Party would stop increases to private education and allocate those dollars to public schools.

This budget offered no initiatives to make post-secondary education or training more affordable.

Adding spaces for enrollment is one thing, but no one is addressing the fact that many Albertans simply cannot afford to enroll in these programs. Making post-secondary education accessible and affordable is another focus for the Alberta Party.

The creation of the “Alberta Fund” essentially sets up a project slush fund of $1.5 billion and the ambiguity around its use is not a good budgeting practice.

UCP priorities mentioned are the “Alberta Police Service,” an Alberta Pension Plan and the RStar program, but no funds were allocated to any of these projects. This highlights the UCPs’ lack of clarity and transparency around this significant expense.

The budget does boost social service funding, but again this is not linked to specific, measurable outcomes.

For instance, there are no increases for women’s shelters or other support for victims of domestic violence. There are no innovative solutions to direct earlier support for families whose children are coping with a range of disabilities and mental health challenges.

Children and families must be a priority if we are to bring them hope and opportunity.

Looking toward planned projects, the budget has money allocated towards initiatives to get these projects started but no commitment to actually fund the projects to completion.

The Alberta Party believes that a responsible government should allocate a portion of surpluses to pay down debt while some windfall revenues should go towards completing projects while we have the financial capability to do so. We can eliminate financing costs by setting that money aside.

There is much more to discover from Budget 2023, and the Alberta Party is committed to educating and informing Albertans of those details.

While we review the budget with a critical eye, we are dedicated to presenting better options going forward.

  • Barry Morishita is the leader of the Alberta Party