In November, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees said the government plans to cut up to 5,900 jobs as part of its elaborate plan of balancing the budget before the 2022-23 fiscal year. Most of these cuts will affect Alberta’s Health Services and government employees. While their jobs will not be affected until March 30, 2020, that is not too far away (National Post). Meanwhile, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employee (AUPE)’s president, Guy Smith, has encouraged rallying and picketing to fight back and, during one rally attended by 75 people that took place recently, a man dressed in a Santa costume collected lumps of coal to deliver to the government (Kornik, online). Many believe that these cuts are unfair and will hurt Alberta but not all see it that way.
In defence, Finance Minister, Travis Toews, said in November that, “Despite spending far more per capita on services than other larger provinces, our outcomes are no better and often worse” (Kornik). He feels we need to direct the spending towards front-line services that Albertans need the most.
What other changes to the budget were there? I am sure most students have already heard about the cuts to grants for students, “Operating expenses were reduced by 12 per cent to $4.8 billion by 2022-23, largely by reducing provincial grants.” (CBC, online). This is affecting Universities all over. For example, the University of Alberta will see a $44.2-million cut. Tuition funding and education tax credits are being cut and these will affect students the most. Even public schools will see a cut through grant removal. The current Alberta government has abolished about 275 million in grants alone. As for public service, “The government will cut “2,100 public service positions — a 7.7 per cent reduction — by 2023” (CBC).
It seems ludicrous that the government, throughout these budget cuts that affect working people, has, at the same time, introduced a tax cut. Who, you may ask, will be getting a tax cut in these times of budgetary restraint? Businesses making more than $500,000 per year in profit (CBC). Their tax rate will be slashed from twelve to eight percent by 2022-23. To be fair, small business rates also went down 1% under the previous government. Of course, it is justified to them because “It is part of a larger strategy to lure investment to the province”(CBC). At the same time, they are increasing education property tax for non-residential properties and that will probably affect small businesses the most.
The opposition (NDP) claims that this is against what the Premier said he would do stating “Jason Kenney repeatedly claimed that he was going to protect front-line services,” Notley said. “He does not have a mandate for this because this is the exact opposite of what he told Albertans he would do.” (Russell, online).
No matter your feelings toward the Alberta budget cuts, the overall picture doesn’t look so good. If there is a dire need to cut funding and jobs, why are corporate businesses gaining in all this? Whether the government will succeed in the budget and plans for Alberta’s future will eventually be seen, but many will not give up until something changes. I think people will continue to rally and picket, perhaps even strike in the near future, but many remain hopeful that they can save their jobs.