Provincial budget troubles MLA
MLA Rick Strankman has reviewed the Alberta Government budget and it has him seeing red.
The Alberta budget was released on April 14. The highlight for Strankman was a low light, and that is debt.
“Extensive debt, something north of $50 billion by the end of the term of this government,” said Strankman.
He likens the hard time the provincial economy is seeing to the BSE crisis. During this time, ranchers could not sell their product and curtailed their spending. In this case, it doesn’t appear the government is doing the same.
“It seems in this case, the government is going ahead and maintaining its spending line,” he said.
“To be running into a deficit of something north of $50 billion with only $10 billion annual income, it is going to be pretty dismal going forward for some time,” said Strankman.
The budget forecasts a $10.4 billion deficit in 2016. In addition, it also outlined the government’s carbon tax regime. A carbon levy of $20 per tonne will come into effect on January 1, 2017, and then a year later jump to $30 per tonne.
“In this business environment there is going to be a carbon tax that is going to be hanging over everyone. The effect is going to be on the price of gasoline, diesel or even the freight. For a business like HiWay 9, how is that going to affect their business? Six miles east of where I live, there is not going to be that tax.”
The budget says the new carbon levy will create jobs, diversify the energy economy and drive new technologies
that will add to the export economy.
He worries the additional level will have an affect on Alberta’s competitive advantage.
“One of the Alberta advantages we have is that our actual energy costs on power bills is minuscule. It is the transmission and distribution charges that are going to the moon,” he said.
He acknowledges there was some controversy when he asked for the scientific research that justified bringing these policies forward. He believes the science of manmade climate change is unsettled and always changing.
“In some people’s minds, the science is completely settled, in my mind it is not unlike centuries ago, the science was that the earth was flat and there was a guy that sailed off into the sunset and eventually discovered what I understand is now Cuba,” he said.
There may be a few positives. He does note that the government lowered the small business tax from 3 per cent to 2 per cent. There was also two new tax credits he would like to learn more about.
“They don’t go into any greater depth, and we haven't had time to pour through the books to understand what that means,” he said.
Rick Strankman… Drumheller-Stettler MLA