UCP Finance Minister Travis Toews. Photo via live stream screen capture.
The UCP government’s first provincial budget takes aim at cities, civil servants, and post-secondary institutions.
Budget 2019 does preserve funding for health and education however.
The government projects a deficit of $8.7 billion over the next fiscal year.
Overall program spending will be cut by 2.8% as Premier Jason Kenney mentioned earlier this week with a plan to have the provincial books balanced by 2023.
Alberta’s public sector is being reduced by just over 7% over the next four years, mainly through attrition.
The government is also lifting the tuition freeze for college and university students, but capping that at 7% though the interest on student loans will go from prime to prime plus 1%.
Despite these changes, Lethbridge East UCP MLA Nathan Neudorf says higher education will still be more affordable than almost any other province in Canada.
He also says most Albertans will find Budget 2019 to be thoughtful and focused on creating jobs, growing the economy and protecting vital services for people who rely on them.
As expected, it’s not sitting too well with the opposition New Democrats, who say Albertans are for some very tough times.
According Lethbridge West MLA Shannon Phillips, who’s also the NDP’s Finance Critic, she was expecting cuts, but notes one thing is really going to hurt —- higher income taxes.
“What I wasn’t expecting is an increase in personal incomes taxes,” says Phillips. “Every single Albertan will see an increase in their income tax through a piece of budget trickery that Mr. Kenney has brought in that he didn’t talk about, that he lied and hid.”
Phillips feels this budget is going to hit Lethbridge hard with cuts to municipal funding and at post-second institutions.
The UCP budget, meanwhile also increases the price for a carton cigarettes by $5 and it’ll also cost you more to renew your driver’s licence and register your vehicle.
Finance Minister Travis Toews says the government is committed to balancing the budget in four years and will make additional cuts if global conditions change or if Alberta can’t access new pipelines.