News / Calgary

Alternative budget aims to correct Alberta's 'deficit phobia'

The Working Group For Alternative Alberta Budget says Albertans shouldn’t fear deficits

This graph, included in the ‘alternative budget,’ shows that Alberta’s revenues from resources are at the lowest in nearly 50 years.

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This graph, included in the ‘alternative budget,’ shows that Alberta’s revenues from resources are at the lowest in nearly 50 years.

Albertans shouldn’t have “deficit phobia” according to a group of volunteer policy advocates who put together an “alternative budget” for the province.

On March 16, Alberta’s government will announce the 2017 provincial budget.

Inspired by alternative budgeting exercises across Canada, and with the hopes that creating an alternative budget for Alberta will become an annual exercise, the Working Group For The Alternative Alberta Budget set out to “provide a foundation for moving toward some alternative visioning of what future Alberta budgets could look like.”

Foundations For An Alberta Alternative Budget

The group’s spokeswoman, Robin Shaban, worked on the most recent alternative federal budget for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives—a self-described non-partisan think tank— said the points they wanted to make are that “despite tough economic times, deficits are smart.”

“Increasing public spending is going to help grow the economy,” she said. “Budgets are all about choices, and at this point we have a choice to make. We need to think long term and build a system of prosperity for all Albertans.”

This approach is similar to that taken by the Alberta Party in April when they released their “shadow budget,” and identified one of their priorities at “ long term balance sheet management.”

“Restrict Fiscal Plan borrowing to a single bond issue for the 2017 fiscal year only, in order to cover the $1.9 billion shortfall caused by the collapse of the oil market,” they said.

The Alternative Budget points out Alberta is in its worst recession in 30 years, and highest unemployment rate in 20 years. Shaban said the recent downturn has shown some of the province’s “greatest vulnerabilities” in terms of government finances.

“We’re rely too heavily dependent on resource revenues,” she said. “We need to diversify our economy going forward.”

Shaban said one of the key things to look for in the upcoming budget is a strategy to diversify the government’s income streams.“Broadening the number of taxation sources is a great start,” she said. “If we were to mirror the tax system in Saskatchewan—which is the second lowest region in all of Canada – we could increase our government revenues by $7.5 billion.”

Taxation is also something the Alberta Party touched on in their shadow budget, where they suggested to “temporarily use revenues to stabilize the fiscal situation in order to reduce the debt burden for future generations and improve Alberta’s economic performance”

“At this point taking on debt is a really smart idea because it’s going to create jobs, provide stimulus to the economy and protect some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” said Shaban.

She said by investing now and taking a long-term approach and investing in public services, we have the potential to reduce costs down the road.

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