Budget cuts into agriculture, chops crops

The 2013 provincial budget that was delivered in the Legislature on Thursday had some not-so-welcome surprises

The 2013 provincial budget that was delivered in the Legislature on Thursday had some not-so-welcome surprises, especially for Alberta’s agriculture industry.

Agriculture operational spending was chopped by a third, or $282 million, to $863 million, highlighted by the elimination of the six cent per litre farm fuel rebate that saved an estimated $30 per tractor or combine every day they were working their fields.

For many of Alberta’s 45,000 farmers, these fuel savings can make a significant difference in the profitability of their crop year. The elimination of this fuel rebate will hit young struggling farmers particularly hard and may indeed force some of them to abandon their future plans to continue farming as a profession.

The day after the delivery of Alberta’s sixth straight deficit budget, the premier said:

“We know not everything will be acceptable to everyone, but right across the province, we have asked people to be part of the belt-tightening.”

Most everyone will agree that we all need to participate in the belt-tightening to affect any real change in order to get our budgeting and deficits under control. It just seems like some people are being asked to tighten their belts a whole lot more than others.

The belt-tightening also neglected to address the over-bloated government bureaucracy that currently has a worker-to-manager ratio of five to one, which is in stark contrast to the 10 to one ratio the Official Opposition Wildrose has proposed.

Through the elimination of non-productive managerial positions, we would produce an immediate saving of $144 million and $360 million annually after four years.

The Alberta government has increased spending by 100 per cent over the last decade, doubling the rate of inflation combined with population growth.

Increasing spending without restraints is unsustainable and will lead to further and larger deficits resulting in major cuts to services and infrastructure.

In 2004, Premier Klein proudly hoisted a sign declaring Alberta’s debt was “Paid in Full,” 12 years after that historic moment by 2016, Alberta will have a net deficit of $17 billion. In 2009, Alberta had a sustainability fund of $17 billion for a difference of an amazing $34 billion, over just a seven-year period.

The Wildrose Official Opposition has a plan to restore the Alberta Advantage and build towards a debt-free Alberta. The Wildrose Financial Recovery Plan is based on four key pillars: Prevent any new tax or tax increase from being introduced without a provincial referendum; Eliminate the operating deficit immediately in Budget 2013; Eliminate the real cash deficit by Budget 2014; Legislate the Wildrose Balanced Budget and Savings Act in 2014.

The Wildrose Financial Recovery Plan would eliminate the deficit in two years by implementing 25 cost-saving recommendations that cut wasteful spending, target government bureaucracy and AHS waste, and protect frontline services.

If you would like a copy of the Wildrose Financial Recovery Plan, please email my office at drumheller.stettler@assembly.ab.ca

— FROM THE LEGISLATURE

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