This past Friday, Alberta’s premier openly admitted on the Rutherford show what the entire Alberta Official Opposition has been saying for the better part of three years — that the Alberta government has an out-of-control spending problem.
The premier asked herself this question openly on the air: “Do we have a spending problem?”
The answer, according to her, was: “I think we do have a spending problem, and that’s one of the reasons we’ve undertaken the results-based budgeting process, which I think will actually have both short-term and long-term impacts.”
The Results-Based Budgeting report to Albertans put out last year doesn’t seem to share the same reasoning that our premier suddenly feels is contributing to the unnecessary deficit we’re currently staring down the barrel of.
In the report, the only reference to why Results- Based Budgeting was implemented is mentioned in the introduction on Page 2, which says: “Results-based budgeting is not about reducing budgets to meet an arbitrary spending reduction target.”
In conjunction with the admission of some spending issues, she has also backed away from the notion that the discounted price of Alberta bitumen is responsible for revenue shortfalls, as the premier carefully explained in her television address just last month.
Provincial projections for the fiscal year ending March 31 are being projected in the $4-billion neighbourhood, which is a far cry from the projection of an $880-million deficit.
The most confusing thing about this conversation was the premier’s lack of any urgency to the matter, saying, “It’s not a question they need to answer right now.”
I do not share that sentiment.
If we shouldn’t worry about this now, then when would be a good time? It’s my feeling that, as the province continues to bleed red ink, the urgency should increase at the same rate the deficit does.
A sound long-term financial plan must be implemented that acknowledges spending limitation and prioritizes projects according to need.
The Wildrose 10-Year Debt-Free Capital Plan encompasses the financial restraint required to create a sustainable and effective funding for critical infrastructure and social programs.
The most common question I hear these days is, “What should we cut?” Unfortunately, there’s no easy one-word answer that will solve all of Alberta’s financial issues. Regrettably, there just is no magic bullet.
As this government navigates its way through these treacherous financial waters, I hope to encourage it to make cuts in the area of management and administration, rather than frontline essential workers.
The current financial crisis could be something we come away from a little smarter and with a new way of looking at our priorities.
Until this government more clearly understands what the difference between a need and want are, it will ultimately repeat those very same mistakes that have landed us into a financial deficit.