The 2018-19 Alberta provincial budget is here and Drumheller-Stettler MLA Rick Strankman doesn't like what he sees.
"It's so frustrating because the government talks about so many ways to diversify and things like that, but so much of the budget is premised on completion of the Kinder Morgan Pipeline and the Enbridge line 3 expansion," he explained. "On one hand, they talk about these many ways of diversification and on the other hand they go right back to basing a good part of their budget on petroleum resources."
Strankman pointed out that, from where he's sitting, there doesn't seem to be a contingency plan in case the pipelines aren't built. And, he said, the consequences of this budget without the pipelines could be disastrous for Alberta's debt.
"One rumour that I had heard is that the long-term deficit could be north of $100 billion. I can't even comprehend these B-numbers, the capital B. When you get down to a per capita debt, it starts to roll beyond five numbers to close to six numbers of debt per capita. It's just staggering."
He explained that a more balanced budget doesn't necessarily have to mean more taxes. The ballooning debt could be mitigated by cutting costs across the board.
"We've heard this before -- it's not the income problem, it's the spending problem. There's lots of analysis that can be done to cut the bureaucratic red tape to allow development to go forward. We need to freeze expenditures and allow people to move on to retirement in efficient manners and that will reduce a lot of the costs."
Highlights of the budget include tuition freezes for post-secondary students, increased funding for K-12 education and school lunch programs, $22 million for affordable child-care spaces, increased funding for the AISH program and wage freezes for provincial employees. Resource revenue is projected to be $700 million lower than it was in the 2017-18 budget.
More information about the budget can be found here.