The PC caucus released an alternative budget yesterday. Not surprisingly, the PCs think they can cut their way to prosperity. Pulling money out of Alberta’s economy when we are starting to recover from an oil price induced recession isn’t going to help.
The PCs say spending increases were justified when they did it but not now. Spending growth in key ministries would cover population growth but not inflation.
The big ministries will see cuts of about 2% per year because the PCs don’t account for inflation. If the PCs were in power, the cuts would probably be bigger given their other shaky assumptions (or they’d run larger deficits than they claim).
The PCs are claiming they would use the carbon tax to pay down debt, but they are also saying they want the carbon tax to be revenue neutral. They can’t have it both ways. The BC carbon tax is revenue neutral and most of the carbon tax funds went to tax cuts for large corporations. Tax cuts for large corporations don’t produce a lot of new jobs, despite what conservatives everywhere claim. The PCs also want to reduce the size of carbon tax rebates to low income families.
It seems the PCs would leave the modest NDP income tax hikes for high income earners and large corporations in place.
The PCs anticipate savings from bulk buying pharmaceuticals, but aren’t considering a universal prescription drug plan. Bulk buying will likely see a cost shifting as savings made in the public sector will see drug companies look to recover costs in increases for people with private coverage or no coverage at all. The PCs also assume a preventative health campaign will work miracles for Alberta’s finances.
They say no front line cuts guaranteed (sounding like used car salesman), but if they try to freeze wages then skilled workers on the public payroll may leave the province. Nurses have left other provinces who have tried this in the past, and it isn’t even clear if it’s legal to issue a wage freeze for all public sector workers after the recent Supreme Court decision on the SFL case.
In short, because of that court decision, wage freezes can’t be imposed on unionized workers like nurses; freezes need to be negotiated. The threat of a wage freeze is more of a bargaining maneuver than something the government can just legislate.
The PCs will freeze the Status of Women budget, meaning a real cut of 2-3% per year. That’s not surprising coming from an all male caucus, but I thought they cared about Children’s Services. Apparently not. Cuts for that ministry, too.
Prentice wasn’t going to build the Calgary cancer centre and the PC plan is still to reduce infrastructure spending. This would be done partly through the return to P3s, enabling financiers to profit off of our health facilities, schools, roads, etc for decades to come.
The PCs say they will completely pay off Alberta’s debts by 2030. Same trick Ralph used. They mean we’d be net debt free because they aren’t paying off $70B in a decade, especially not with oil prices being lower for longer.