Jason Kenney was a MP for almost 20 years and before that in the early 90s he was the president and CEO of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (the CTF is an astroturf group that is only a federation of 5 people, its directors). Kenney’s political track record tells us a lot about how he’d approach the provincial budget if he became Premier of Alberta in 2019.
In short, Kenney’s approach to budgeting would be a blood bath that slows Alberta’s economic growth and hurts front line services.
Kenney and Brian Jean both say they’d budget like Ralph Klein. Klein made massive cuts to front line services in the mid-90s. For example, he cut 21% of our provincial health care budget from 94 to 96, and he stopped maintaining our hospitals and other infrastructure in an effort to pay down our debt even though our net debt-to-GDP ratio never exceeded 10% (nowhere near a concerning level).
Our health care system has yet to recover from Klein’s cuts. Over 2/3s of our hospitals are over 30 years old. 44 years of PC premiers and the only one that was a builder was Lougheed. If Kenney is focused on balancing the budget too quickly, then will he build needed hospitals, long-term care facilities, and schools? It’s highly doubtful.
I mean, honestly, how many Albertans think Kenney trying to eliminate the deficit by making massive cuts won’t involve laying off 1000s of front line workers?
My money is on Kenney eliminating 10,000-20,000 front line jobs over the course of his mandate if he wins the 2019 election.
Besides Klein in the 90s, we’ve seen this type of budgeting from conservatives in Alberta more recently. In March 2015, Jim Prentice presented a budget and treated the 2015 election as a referendum on the 5-year fiscal plan. Prentice was going to cut about $1 billion from health care in 2015-16 and introduce health care user fees. When the NDP won the election, they reversed Prentice’s proposed cuts to health care and education and cancelled his health care user fees, preventing the elimination of 1500 front line health jobs and 800 teaching positions.
In the last week, Kenney said Brad Wall’s Saskatchewan budget is a “free enterprise budget” that’s aim is to get SK back to balance in 3 years. But, Brad Wall raised and expanded the SK provincial sales tax. The PST now applies to construction equipment and kid’s clothes, amongst other things. How is putting a PST on the purchase of construction equipment going to promote free enterprise?
Last week TD Economics said part of the reason Alberta’s economy is recoverying faster and stronger than the Saskatchewan economy is because the Alberta NDP are stimulus budgeting and the Saskatchewan Party are making big cuts while raising and expanding the provincial sales tax.
If Kenney wins election 2019 and tries to balance the Alberta budget in three years, then that’ll mean a cut of 7-9% per year (just like Klein’s 21% cut to health care from 94 to 96). You want Alberta school fees reduced further than the NDP just did? You don’t want to see 1000s of front line jobs eliminated? Good luck with that when the government of Alberta under Jason Kenney is on an ideological crusade to balance the budget in 3 years.
Alongside these huge cuts to front line services, Kenney says he’d repeal the Alberta carbon tax and thus reduce our government revenue by a couple billion a year (Alberta is already the least taxed province by $8.7 billion, BC is second place, so-called free enterprise SK is third).
Since the federal carbon tax will be imposed in 2018 on any province without a price on carbon, what Kenney would probably do instead of repealing the carbon tax is make it revenue neutral. The thing about that is BC brought in a revenue neutral carbon tax and used it to lower corporate taxes and the rightwing Alberta Party recently said they’d make the Alberta carbon tax revenue neutral by reducing corporate taxes. It seems like Kenney would take a similar approach to going revenue neutral by reducing corporate taxes (by the way, in a recent opinion poll a majority of PC, Wildrose, and NDP decided voters said they think rich people and large corporations should be paying higher income taxes).
A lot of claims will be made between now and election 2019. We should keep in mind Kenney’s hypocrisy on pensions in considering the truthfuliness of his claims while he’s running to be our next premier. One of Kenney’s big claims to fame when he was working for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation was going after Premier Klein on MLA pensions (Kenney wanted them eliminated), but Kenney has been — and still is — collecting his MP pension so he can campaign for the leadership of the Alberta PCs over the last several months and now as he is campaigning to unite the far right in the province.
The irony is the Canadian Taxpayers Federation that Kenney used to work for is now criticizing him for his hypocrisy on pensions. Hey, aren’t the people who the CTF criticizes decidedly not “free enterprise”?