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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

2009 alberta pre-budget playbook.

Alberta's 2009 Provincial Budget will be unveiled at 3pm today, but before you sit down to attentively soak up Finance & Enterprise Minister Iris Evans' every word, here's a short pre-budget playbook:

- How have Alberta's financial and economic prospects been, according to Premier Ed Stelmach? Good, really bad, not as bad as I told you 24 hours ago, rosy, depending on which month of the year it is.
- A report from the University of Calgary School of Public Policy (pdf) warns that the province could return to a 1980s Getty-style fiscal situation. According to the Calgary Herald, Premier Stelmach reportedly dismissed the report (which was written by two Government Finance and Economics experts) as "nonsense."
- Both the Liberal and NDP Opposition are tackling the budget from an outreach angle. The NDP launched a roundtable consultation months ago, and the Liberals recently launched a website where Albertans can suggest questions for the Official Opposition to ask during budget debates. It would be nice to hear some constructive criticism from the opposition on the budget, but prepare for some railing.
- On April 2, 2009, the Capital Region Board (comprising the municipalities in the Edmonton region) unveiled the Capital Region Growth Plan: Growing Forward. With this report, municipal leaders have taken an important step in guiding the future development of the Capital Region, but like any major development plan, it will need to be backed up with funding to become a reality.
- Iris' shoe collection. Alberta's Best Dressed Woman MLA will be shelving her expensive designer shoes (from last year's budget) in favour of something more modest.
UPDATE: Twitter is #FAILWHALE today, but if it gets fixed, you can follow #ableg for live tweets.
I will be in the Public Gallery for the Budget Speech, and after I make my way through the post-budget scrums, I will report back.


Kyle said...

Jim Dinning's legacy is dead.

Re-Pete said...

Hello Dave, I expect your reaction to the budget to be fast and furious so how about a couple of wishes? I will pick just three areas and I am curious as to what you would like to see.

1: It is rumored that Alberta spends one of the highest per capita on health care yet our our wait times are said to be unacceptable?

2: The 2 billion of carbon capture is not one of my liking so what would be cool on the environment side?

3: How can we get the pipefitters, welders, boilermakers back to work as their unemployment lists are growing?

I do like low taxes and am not impressed with deficits.

I am not trying to be a smarty pants and I will be up front and admit I voted for this government but I do believe your generation is going to be the real conduit of change.

daveberta said...

Hi Re-Pete, thanks for the questions, here are some ideas...

1: It is rumored that Alberta spends one of the highest per capita on health care yet our wait times are said to be unacceptable?

I don't know.

2: The 2 billion of carbon capture is not one of my liking so what would be cool on the environment side?

I’m not a big fan of the $2 billion CCS fund, especially as it looks like its sister fund, the $2 billion GreenTrip Fund for Public Transit initiatives was sacrificed to keep CCS alive (the GreenTrip Fund distributed under $200 million before it was closed down). The AB Government needs something to back up its new “Brand Alberta” PR campaign, and it looks like CCS is going to stay in the spotlight. $2 billion is a lot of money for an untested and unproven technology (both economically and technically), but *if* if works, it could do a lot to reduce CO2 emissions from Coal Fueled Power Plants. If I had input into the budget process, I would recommend spending on Public Transit (to immediately get more cars off the roads), and invest in a smart R & D innovation strategy that would help get Alberta-based companies break into the renewable energy technology market (take a cue from Boone T. Pickens and use our current oil revenue to invest in the energy technologies of the future).

3: How can we get the pipefitters, welders, boilermakers back to work as their unemployment lists are growing?

The economy has been in overdrive over the past couple years, so it was unreasonable to expect that growth would continue to keep that pace in the longterm. The slow-down in the economy is probably a good thing, but we now have a large amount of skilled trades people without jobs. I would argue that a “slower” economic period is the best time to invest in and catch up with building public infrastructure projects (lower inflation and construction cost). Could this be one of the solutions to unemployment in this sector?

Anonymous said...

In Alberta, our politicians just change the rules when times get bad

"Finance Minister Iris Evans said Monday her government will table the Fiscal Responsibility Amendment Act before she rises to deliver what many expect will be a grim budget.

The Fiscal Responsibility Act, brought in by the Ralph Klein government, made it illegal for Alberta to run deficits, but it has always been scorned by critics who predicted it would be amended at the first sign of trouble."

In BC the politicians have to take a 10% pay cut when they run deficits. In Alberta they keep their heads in the public trough.

Re-Pete said...

That is pretty good. On health care I would like to see enveloping of money much like was done during the regionalization of school boards about 15 years ago.

The environment is the one I am puzzled on. I hope they give up on the renovations for rebates. There has been some form of this program for years especially on the federal level. It would be nice if they could have some peak hour dedicated bus service from as far away as say 100 kilometer to the lrt stations.

Infrastructure is great but the infrastruture building (roads, bridges,civic buildings)people have been running flat out for the last few years. I really would like to see the announcement for another jointly owned upgrader to begin when Shell is done their expansion. Contriolled of course. I dont think the demand for oil is going to go away in my lifetime.

Thanks for humoring me.

To whoever is bothered by the Fiscal Responsibility Amendment Act which 5 0r 6 thousand people would you like to see out of work?

Anonymous said...

Re-pete: Spending beyond our means because we don't have the balls to fire anyone is not sound public policy.

Re-Pete said...

Okay Anon, Where would you have cut the 4.7 billion dollars from?
less teachers? doctors? police?nurses? Help me out here.

Just for the record the budget did not impress me much.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Re-Pete. Easy for unelected pontificators to just draw up a number for cuts. Very difficult to do in practice. Especially given most advice for spending to be counter-cyclical, not pro-cyclical, so as not to compound the negative spending growth by the private sector.

If it is a big number you're looking to cut, you have to start with big departments. Biggest is Health & Wellness. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Does Alberta not spend the most per capita of any province in the country? That does seem to suggest there is plenty of room for cuts. If you don't happen to be a big-government socialist, that is. But you're right in that fiscal conservativism doesn't win as many votes as spending like a drunken sailor.

Ralph Klein once had the balls to do what was needed. All "Steady Eddie" knows is how to try not to rock the boat.

Paul Turnbull said...

1. Cut the $2 billion Carbon Capture program for the oilsands. It's purely a PR move since CC effectiveness is limited where there are not concentrated point sources of Carbon.

2. End the royalty holidays in the oilsands. We know that Syncrude is taking home $18 billion from that. I realise that number is spread out over years but they should be able to find $2.7 billion by increasing royalties across all the players.

And no, I don't believe raising royalties will drastically affect the industry. The oil is here, other jurisdictions have higher royalties than we do, where are they going go?

Alberta's politicians need to grow a pair ( or borrow some from Danny Williams ) when dealing with the oil companies. We need to remember we have what they need, not the other way around!