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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

alberta's 2008 $37-billion budget: a confused "beacon of hope."

The Alberta Tories celebrated their 37 years as the governing party as rookie Finance & Enterprise Minister Iris Evans released a $37 billion "beacon of hope" budget yesterday. Not one to disappoint, I was happy to take in the show yesterday afternoon (a big thanks to Kevin Taft's office for arranging my ticket).

Overall, the 2008 Alberta PC budget looked and sounded like a confused 37-year old: still paying for the mistakes of its youth, not quite ready to settle down, almost ready to hit that mid-life crisis point (hello, Ferrari!), and not quite ready to save for the future. It felt like it could have been something out of the 10th season of Friends.

I will be elaborating on my opinions of the budget and what it means for Albertans over the next week, but until then, here are some quick thoughts on the day:

- The budget low balled the price of oil, basing the budget figures on a $78 barrel of oil, rather than the current $119 barrel.

- Bye bye, health care premiums. Alberta's health care premiums will be gone by January 1, 2009. Though this is a positive move, but I can't help but be a little cynical when I remember how many times I heard Tory candidates during the provincial election saying that it would be irresponsible to faze out health care premiums in a of less than four years...

- It's business as usual for the horse-racing industry with a $7 million increase to the now $48 million Horse Racing Subsidy Renewal Program.

- A 120% budget increase to the Alberta Environment budget is mostly a result of $52 million from the Federal government and $155 million from corporate emitter fines.

- My good friends at the Public Affairs Bureau will be getting a stiff 25% increase of $6.4 million to continue to dole out the press releases and spin. Upcoming projects include convincing Albertans that Ed Stelmach is an environmentally friendly Premier while he continues to support the tarsands and stands on the sidelines watching the potential construction of a Nuclear Power Plant in the Peace Country. More on this later.

- I had a nice chat with Dr. Raj Sherman, the Parliamentary Secretary for Health & Wellness. I made sure to encourage him not to hesitate to shake some sense into Health Minister Ron Liepert and his "health care reform."

- The best (and most insightful) quote of the day goes to Alberta Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Ken Kolby:

Ken Kobly, CEO of the Alberta Chambers of Commerce, said the government must put some revenue aside for the future while revenues are still high.

"Personally, I don't want to be known as the generation that sucked all the oil revenue out of the ground and left the bill for our kids," he said.

I couldn't agree more with Kolby. Kolby for Premier.


Anonymous said...

You would do well to note that this candidate noted the *within* part of the original wording, and strongly implied this may happen.

Anonymous said...

I can't wait until they buy the Ferrari.

Anonymous said...

For a Chamber of Commerce President, Kolby is pretty forward looking. He should run for MLA.

Anonymous said...

Also, at what point does Alberta find itself in a deficit position? With spending increases like we see in this budget plus cutting resource royalties by $1.4 billion over the next four years I have to wonder what this government is going to do when the price of oil eventually drops from $120 back down to normal $50 per barrel prices. We have to remember that we won't be able to depend on oil and gas royalties forever.

It is only a matter of time before governments are going to have a serious talk about raising taxes (as unpopular as that will be).

Anonymous said...

The health care premiums point is a typical political move. First, convince voters that you're fiscally responsible and that those free-spending Liberals and New Democrats would drive Alberta into the ground by spending money on eliminating them. Second, when you win, do the popular thing and get rid of them over the next 7 months, being "fiscally responsible" and all.

From St. Albert PC candidate Ken Allred's website:

Health care premiums will be eliminated over the next four years as announced in Monday's Speech from the Throne. This will be done in a fiscally responsible manner based on the increase in revenues over the next four years. If government surpluses are higher than budgeted the premiums may be eliminated in less than four years.

Anonymous said...

Hey Dave,
It's about time you guys started paying attention to this nuclear plant. I noticed you've been mentioning it quite a lot lately, but I have to note this process has been going on for two years, and the Liberal candidates up here were even more supportive than the Tories during the election. At least the Tories lied to us and said they didn't have an official position.

Anonymous said...

Kevin Libin from the National Post has a good article on the budget.

Anonymous said...

woah. holy new template, dave.

Anonymous said...

One of the most interesting budget tidbits is that gambling now makes a greater contribution to the Alberta's revenue than conventional oil.

I guess when the oil runs out they can always open more casinos. (I guess that the Conservatives will call it an environmentally friendly renewable resource. At least if you exclude the require for interbasin water transfers to support the associated shopping malls.)