Alberta’s finance minister seeking ideas, comments for budget

WATCH ABOVE: The province is once again seeking public input ahead of forming the next two budgets. Emily Mertz tells us how.

EDMONTON — Albertans are being given a chance to weigh in on how the provincial government should spend taxpayers’ money. However, the NDP government’s budget website has a different format than the former PC government’s page.

Thursday, the Alberta government launched a budget website where people can provide ideas and comments for the 2015 and 2016 budgets.

Similarly, the PC government asked for public feedback during its budget survey, which contained many questions, required a lot of reading and took quite a while to complete. In contrast, the NDP government’s budget website is just one question.

Finance Minister Joe Ceci said that decision was based on two things: one was the limited time frame. The other?

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“I think open-ended is probably the way to go too because it doesn’t pigeon-hole Albertans.

“There have been some complaints about ‘it’s too narrow’ – the options are too narrow and  kind of constrain you and may lead you to a certain outcome that you don’t want to go to. So the idea of a more open-ended one was pitched and I think Albertans will be able to use it to the best of their abilities and tell us what they want,” said Ceci.

Jim Prentice’s government also received criticism for the way it used that public input.

“I remember the one,” said Ceci. “It was about sixty-some per cent of Albertans wanted to see a corporate income tax and that didn’t make it in, ultimately, to the budget that the PCs presented. We’re leaving it a lot more open. So people can tell us what they want but really, no one gets a veto on what comes forward. But it’ll inform and help us understand more about what Albertans are thinking.”

The online budget website will be open for comments until September 14. Click here to share your thoughts.

“I want to hear Albertans’ thoughts and ideas on how the government can improve their quality of life and build our economy,” added Ceci.

“These discussions will help outline both this year’s and next year’s budgets to better reflect the priorities of all Albertans as we move forward.”

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The government will also meet with the chief economist of Canada’s major banks, businesses, organizations and stakeholders in August and September.

“I’m also going around the province and visiting seven difference communities,” said Ceci. “I’ll be visiting the chambers of commerce in those communities as well as not-for-profit groups who are in the communities in a separate meeting.”

Two telephone town halls will also be held in September.

Ceci said the results will be revealed late in the fall through the budget.

Premier Rachel Notley has said the provincial budget will be delivered in October.

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