A panel of political experts joined Global Edmonton’s Shaye Ganam in studio Thursday evening to weigh in on the budget. The panel consisted of Scott Hennig from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, veteran Edmonton journalist Sheila Pratt and 630 CHED host Ryan Jespersen.
When it comes to what Albertans can take away from this budget, Hennig said it all comes down to debt.
“Debt, debt, debt. It’s massive,” he said. “We’re talking about a $10.4 billion operational deficit. It’s more like $14 billion when you look at the capital side.
“That is astronomical. We haven’t seen anything even remotely like that in the province’s history.”
Getting out of debt
When it comes to getting the province out of debt, Pratt said the government needs to address the elephant in the room.
“If you want a quick fix to your $10 billion deficit, it might be about a sales tax,” Pratt said.
Hennig said it all comes down to spending.
“Even if you did have a $7 billion sales tax you’re still running a $7 billion real deficit. Whereas we have the best year ever with oil and we still have a deficit with this amount of spending. So they need to cut spending.”
Watch below: Scott Hennig with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation weighs in on Alberta budget 2016
The province expects all of its capital spending and employment incentive efforts will create about 100,000 jobs over the next three years.
“I think it’s interesting they’re pitching this as job creation budget and that’s trying to put a positive spin on a pretty dire situation,” Pratt said.
She also said it’s a smart move if the job creation comes to fruition, but no real specifics were laid out about how the jobs will be created.
“I think there’s still a risk factor in there as to whether job creation will work,” Pratt said.
Jespersen said it could be a real “political powder keg” if the plan doesn’t pan out.
“If you call it the ‘jobs creation plan’ and it doesn’t create any jobs—let alone the 100,000 that this government’s banking on these initiatives leading to—then all of a sudden you have to explain to Albertans how you were spending so much at a time when revenue was down.”
In order to battle climate change, gas prices are going up. That’s just one of the changes stemming from the Alberta government’s new carbon levy.
The carbon tax will begin Jan. 1, 2017 and will cost a household earning more than $100,000 a year about $500 annually by 2018 as prices go up for gasoline and home heating.
The levy is expected to bring in $6.8 billion over the next five years. Coupled with a different levy on industrial emissions, the province will take in $9.6 billion by 2021.
All of that money will go into the Climate Leadership Plan which Finance Minister Joe Ceci said is the most progressive in the country. It will be spent on a variety of as yet unspecified initiatives intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“The government’s banking heavily on this one,” Jespersen said.
“What I want to know is where is the money going to go to specifically. What do green programs really mean?”
Watch below: What is the carbon tax and how much is it going to cost?
The panel will also dive deeper into the budget Friday morning from 11 a.m to 12 p.m. on The Ryan Jespersen Show on 630 CHED.
With files from Fletcher Kent, Global News and The Canadian Press.