Opposition parties didn’t mince words when it came to their feelings on the Alberta NDP’s 2016 provincial budget.
Thursday’s budget forecasts almost $58 billion in debt within three years. Finance Minster Joe Ceci confirmed that this year’s deficit will be $10.4 billion and said there is no expectation to balance the books before 2024.
Ceci also outlined details of a planned carbon tax that will cost a household earning more than $100,000 annually about $500 a year by 2018.
The Wildrose Official Opposition said the NDP is “making things worse” for Alberta families by going $58 billion in debt in the next three years. The Wildrose also said the government’s carbon tax “unfairly targets working families.”
“The NDP plan will hit families hard this year with a worsening economy, a punishing new carbon tax and dangerous new levels of borrowing,” Wildrose Leader Brian Jean said.
“There is no effort to reduce spending, while an irresponsible carbon tax and unprecedented levels of government debt will hit Albertans’ pocket books hard. Albertans were hoping for an end to risky NDP experiments, a real plan on jobs and a vision to get our budget back to balance, but instead this NDP government is only making things worse.”
Wildrose shadow finance minister Derek Fildebrandt called the NDPs budget “a reckless fiscal plan that leaves Alberta’s fiscal future hanging on the edge of a cliff.”
“The NDP has no real job plans except to hire more bureaucrats, and are slamming families with a massive new carbon tax to funnel the money into risky new spending schemes. The NDP have smashed through their own 15 per cent debt ceiling in just a few short months and are steering our finances towards a cliff,” Fildebrandt said.
READ MORE: Winners and losers in Alberta budget 2016
Alberta Progressive Conservatives
The Alberta Progressive Conservatives said Premier Rachel Notley’s government made no attempt to control spending and has no clear plan for the province’s future.
“There’s no question that Alberta is facing serious challenges when it comes to our provincial finances – challenges made worse by this government’s reckless spending and complete lack of a debt repayment plan,” Interim PC Leader Ric McIver said. “The Alberta our children and grandchildren were born into and the one they will grow up in are worlds apart, and we should all be very concerned about how this government’s choices will impact their futures.
“In times like these, people look to their government to have their back – it’s clear from this fiscal plan that Premier Notley does not.”
Greg Clark of the Alberta Party said taking on so much debt with no repayment plan is irresponsible.
READ MORE: Highlights of Alberta budget 2016
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson
Iveson said he was very happy to see significant investment in housing.
“That’s very encouraging. We’ve been pushing hard for that for a year, so now we have to put that money to work. It can create jobs quickly, which is great and also help some of the most vulnerable in our province, which in turn helps us with justice and health care costs.”
Iveson also showed support for the province’s carbon tax.
“I’ve always been a supporter of pricing carbon, it’s the only way that you send the right signals to investors and to markets to get market transformation. So I applaud this government’s courage in the climate leadership program to set a price on carbon,” Iveson said. “I think that between rebating it to people on a needs basis and then using the balance of the fund to support innovation and infrastructure, I think they’re doing the right thing.”
However, he was disappointed there wasn’t a more significant investment in infrastructure.
“MSI grants, which popped up last year, have popped back down this year,” Iveson said.
“It’s not a huge amount of money but it’s the principle, and from year-to-year our funding is up in the air for long-term infrastructure planning, so we still have some work to do to come to a new fiscal formula for funding the basic municipal infrastructure.”
Watch below: Mayor Don Iveson weighs in on Alberta budget 2016
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi
Nenshi said in a word, the budget was as “expected.”
“We, as Albertans, really have to be able to work with our governments–city and provincial–to be able to say, ‘alright how are we going to change ourselves so we get off this resource revenue rollercoaster?’ And that we’re not shocked with huge surpluses one year, and huge deficits the next year,” he said.
Alberta Teachers’ Association
The president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association welcomed the government’s budget, saying it clearly shows funding enrolment growth is a priority.
“Funding for 8,000 new students will create about 400 additional teaching jobs. This is an investment in the economy for today and for tomorrow,” Mark Ramsankar said.
However, he was not pleased to see some of the government’s previous promises have been put on hold.
“I am disappointed that last fall’s promises on lunch programs and school fee relief are not being fully realized. These important equity initiatives are even more critical as families try to make do in a struggling economy.”
Calgary Board of Education
The Calgary Board of Education was also appreciative of the government’s support for public education.
“This budget presents us with the stability we need as we educate 117,000 students a year in the CBE,” a statement from the CBE said. “We are grateful to be funded for growth and to know that the approximately 1,500 new students in the CBE next year will be fully funded.”
Alberta School Boards Association
The Alberta School Boards Association was also pleased with the announcement surrounding enrolment growth.
“It’s vitally important that funding be provided for every student enrolled in our public school system,” ASBA president Helen Clease said.
“Investing in education now is an investment in our future. Alberta’s publicly-funded school boards are committed to providing the very best educational opportunities for students.”
Greenpeace Canada was pleased to see the government’s green initiatives, including its investment in renewable energy sources. Greenpeace believes investing in renewables will lead to job creation and help diversify Alberta’s economy.
“We think more money will be needed in both energy efficiency spending and in supporting communities impacted by transition, especially coal communities and First Nation and Metis communities. Energy efficiency is one of the best and fastest ways for Alberta to create jobs and can provide substantial benefits to low-income communities as well,” Mike Hudema with Greenpeace Canada said.
However, Hudema said Greenpeace is still concerned with the NDP’s push to build pipelines “that don’t make economic sense and don’t meet the demands of climate science or the government’s commitments to First Nation peoples and the UN Declaration of Indigenous Peoples.”
Calgary Chamber of Commerce
The Calgary Chamber of Commerce said the province’s plan to reduce small business tax by one per cent is a positive development for businesses across Alberta.
“The single most important thing this government needed to do to help business grow and hire more people was to create an incentive for Albertans to invest in small and medium businesses,” director of policy and research Justin Smith said.
“This is a substantial measure that the chamber has been working on for months with the provincial government, which has been proven to be able to inject hundreds of thousands of dollars into individual businesses. That’s real money to help them grow, purchase equipment or stock and hire more people.”
Watch below: Finance Minister Joe Ceci discusses small business tax cut
Alberta Real Estate Association
The Alberta Real Estate Association said it was pleased the government did not create a land transfer tax. It’s a move the AREA said will keep housing affordable in Alberta.
“With this welcome news, it is AREA’s hope government retains this same commitment to housing affordability throughout its review of the Municipal Government Act, and the city charter process currently being undertaken with Calgary and Edmonton, and refrains from granting land transfer taxation powers to municipalities,” AREA CEO Ian Burns said.
AREA was also pleased to see the one per cent reduction in small business tax.
READ MORE: Full coverage of Alberta budget 2016
Public Interest Alberta
Public Interest Alberta, a non-partisan organization focused on education on public interest issues, said the NDP’s budget does not address the root of Alberta’s problems.
“While the government is right to run deficits in the short-term to protect public services, the underlying problem of relying on volatile resource revenues needs to be addressed,” Public Interest Alberta Executive Director Joel French said.
French believes the government must make changes to the province’s tax system to replace resource revenue.
“That means raising taxes in fair and equitable ways, and Alberta’s government has a range of choices to do so. According to the government’s own budget documents, we raise far less tax revenue than we would with the tax system of any other province, the average of which would generate an additional $14.2 billion per year, and the lowest would still generate an additional $7.5 billion per year.”
Alberta Association of Midwives
The Alberta Association of Midwives said it was pleased to see an increase of $11 million for midwifery services in the province over the next three years.
“We are grateful that the value of midwifery is recognized by this government,” read a statement released by the organization.
“We are hopeful that the funding increase will allow all of Alberta’s midwifery practices to remain viable, that all women currently in midwifery care can stay in care, and that some students graduating in June can remain in Alberta.”
With files from The Canadian Press