Camrose MLA Jackie Lovely

MLA Jackie Lovely: Budget 2021 positioning Alberta for brighter days

Opinion

Alberta’s government is squarely focused on protecting the lives and livelihoods of Albertans. That is why this budget saw an historic investment in health care and an increased emphasis on creating jobs, preparing for recovery, and maintaining responsible spending.

As mentioned, Budget 2021 makes an historic investment in health care to make sure the health system is properly resourced to keep fighting this pandemic. On top of the $21.4 billion in non-COVID health care spending – nearly $1 billion more than last year – Alberta’s government has set aside another $1.25 billion in contingency specifically to fight the pandemic. This represents the most ever spent on health care by any government in Alberta’s history.

We also need to protect the livelihoods of Albertans. We know many people have been hit hard by the deepest global economic contraction since the Great Depression and an unprecedented collapse in oil prices. Many people have lost their jobs, taken pay cuts and are trying to make ends meet. Our government recognized the impact and accelerated the Job Creation Tax Cut; waived interest and deferred payments on student loans; mortgage and loan deferrals offered through ATB Financial; provided historic stimulus funding to build shovel-ready infrastructure and create jobs right now; froze education property tax rates; and deferred utility payments. We also invested $465 million in critical worker benefits for eligible workers in health care, social services, education and private sectors.

The government also provided support for businesses, including: $1.5 billion in income tax deferral; $1.1 billion for WCB premium waiver/deferral; $1 billion for the federally funded Site Rehabilitation Program; $575 million in relaunch grants for small and medium-sized businesses; $300 million orphan well association loan; $100 million to child care operators to safely reopen facilities; $32 million in agriculture supports and forestry protection; and $67 million in rent relief.

While some political parties propose potential tax increases, our government understands that now would be the worst time to raise taxes on families and businesses, which is why Budget 2021 contains no new taxes for Albertans. As Premier Jason Kenney said; “This would be the worst possible time to sink the government’s hand deeper into the pockets of taxpayers who are already coping with huge financial stress,”. Alberta remains the only province without a provincial sales tax and polling on whether or not one should be introduced has consistently demonstrated that it’s not something Albertans want.

To prepare for economic recovery and growth, Budget 2021 saw record investments in the sectors that are vital to Alberta’s economy. These investments include $20 billion in infrastructure projects resulting in 90,000 new jobs starting right now, $944 million towards agriculture, tourism, and technology, and another $500 million in contingency to take advantage of economic diversification opportunities that come our way this year.

Alberta’s government will remain nimble to respond to the needs of Albertans as they emerge. We will continue to follow through on our commitments so that every Albertan can feel confident as we continue to navigate through these challenging times together, and we will stick with Albertans every step of the way to protect both their lives and their livelihoods.

Lastly, this budget doubles down on our promise to align our spending with that of other comparable provinces. Going forward, our spending will be anchored to sound fiscal principles that will put us back on a path to a balanced budget. We will keep our debt-to-GDP ratio below 30% which will allow us to gradually bring our spending in line with other provinces like BC, Saskatchewan, and Ontario, and while we have had to delay our timeline to eliminate the deficit in order to fight COVID-19, these solid fiscal principles will get us back on that path as soon as possible.

While Alberta remains in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Budget 2021 is positioning Alberta for brighter days.