EDMONTON—Alberta’s 2016-17 budget released today marks a significant drop in government revenue. The total projected revenue of $41.4 billion for 2016-17 is a $1.5 billion drop from last year and an $8.1 billion drop from two years ago.
“This budget makes it clear that Alberta can no longer rely on resource revenues to fund government operations,” said Joel French, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta. “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. Our province’s finances are a sick patient – this budget deals with the symptoms, but fails to address the root cause of the patient’s problems: a chronic revenue shortage.”
French said the government must make changes to the province’s tax system to replace resource revenues.
“The only responsible way to pay for our valued public services is through tax revenue, like all other provinces do,” continued French. “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.”
French called on the government to launch a broad discussion with Albertans to decide the ways the tax system should be adjusted to raise the needed revenue.
“The government may have bought itself some time, but it must now begin a discussion with Albertans about the need to increase government revenue in ways that protect vulnerable and low income families, and at the same time support the provision of enhanced public services in health care, education, and other areas that Albertans expect and value."