EDMONTON-Alberta's new government released its first budget today, reversing the major cuts made in the previous government's 2015 budget released prior to the spring election and adding important investments in other areas.
"The Prentice government's pre-election budget would have resulted in larger class sizes, fewer students enrolling in post-secondary education, less capacity in our health care system, and seniors losing their drug benefits," said Joel French, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta. "We are pleased that those cuts have been reversed."
It included a new child tax benefit for all families with household incomes under $41,220.
"We have been calling for a child tax benefit for years as part of our annual analysis of child poverty in Alberta," continued French. "Its implementation today will help families who need it the most. Like the increase to minimum wage, it is a piece of what must be a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy, which should include investments in new, quality child care spaces, affordable housing, and indexing of social assistance and Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) to the cost of living. We hope to see those other pieces in the near future."
Other positive elements included in the budget were:
- A commitment beginning in 2016-17 to invest substantially in more accessible and affordable child care
- A reverse in the Prentice budget’s cuts to the Alberta Seniors Benefit
- An end to funding for the Affordable Supportive Living Initiative, the program the previous government used to vastly expand private, for-profit seniors’ care, while still keeping their commitment to expand long-term care capacity
The budget documents include a graph entitled "Alberta's Tax Advantage", which shows how much more revenue Alberta would generate if it had the same tax system as Canada's other provinces.
"Our government needs to stop seeing low revenues as an advantage - having lower revenues is Alberta's disadvantage, and it has led previous governments to cut the programs Albertans rely on most, like health care, education, and supports for our most vulnerable," said French. "The new government deserves kudos for protecting those programs in this budget, but to ensure stability for the long-term, our government needs to lead an open conversation with Albertans on what our operational budget should look like without resource revenues in the equation."