EDMONTON - The Alberta government has released its provincial budget amid the COVID-19 pandemic. While the government promised not to make any significant cuts, the budget keeps in place cuts that had already been made across all areas of public services in previous years, while deepening cuts in several areas including a continued freeze to critical programs such as Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) and Income Support.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created the most asymmetric recession in Canadian history with low income people being hit extremely hard, and high-income earners saving more than they usually do, not to mention the world’s billionaires amassing over $10.2 trillion since the pandemic began.
“A global pandemic hasn’t slowed the government in instituting their ideological market agenda, and we see it clearly in the Advanced Education budget, with tuition costs for students continuing to skyrocket, while funding for the post-secondary system decreases, offloading the costs from the government onto individual students” said Joel French, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta. “Students and their families will be paying more and getting less at our colleges and universities.”
Another area which demonstrated this asymmetric crisis is in the government’s continued funding of private schools which has increased from the previously budgeted amount by $20 million to $313.6 million. At the start of the school year, registration swelled at private schools which promised smaller class sizes to children who came from families with the ability to pay, in yet another example of how working people are bearing the brunt of this crisis.
“By keeping class sizes large in our public, Catholic, and francophone schools, particularly during the pandemic, the government continues to push its market agenda of growing attendance at private schools,” said French. “Private schools with specialized programs for the elite and for religious groups should not be receiving public funding; those funds are needed in our public school systems.”
The budget’s Tax Plan yet again shows the significant gap between Alberta and the rest of Canadian provinces in its ability to raise revenue. If Alberta adopted the tax system of any other Canadian province, it would raise between $13.3 and $23.5 billion in additional annual revenue.
“The government says they’re aiming to ‘protect lives and livelihoods,’” added French. “However, they have continued to ignore the glaring issue of the province’s tax system raising insufficient revenue, and are making it even worse by accelerating the implementation of their tax cuts for large corporations. This corporate handout is a $4 billion giveaway, all while the government is cutting the public services Albertans need and rely on. They’re showing that the lives and livelihoods they really care about are the ones of already-wealthy CEOs and shareholders.”