Alberta’s deficit is astonishing
Thursday, Feb 09, 2017 10:28 am
Anyone who still had the slightest illusion that if energy prices rebound sharply then the Alberta government will rapidly move towards a balanced budget just had their faint hopes crushed under a rather delicate foot.
It was always a pipedream, to be honest. But the final nasty nail in the coffin of fiscal prudence came from the premier herself in the ‘listen to the people’ smokescreen that’s been rolled out prior to the upcoming provincial budget.
As part of this travelling roadshow, Rachel Notley was asked by a Calgary grandmother – no-one dare question the wisdom of grannies of course - why our government hasn’t followed through on its election pledge to bring in a subsidized $25-a-day childcare rate across Alberta.
“We are in a situation where we have a very large deficit. We’re still working on recovery, but we’re not there yet,” replied the premier.
We’re not there yet? That’s an understatement akin to calling Donald Trump a tad bodacious.
We are so many light years away from being there – if ‘there’ is indeed that far off Nirvana where we only spend money we actually bring in – that even Stephen Hawking couldn’t explain the complicated mathematical reasoning involved.
You see, at the moment we’re spending about $11-billion a year more than we actually raise. For this sizeable swath of land that nevertheless plays host to fewer than four million living and breathing souls that’s quite an achievement. Actually it’s absolutely astonishing, though not in a good way.
Still we’ve been led to believe that if those greedy Texas frackers and the nasty Saudi drillers can just show a smidgen of circumspection – come on boys, Alberta needs you – we shall once again be as finely balanced as the wonderful Kirstie Alley when she rakes in advertisers cash by taking to the scale for those annual New Year’s weight loss ads.
But, sadly, just like diet plans come March, sad reality soon kicks in. It came with the second part of our premier’s response.
“I can tell you it is absolutely my personal first priority with respect to something we will move forward on as finances recover.”
Now recovery’s in the eye of the beholder, but obviously Rachel is itching to get that day care deal done. Now we didn’t hear that such a move would only happen when we’ve got funds in the bank and can actually afford it – you know, the way you tell the kids that Mickey and Minnie will have to wait until dad finds a new job.
Nope, we just need to get a bit better on the bleeding red side of the ledger before we can happily splurge even more money on a province-wide program that, once in place, will be hellishly difficult to abandon. Imagine a line-up of photo ops with crying kids and poor moms forced to say goodbye to their $25-a-day Yellow Brick Road day care.
Because, in reality, there are no plans whatsoever to seriously balance our books. To do so would require some dramatic reductions in services and public payrolls. That’s never going to happen. In fact, the words brutal and cuts have now been joined as one in the NDP lexicon – like some 21st century homage to George Orwell’s doublespeak vocabulary.
So, despite the dire straits Alberta’s economy is currently suffering through, there appears at least one tiny, silver lining. Even our current government dare not start any new, expansive social programs given the type of serious financial hole we’re currently in.
But give ‘em the smallest glimpse of a recovery and we’ll have a province-wide subsidized day care system quicker than you can say Rachel Notley.