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Letter to Members - Engaging in the Alberta Budget Consultation Process

01/30/2020

Letter to Members - Alberta Budget Consultation Letter

 

Subject:  Engaging in the Alberta Budget Consultation Process

 

I am reaching out today to talk about the Alberta Budget. The provincial budget is an annual opportunity for the government of the day to set out their priorities for the province and indicate the directions they will take over provincial programs and services in the future.

 

Last year, in the Budget, the government announced:

 

·         Spending cuts to programs and services by 2.8% over four years

·         A funding freeze for  K-12 education and funding cuts to post secondary education

·         A reduced corporate tax from 12% to 8 % by 2022, reducing revenue by as much as $4.5 billion over 4 years

·         Cuts of up to an additional $900 million from revenue through an “enhanced capital cost allowance (another tax cut for business)

 

These changes lead directly to an expectation that 7,000 Alberta public sector jobs will be cut including nurses, teachers, health care workers and Government of Alberta employees.  In fact, the UCP has committed to cutting 7.7% of the public sector jobs in Alberta and warns that more could be possible over the next four years, if wages are not kept in check. 

 

In addition, the government is trying to unilaterally impose wage cuts averaging 2% on all public sector employees as a result of the budget cuts.

 

Government engaging in false narrative

Alberta budget 2019 showed the government is engaging in a narrative that sets up a false choice – a choice between balancing the budget by cutting public sector jobs and wages or putting the economy at risk.

 

The truth is government spending is an important component of GDP and economic growth. When public sector jobs are cut and public sector spending held back there are fewer people employed and less money circulating in the economy. This actually puts downward pressure on economic growth. In fact, recent studies show that cuts to the budget put the province on a path to recession.

 

The combination of corporate tax cuts and cuts to public services, doesn’t balance the budget, it simply shifts money from the pockets of hard-working public sector employees into the bank accounts of a corporate sector that is already paying less than their share of what it takes to make a province work.

 

Alberta’s economic challenges are real and need to be carefully analysed and responded to, the current government response, however, inflicts further damage, it does not offer a positive solution.

 

Why are budgets important?

Government budgets are inherently political documents. They lay out the choices the government of the day is making – for example between corporate tax cuts and funding public services and the jobs that support those services – and the values the government holds including how workers are treated and the quality of the public services that support individual and societal well-being.

 

The choices that are made in any particular budget can and do have long-term effects on the economy, on society and on the quality of public services available to the public.

 

Public consultation is your opportunity to tell the government what your priorities are and what you think the government should do to support those priorities.

 

Budget consultations on now

Every year prior to the budget, the government holds public consultations. This is an opportunity for Alberta’s residents and organizations to tell the government their priorities for their province and what the government can do about it.

 

Alberta Budget consultation is on-line and open now. The consultations close on February 7, 2020.

 

The government is asking three questions:

What spending priorities do you think government should focus on?
Where do you think government could find savings?
How should government support job creation and economic growth?

 

I am encouraging all local unions in Alberta to participate in the budget consultation. The link to the consultation can be found here: https://www.alberta.ca/budget-consultation.aspx. To engage, simply click on the link and scroll down to the dialogue boxes under each question. Below we have provided some background information to assist in filling out the questionnaire.

 

I’ve provided some notes below to assist as you prepare your answers.

 

What spending priorities do you think government should focus on?

 

Government should focus on the following:

Invest in public services:

Ensure Alberta maintains and improves our current health care and education systems including by ending the freeze on student spending announced in Budget 2019 – a move that will result in millions of dollars in cuts to student transportation and support services in the coming years

 

Invest in a stable future for Alberta’s economy.

The energy sector is the economic engine that creates good jobs in many of our communities. The sector is evolving, as the world slowly shifts away from fossil fuels. Our government needs to invest in new energy infrastructure, in new economic opportunities and in new skills and income supports for Alberta’s workers themselves, so that our province is ready for this transition.

 

Where do you think government can find savings?

Immediate savings are not the most important objective in this budget cycle. Instead, government should be focussed on maintaining and even increasing funding to public services to ensure the people of Alberta have access to the public services necessary to survive and thrive in a challenging economic landscape.

 

We know that investing now leads to dividends in the future. Government should consider the provision of education and training, child care, health care, unemployment supports and more as investments in its citizens that will lead to a thriving society and even cost savings later.

 

Every dollar spent on early childhood education pays back $6 in the future.
Investments that promote health and well-being today (through income supports, higher wages, better working conditions and health care focused on wellness) are cheaper than treating illnesses later.

 

Government should be focused on a longer-term view of sustainability and success of individuals and communities that takes into account the health and well-being of people today and in the future.

 

How should government support job creation and economic growth?

 

First and foremost, government can support jobs and the economy by reversing the 2019 budget cuts. Those cuts could result in the loss of up to 7,000 jobs. This is clearly not a job creation agenda. What does a job creation agenda look like in Alberta?

 

Government spending is an important component of GDP and economic growth. Cutting spending and eliminating jobs puts downward pressure on economic growth by reducing the amount of money cycling through the economy through pay checks to people who live in Alberta and services provided to ensure Albertans can get to work and be productive and engaged while there.
Government should focus on investing in services and in people. Draw on our resource wealth to fuel investments in infrastructure, skills training, economic diversification and stronger public services.

 

The annual provincial budget is an important opportunity for us to tell provincial leaders what our priorities are for the future of our Province. I encourage you to participate in the pre-budget consultation process and look forward to working together to build the Alberta we want.

 

In solidarity,

 

Gavin McGarrigle

Western Regional Director, Unifor