BANFF – The Banff Centre is one of many post-secondary institutions in Alberta facing cuts under the first provincial budget released by the UCP government Thursday (Oct. 24).
Budget 2019, tabled by Minister of Finance and Treasury Board President Travis Toews, set out that the provincial government will be reducing Campus Alberta Grant Funding by five per cent in the 2019-20 school year.
Under the anticipated funding cuts, the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity is facing a 1.7 per cent cut equal to the $17.8 million it would have received from the grant fund in 2019-20.
“The Banff Centre understands that the government needs to reduce spending to deal with a prolonged economic downtown,” Banff Centre acting director of communications Erin Brant-Filliter said via email.
Under the changes to the Campus Alberta Grant Funding, the Banff Centre will need to decrease spending by $311,720 by March 31, 2020, at the end of its fiscal year.
The Campus Alberta Grant Funding documents state that the Banff Centre has an average surplus of $659,000, and the cuts to funding amount to a 47.3 per cent reduction of its surplus, in line with the majority of post-secondary instiututions included in the document.
The Banff Centre intends to protect the 120 courses it offers each year, Brant-Filliter said, adding that 3,600 artists and leaders visit the campus nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains annually.
“We will be reducing administrative costs, discretionary spending on travel and conferences,” Brant-Filliter said. “We want to re-assure the artists and leaders who come to Banff Centre every year that very little will change in the short term.”
The budget released by Toews sets out that the provincial government will cut its operating spending by $1.3 billion, or 2.8 per cent, over the next four years. The goal is to have a balanced budget by 2022-23.
Addressing media Thursday afternoon, Toews indicated there is the potential for deeper cuts if a pipeline is unable to be secured by the province, or if a global recession erupts. He said the 2019 budget was built based on the expectation that Line 3 would come online in the first quarter of 2021, and the TransMountain expansion would be operational in late 2022.
“We have made projections based on what we believe are very realistic assumptions," he said. "But we've also pointed out the fact that if that egress doesn't occur if we don't see additional pipeline access, that in fact there will be a $3-billion effect ... to the government fiscal scenario. That would require additional spending restraint.”
The provincial government is budgeting $50 billion in revenue this year and $50.1 billion next year, $53.6 billion in 2021-22 and $57.5 billion in 2022-23.
“This is not a boom-time scenario,” Toews said. “This is a very cautious revenue projection.”
The government expects revenues to be fairly flat over the next couple of years before starting to rise in the last two years of the budget, adding that the UCP plan is to post a $600-million surplus in 2022-23, although debt is projected to balloon to $93 billion in the meantime.
Toews said the government needs to pare down its budget deficit before it can tackle the bigger issue of debt.
Spending on education in Alberta won't increase for the next four years, as the provincial government works to rein in expenses and reach a balanced budget by 2022-23.
The Ministry of Advanced Education will see a cumulative 11.8-per-cent decrease over the next four years, including a five per cent cut of $275 million this year.
As part of these changes, the provincial tuition freeze will come to an end in the 2020-21 school year and the tuition cap will be removed, allowing costs to rise seven per cent at an institutional level.
Changes will also take place to provincial student loans as of April 1, 2020, increasing the interest rate from prime to prime plus one. The Campus Alberta Grant Funding documents state that this amounts to about $15 per month on $30,000 provincial loans amortized over 10 years.
–With files from the St. Albert Gazette