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EDITORIAL: UCP approach to budgeting leaves vulnerable at risk

When governments pit the interests of the priviledged few ahead of the most vulnerable we all lose out on a future based on mutual success and prosperity. 

But perhaps that’s the point. 

You see, over the past two decades, if not more, the Government of Alberta has tabled its annual budget each spring. Until this year.

That’s because Premier Jason Kenney and the UCP, elected with a majority in March, deemed it necessary to examine the province’s books first, before making any decisions on how to spend money – sort of.

You see budgets in the most simplistic sense have two parts – revenues and expenses. And while Kenney and his government have put the brakes on expenses through the budget, they have on the other hand made pretty big decisions around revenues by cutting the corporate tax rate. That’s a few billion less in money coming into the provincial coffers each year.

The provincial budget is important each year for all Albertans, and knowing what is being funded and what is being not is critical for many people from all walks of life.

Take public school boards for example. Across the province, the education system is ramping up for the 2019-20 school year, but without any details or information on what funding they will have available to them to spend.

It is fiscal uncertainty that is the exact opposite of what school officials have been lobbying the province for over the past decade – predictable and sustainable funding for education. 

Persons with development disabilities, those who receive benefits from the Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped, public libraries, and even infrastructue and flood mitigation projects across the province are facing similar uncertainties around their funding futures as well. 

Meanwhile, millions have been announced to set up a war room and public inquiry to attack those who dare challenge the oil and gas sector’s future prosperity. So there are enough funds in the yet to be tabled budget for the House Un-Albertan Activities Committee, but not for libraries. 

Then there’s the rollback of protections for LGTBQ+ students in Alberta under the provisions of Bill 8. Some of the most vulnerable people in our communities now have less certainty they will be protected from being outed by teachers and school administrators – clearly a priority in this government’s first 100 days. 

Kenney and the UCP call these efforts standing up for Albertans, but which Albertans are those really?

Are these efforts of a government that cares about the most vulnerable in our society who need the most support? Are they the efforts of a government that would like each and every citizen, regardless of who they are or how they identify themselves, prosper? 

The uncertainty and havoc of not having a provincial budget should be a concern for all Albertans. The slow trickle of details around what programs will be cut to make up for the lost revenues already expected as a result of the corporate tax cut, should be a concern as well.

Because these things all have one thing in common – they disproportionately affect vulnerable communities. Many who work within these communities are already concerned about the full effects of the budget, and we don’t even know what those are yet. 

Maybe that’s the point. 

Maybe the continued polarization of our politicial landscape is the end that justifies the means. 

Instead of working together for a better future where success isn’t determined based on if you work or support a single resource-based industry, the us versus them of our body politic serves a greater purpose for Kenney and the UCP – a Conservative victory in the upcoming federal election.

Rocky Mountain Outlook

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