Alberta’s budget: The good, the bad, and the elephant written by Joel French
The Alberta government recently released its 2016-17 budget to lay out its plan for the new fiscal year. The budget is relatively good news for public services, given the continuing impact of the global price of oil and the province’s anemic tax system on government revenues. However, the budget contains no changes that raise new money to begin addressing Alberta’s severe revenue shortfall. The shortage of revenue remains the elephant in the room that none of the major parties seem prepared to address.
Here are a few of the highlights in the budget.
- Post-secondary tuition freeze. When tuition is frozen, it is important to pay attention to the amounts given to post-secondary institutions as operating grants. If those amounts are not increased to account for inflation, institutions will struggle to provide the same level of programming. Statistics Canada puts the rate of inflation for Alberta at 2.4 per cent, and funding for post-secondary operations increased by 2.8 per cent. In real terms, institutions saw a small increase in overall funding, while tuition rates in real dollars will actually decrease, making tuition slightly more affordable. It is a small step in the right direction.
- Increase to child care. The increase in child care investments follows the government’s announcement in November 2016 that it will fund up to 18 Early Learning and Child Care Centres, which will create up to 1,000 new child care spaces that raise standards of affordability, accessibility, and quality. In addition to a $14 million increase to the provincial child care budget this year, the recent federal budget pledges money for provinces to further improve child care. The new federal money should go toward scale-up of the provincial government’s actions and increased training and support for child care workers, but we won’t learn those details until the provincial and federal levels of government come to an agreement, which is expected to happen this summer.
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Source: Alberta’s budget: The good, the bad, and the elephant in the room | Ricochet