alberta budget

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The red-ink budgets that have engulfed Alberta since the last recession—Alberta’s Finance Minister Doug Horner just announced this year’s deficit could hit $4-billion— are not accidental. Such red ink is not just the result of weaker resource revenues, as Alberta Premier Alison Redford regularly claims.


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When governments enter an election year, the political temptation to play fast and loose with budget numbers is strong. The most famous example of this was probably the 1996 budget in British Columbia. That year, then-B.C. Premier Glen Clark’s office injected sunshine into revenue forecasts, this in order to trumpet a balanced budget on the campaign trail. His office did so over the objections of Finance Ministry officials. Post-election, once that became known, the “fudge-it” budget scandal permanently tarred the NDP government.


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As many students enrolled in algebra class are likely discovering, numbers can be rather dry. But a proper understanding of them is indispensable to modern life. Without hard, reliable numbers regularly checked, much personal, business, and government planning would be akin to gambling: throw the dice, risk the cash and hope for the best.

I digress on the importance of numbers because as arid as they are, it’s always curious when governments go to great efforts to avoid discussing them.


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All politics is local, said Tip O’Neill, the 1980s-era leader in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

That may be true, but government budgets—especially in Alberta—are increasingly anything but local. International events and economic developments regularly affect economies and government finances on the other side of the planet.

One century ago, few would have wondered how a sovereign debt default by a Greek government might affect British, American and Canadian economies.


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Sitting down with my morning cup of coffee and Saturday's National Post, I was delighted to read Andrew Coyne's scathing criticism of the federal Conservatives' record in office, based on comments he was to make at this year's Manning Networking Conference (Is there a conservative in the House?, March 10).

Where has conservatism gone? Coyne asked. Unfortunately, Post readers didn't have to look far for the answer - the adjacent page to be precise.

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If, as the newly released census data indicates, you’re one of many arrivals to Alberta in the last half-decade, here’s the shortcut to understanding Alberta’s politicians: On budget day, they replay their favourite “spend-now, tax-later” 1980s tunes.

Some history: Between the fiscal years 1986 and 1994 (fiscal years end March 31), the province of Alberta ran nine consecutive deficits. That happened because for too long, politicians assumed boom-time revenues would soon return. They were mistaken.


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As Albertans ponder Premier Alison Redford’s first budget, they would be wise to ignore Finance Minister Ron Liepert’s assurance that Albertans can “[take] comfort in our fiscal situation.” A closer look at the budget reveals a dearth of prudence and no credible plan to return Alberta to a balanced budget position.