October 22nd, 2020

UCP brings message to city


By Bobinec, Greg on March 9, 2020.

Herald photo by Greg Bobinec
Representatives for the UCP Alberta government, Travis Toews, Devin Dreeshen, Grant Hunter and Nathan Neudorf join southern Alberta community members to talk and ask questions regarding the second budget under the UCP, Saturday afternoon. @GBobinecHerald

Greg Bobinec

Lethbridge Herald

gbobinec@lethbridgeherald.com

Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce hosted a private panel session of Alberta United Conservative Party government representatives over the weekend, to answer questions regarding the second budget and how it will effect southern Albertans.

President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance, Travis Toews joined Devin Dreeshen, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Grant Hunter, Associate Minister of Red Tape Reduction, and MLA Lethbridge East Nathan Neudorf to listen to southern Albertans’ concerns on policies, and opportunity for the government to invest.

“It is great to be down here to hear some of the challenges and opportunities, particularly in the ag-processing side,” said Toews. “As you know, economic diversification is important to Albertans and we know that the best ideas won’t come from us as a government, so we benefit when we hear from folks that are working on the front lines.

“We are hearing that we need to continue to ensure that we are making responsible fiscal decisions on behalf of Albertans and we intend to do that. Budget 2020 is along that track with a plan to balance by 2022-23.”

A concern for many Albertans from the 2020 budget was the cutting of funds from educational institutions, as well as the increased interest rates on student loans. With many students concerned about the affordability of receiving a higher education, Towes says Alberta needs to realign with the rest of the province in terms of tuition costs and operational costs in the institutions, and students are still protected from tuition spikes with their seven-per-cent cap raise each year.

“We absolutely have a responsibility to ensure that we are delivering programs in the province in the most cost-effective matter,” says Toews. “Alberta on average, compared to B.C., Ontario and Quebec, in Alberta it costs $10,000 more per full-time student in advanced education, so we have an advanced education minister that is working with our world-class post-secondary institutions, working with their boards to ensure that we can deliver advanced education in a more cost-effective way. Over the next four years, there will be a slight shift in terms of funding percentage. Our advanced education system in the past has depended disproportionately on government funding, relative to other provinces, and over the next three years that will shift so our funding percentage will more align with other provinces.”

In the wake of the COVID-19 virus making its way into Alberta, many citizens and health-care professionals are concerned about the new changes to billing and compensation for physicians, which reduces the amount of patients that can be seen per day and lowers staffing levels. They are also concerned about how the province will react to treating and controlling an outbreak, but Toews says they will respond as they need to as a government.

“In terms of COVID-19, Alberta Health and the Health Ministry is working across the province in preparation, so we can be prepared should the prevalence of COVID-19 increase dramatically in the province, and we will respond as we need to as a government. We believe that public health is of critical importance and we are taking the steps right now for increased cases if they were to occur,” says Toews.

“We are finding every way to provide services more effectively and efficiently. One thing we have included in our four-year fiscal plan is our $750 million in a contingency fund recognizing that as a province we may encounter emergencies, we may encounter events that will need a quick provincial response, so we have what I would say is a responsible amount to deal with those contingencies and emergencies.”

International trade was a major concern for some of the participants, as many countries are no longer trading between each other as a result of COVID-19. With uncertainty of how the virus will fully effect the economy, Towes says we are headed into economic uncertainty.

“Obviously like all Albertans, I hope it is shorter in length, but right now there is a lot of uncertainty,” says Toews. “Right now, we have seen commodity markets take quite a hit as a result of global economic uncertainty related to COVID-19, and really the uncertainty of how it will play out in populations and around the world, because we have a commodity based economy, agriculture, forestry, we are not insulated from changes in commodity prices. Right now at this time, it’s hard to say.”

Following the UCP information panel, many of the participants were able to get a better picture of what the budget has in store, but many are still wondering if the Alberta government has support for the growth and opportunities in southern Alberta in terms of tourism, technology, innovation, energy efficiency, parks, healthcare, and education.

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grinandbearit

This messaging from the UCP tribe is so pitiful and misleading. They have produced two budgets. Both have deficits HIGHER than the NDP’s. Jobs are being lost faster now than before they took over. Taxes are going up in many spheres because of their shifting funding. Hitting education, health, public services, parks, and incentives for diversifying our economy is not justifiable, while throwing our pensions and other public money in a folly to a failing oil industry. And blaming oil troubles on conspiracy theories involving Trudeau and leftist cabals, ignoring the realities of declining global demand for it, is pitiful, just pitiful.
As the price of oil continues to plummet precipitously, i am sure Kenney is scratching his head wondering where he can put his hands on more of our money to give to those foreign corporations, looking for new enemies of Alberta to scapegoat.

Southern Albertan

Should we be incredulous that this little UCP budget visit over the weekend did not deal with the crashing global price of oil, as they spoke? A $7 billion hit to the budget?
It is being suggested this morning that the Kenney UCP should/may have to, redo the budget.
This is why, again, it is so very unwise, for Alberta to be beholden to the ‘Big Players’, i.e.OPEC and Russia, who cannot agree on cutting production to maintain global oil prices.
At least the AB NDP, who, with our own carbon tax revenue, was reinvesting it back in the province and to promote diversifying our economy. They had also implemented progressive tax rates which means, more fair taxation. Now, we get to pay for a $30 million/year ‘War Room,’ a $4.7 billion dollar corporate welfare handout, $100 million in orphan well remediation when the sector should be doing it, taking money out of pension funds to prop up the failing oil and gas sector……..
The Kenney UCP has to not only deal with spending but bringing in more revenue as well. Again, our right wing Saskatchewan friends just increased their 5% PST to 6% because, as was said, they needed more revenue. So does Alberta. A 6% PST for Alberta, would bring in about $11 billion/year. So what would it be….our own carbon tax, a PST, more cutbacks yet, higher deficits…..?
Albertans still, have the highest individual personal income in the country. We should know, as well, that many of our Alberta friends, relatives and acquaintances who many of us know and love and who are $millionaires, can also well afford to pay a bit more provincial tax, let alone a 6% PST, say, on a 1 ton duelly, BMW, Audi, Infiniti, new houses, vacation homes……..

John P Nightingale

Time for a Provincial Sales Tax…

JustObserving

Those of you who are so prepared to dig further into the pockets of your fellow Albertans, some of whom are NOT buying Audi’s, but are trying to keep 10 yr old wrecks on the road while costs of everything rise and employment prospects dim are more than welcome to make a gift to the Province of all the $100.00 bills you obviously have laying about your 5,000 sq ft ranch homes.
The rest of us would like to keep whatever money we have in our well worn jeans if you don’t mind.
More money taken by a government by way of tax , no matter what party is in power, equates to little more than more money for them to fritter away on their pet projects.

Southern Albertan

Yes, and those who would qualify would be rebated, as they were at the time of Alberta’s carbon tax, and those who qualify also get rebated on GST, etc. if your income is low enough. Where the tire hits the road, is GST/PST/HST on highend, luxury items, yes, which many of us do not buy, but those who can afford them, can also afford to pay a bit more tax. That is where the revenue would be.

ewingbt

Chamber of Commerce . . . where were they when all the businesses were needing support from the SCS impact . . .oh that is right . . . they were supporting the Mayor . . . not the businesses that were screaming out help and in some cases, attacking those by countering their legitimate concerns . . . where were they!