Recently, Finance Minister Travis Toews introduced Budget 2021: Protecting Lives and Livelihoods. Budget 2021 builds on the ongoing efforts of Alberta’s government to protect both lives and livelihoods during the COVID-19 pandemic. It invests in healthcare and it positions the province for economic recovery with a continued focus on the efficient delivery of government services.
Although we are one year into Alberta’s COVID-19 response, Albertans still face a long road ahead until life returns to normal. While vaccines offer some hope, ongoing delays from the federal government mean widespread immunization will not be achieved for several months yet. This means that Alberta’s health care system will continue to remain under pressure for some time.
Budget 2021 makes a historic investment in healthcare to make sure the health system is properly resourced to keep fighting this pandemic. On top of the $21.4 billion in non-COVID health care spending – nearly $1 billion more than last year – the government has set aside another $1.25 billion in contingency funds specifically to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. This represents the most ever spent on health care by any government in the province’s history.
This year’s budget also paves the way for growth in Alberta’s post-pandemic economy. Over $20 billion in capital infrastructure projects will create 90,000 new jobs now, when they are needed the most. Budget 2021 also includes $1.5 billion to support core sectors like agriculture, technology, energy and tourism, and $500 million in contingency funds to take advantage of further economic diversification opportunities that come our way later this year.
Alberta’s government is also taking a careful approach to spending that will help get the province’s finances back on track. Moving forward, government spending will be anchored to sound fiscal principles that will put us back on a path to a balanced budget. We will also keep our debt-to-GDP ratio below 30 per cent, which will allow us to bring our spending in-line with other provinces such as B.C., Saskatchewan and Ontario. Alberta’s hard-working public servants will also be asked to help find labour efficiencies so we can invest more in health care and economic recovery. While we’ve had to delay our timeline to eliminate the deficit in order to fight COVID-19, these solid fiscal principles will get us back on the path to balance as soon as possible.
Alberta, like the rest of the country, remains in the middle of the COVID-19 storm. But Albertans can rest assured that through Budget 2021, their government is preparing for brighter days. Alberta’s government will remain nimble to respond to the needs of Albertans as they emerge. We will continue to follow through on our commitments so that every Albertan can feel confident as we continue to navigate through these challenging times together. And most importantly, we will stick with Albertans every step of the way – protecting both their lives and their livelihoods.
— Mark Smith, MLA for Drayton Valley – Devon