The newly released provincial budget includes a three per cent cut pretty much across the board, noted Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin MLA Rick Wilson, but mostly leave health and education alone.
Speaking by phone from his constituency office Oct. 25, the Minister of Indigenous relations stated the four years of NDP government left Jason Kenney’s Conservative Party with no alternative but to cut back. “The previous government had a collision course on a $100 million debt,” said Wilson.
Wilson said the provincial government was under a lot of pressure to balance the budget and curtail spending so Alberta can start paying off its heavy debt, currently at about $62 billion. However, there will be no cuts in this budget to either education or healthcare.
Overall, the cuts amount to a modest three per cent cut across the board.
As Minister of Indigenous relations, Wilson said this budget looks good, a few programs are now gone but have been replaced with the Indigenous Opportunities Corporation, which the provincial government is very excited about. He said the corporation offers $1 billion support for indigenous people in energy-related industries.
Wilson also noted the new budget was engineered based on the McKenna Report, which was an independent panel examining Alberta’s expenditures and debt which also provided advice and options on how best to address overspending. “You can’t just carry on the way we are,” said Wilson, noting the provincial government has to look closely for efficiency and make the most of every tax dollar.
Wilson addressed talk of the provincial government cutting prescription services to seniors; he said that talk probably originates with changes to the way spouses get prescriptions when one spouse turns 65 and the other is younger. He noted a review panel is also being set up to look at this issue.
“We’re still trying to protect the people who need to be protected,” said Wilson.
The new budget isn’t all about cuts, though. The MLA stated the budget includes more money for addictions and mental health.