Orr: Alberta budget a disaster

Opinion from MLA Ron Orr over Alberta's 2017 budget announcements.

The NDP budget is a debt-fueled disaster packed with higher taxes and more of the same economic policies that will cost families and hurt Alberta’s prosperity for generations to come.

This budget creates the highest per-capita deficit spending in modern Canadian history and the highest ever in Alberta. By 2019-20, it will cost $16,049 for every Albertan to pay their share of the debt. Borrowing this year is nearly one quarter of the total budget.

The budget is a balance sheet meltdown and mortgages Alberta’s future, racking up a $71 billion debt by 2019-20 that will cost Albertans $2.3 billion in annual interest payments. Those interest payments are taxpayers’ money that will go straight to the banks and not towards hospitals, schools, teachers or nurses

Health: The inequity of health care grew for central Alberta. Collectively Edmonton and Calgary will receive another 2.2 Billion dollars in new funding. Despite critical health care needs, the central health region received no new funding. A glaring omission, considering Red Deer Regional Hospital was on the priority list, just over a year ago. A 2015 needs assessment showed Red Deer’s hospital was short 96 beds, three operating rooms and 18 emergency room treatment stretchers. Why is the government ignoring central Alberta? Why did other projects jump ahead of our region’s needs?

New surgery cancellations statistics tabled in the legislature show that Red Deer Hospital surgery cancellations are the highest in Alberta by 206 to 32,400 percent depending on which hospital you compare to.

Justice: There is long overdue good news for Lacombe and Blackfalds areas. After a decade of strong community advocacy, Red Deer received infrastructure funding in the budget to build a new Courthouse; 97 million dollars over the next four years. Critical and timely access to justice is essential. It will now be essential to ensure that there is a full complement of judges, crown prosecutors and court clerks to prosecute cases within required time limits.

Unfortunately for Ponoka and area, served by Wetaskiwin court, there appears to be no resolution to the extremely high increase in cases and unresolved cases.

Opposition leader Brian Jean unveiled a private member’s bill last week that would give Albertans a deeper look into the province’s backlogged justice system. The bill would compel the justice minister to table a report on the system’s performance, which he hopes would help unclog a system that has been beset by delays.

This government is playing Russian Roulette with the sustainability of Alberta’s finances and billions of taxpayers’ dollars. NDP policies in 2016 led to a 3.1 per cent drop in annual household income as unemployment will remain over eight per cent in 2017. Eighty one thousand jobs have vanished since the NDP took power, but they are doubling down on a high tax, high debt agenda that will cost families thousands of dollars every year and suffocate our economy’s ability to create jobs. The budget contains no plan or timeline for returning to a balanced budget, and contains no significant spending reductions.

I would like to hear from you. How do you feel about the Alberta budget? If you have any questions or concerns on this or any issue, please contact my constituency office at 403-782-7725 or by e-mail at Lacombe.ponoka@assembly.ab.ca or drop in at 101, 4892 46 Street, Lacombe, AB T4L 2B4.