Tag Archives: Alberta Budget 2018

Notley claims victory in the courts, but opponents of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline are not going to just disappear.

Another victory for our economy. Another victory for our climate plan. Another victory for the pipeline and another victory for all Albertans and all Canadians,” was the message Alberta Premier Rachel Notley reportedly delivered at a press conference in St. Albert. Notley was of course referring to the decision by the Federal Court of Appeal to dismiss the British Columbia government’s bid to challenge a National Energy Board ruling allowing Kinder Morgan Inc. to bypass City of Burnaby bylaws meant to block the expansion of the corporation’s Trans Mountain Pipeline.

As Kinder Morgan and its supporters in government in Edmonton and Ottawa are racking up the legal and regulatory wins in this pipeline dispute, losses in the courts might do little to stop opposition to the pipeline.

Opponents of the pipeline, including Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, have said that despite the court ruling they will continue to oppose the pipeline. In a demonstration of non-violent civil disobedience last Friday, Green Party leader Elizabeth May and Burnaby-South NDP MP Kennedy Stewart were arrested by RCMP for protesting in a court determined no-protest zone outside of Kinder Morgan’s terminal in Burnaby.

South of the border, a Massachusetts judge ruled that more than a dozen protesters who blocked the construction of a gas pipeline were “not responsible” after they argued their actions to try and stop climate change were a legal “necessity.” I do not know if a similar outcome would be possible in Canadian courts, but I suspect we will begin to hear some of the same arguments in the coming months.

In the chambers of parliament in Ottawa, the Senate unanimously adopted a motion introduced by BC Conservative Senator Richard Neufeld urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to “bring the full weight and power of his office to ensure that Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion Project gets completed on schedule.” This week, Independent Senator Doug Black of Calgary introduced Bill S-245, the Trans Mountain Pipeline Project Act, which would declare the pipeline “to be works for the general advantage of Canada.”

It is not clear what Neufeld believes “the full weight and power” of the Prime Minister’s Office includes, but aside from Trudeau sending in the Army or suspending constitutional rights of Canadians, we should expect the protests to intensify. The Trudeau government in Ottawa has been clear about its support for the pipeline, but the political calculus, including the 18 incumbent Liberal MPs in British Columbia, has meant most federal pressure on the BC government is likely being applied behind the scenes.

Notley was right to point out the contradiction in the BC government’s position opposing the Kinder Morgan pipeline while trying to jump-start the west coast liquid natural gas industry. Just as Albertans have discovered in this pipeline dispute, provincial governments can sometimes be much more sympathetic to their own local industries than the opinions of neighbouring provinces.

There are contradictions on both sides of this debate.

Opponents of the pipeline are happy to point out the conflicting messages sent by Notley’s government, which pushes the expansion of an oilsands pipeline while lauding its Climate Leadership Plan. The success of the oil pipeline has been made central to the Alberta NDP government’s political future, The awkward shoehorning of the pipeline issue into the provincial budget was the most recent example.

It feels unlikely this issue will be resolved anytime soon and, despite rulings in the courts, opponents of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline will likely get louder and more determined before the pipeline is expanded, if ever.

Only in Alberta are huge deficits and low taxes completely irreconcilable

“When the global price of oil collapsed and the recession hit, we had a choice: Cut or build. We chose to build. In making that choice, we focused on the priorities of regular people and families – creating badly needed jobs, building our province for the future, making life more affordable for people and protecting the schools, hospitals and public services all Albertans rely on.”

It was with this familiar refrain that Finance Minister Joe Ceci began his speech on the floor of the Legislatve Assembly as he introduced the Alberta Government’s 2018/2019 budget. This was Ceci’s fourth budget since the NDP were swept into office in the 2015 provincial election and this is likely the last governing budget from this government before next year’s provincial election is called.

This year’s budget appears to have avoided the “compassionate belt tightening” that Premier Rachel Notley warned about in her 2017 year-end interviews. The NDP has avoided making significant cuts to public services over the past three years, instead opting for stable increases to operations funding and major investment in capital spending.

Titled “A Recovery Built to Last,” the themes of this budget – a path to a balance budget, jobs and diversification, protecting public services – are key to the narrative the NDP hopes to shape between now and next spring’s election.

This budget’s narrative also provides a contrast between the NDP and what many expect would be a much different budget implemented under a government led by United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney, which might be expected to impose deep cuts to funding for public services, education and health care.

Welcome to pre-election season.

Overall, it was a generally acceptable budget, but it is difficult to get too excited about it.

With government prone to make major changes to budgets over the course of a year, it is hard not to see the Budget Day pomp and ceremony as just an overrated exercise in expectations management.

Ceci said in his speech that the NDP are projected to balance the provincial budget by the 2023/2024 fiscal year, which would coincide with the end of a second NDP term in government.

The current deficit is forecast to be $8.8 billion, which is $1.5 billion less than was initially forecast. The government will be lambasted for taking on more debt, even though significant debt accumulation was already forecast in the media coverage of last year’s budget. Economists will be quick to point out that the Alberta government is still in a fairly strong position when it comes to the net debt to GDP ratio, but that message might be hard to sell to newspaper opinion writers and voters at the doorsteps.

But what is not clear in this budget is how the government plans to deal with its revenue problem.

Only in Alberta could a finance minister calmly deliver a speech about an $8.8 billion budget deficit while also bragging about the lowest taxes in the country. “…Albertans and Alberta businesses pay at least $11.2 billion less in taxes than they would in any other province,” Ceci stated. Maybe if we paid a little bit more taxes, we could have a balanced budget, or at least a lower deficit?

Economists and political staffers might tell me it’s not that easy, and maybe it’s not, but only in Alberta could huge deficits and low taxes be totally reconcilable in reality but completely irreconcilable in politics.


What’s in a budget name?

The titles of Alberta’s budget documents typically present a general theme. Budget names can sometimes be quite silly, but they do provide a snapshot of the political and economic agenda of the government of the day. Here is a look back at titles of Alberta budgets from 1997 to 2018:

  • A Recovery Built to Last (March 22, 2018)
  • Working to Make Life Better (March 16, 2017)
  • Alberta Jobs Plan (April 14, 2016)
  • Supporting Jobs, Supporting Families (October 27, 2015)
  • Budget 2015 (March 26, 2015)
  • The Building Alberta Plan (March 6, 2014)
  • Responsible Change (March 7, 2013)
  • Investing in People (February 9, 2012)
  • Building a Better Alberta (February 24, 2011)
  • Striking the Right Balance (February 9, 2010)
  • Building On Our Strength (April 7, 2009)
  • The Right Plan for Today and Tomorrow (April 22, 2008)
  • Managing Our Growth (April 19, 2007)
  • Strengthening Today, Securing Tomorrow (March 22, 2006)
  • Investing in the Next Alberta (April 13, 2005)
  • On Route, On Course – Heading Toward Alberta’s Second Century (March 24, 2004)
  • Making Alberta Even Better (April 8, 2003)
  • The Right Decisions for Challenging Times (March 19, 2002)
  • The Future … Meeting Priorities, Sharing Benefits (April 24, 2001)
  • New Century. Bold Plans. (February 24, 2000)
  • The Right Balance (March 11, 1999)
  • Agenda for Opportunity (February 12, 1998)
  • Building Alberta Together (February 11, 1997)

Public schools should be the priority, says trustee Michael Janz

With Finance Minister Joe Ceci scheduled to table Alberta’s budget in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday, March 22, there was plenty of activity today by advocates wanting to see big changes in provincial education.

Public schools should be the priority, says Janz

Edmonton Public School Board Trustee Michael Janz is calling on the province to prioritize the construction of public schools in new communities. Janz will introduce a motion encourging the board seek a commitment from the provincial government that ‘the first school built in any community or neighbourhood be a public school or a shared public, separate, and/or francophone board facility.’

As of September 2017, around 100,000 students were enrolled in Edmonton’s public school system, a 3.4 percent increase from the previous year. According to Janz, the board’s draft projections indicate an increase of an additional 3,000 students in the 2018-2019 school year.

The board is currently debating its Three Year Capital Plan.

3 out of 4 taxpayers say no money for elite and exclusive private schools 

Progress Alberta released a poll from Environics showing that 75 percent of Albertans agree that schools charging more than $10,000 per year in tuition should not receive public funding. According to data released by Progress Alberta in 2017, 15 private schools that charge more than $10,000 in annual tuition fees received more than $30 million in taxpayer subsidies from the Alberta government in 2015-2016.

Some school boards falling behind on protecting sexual minority students

Public Interest Alberta has released a new report on four school boards’ policies and procedures on sexual and gender minorities that points to the need for changes to protect students and their rights. “Policies should be clear, comprehensive and unequivocal in their support for LGBTQ students, staff and families. Students shouldn’t need a lawyer to make sense of their school policies, or to find out if they’re fully protected or not,” University of Alberta assistant professor Kristopher Wells told Metro Edmonton.

Photo: Edmonton Public School Trustee Michael Janz