AFL 2022 Alberta Pre-budget Consultation Brief

The UCP government has started public consultations for the 2022-2023 Alberta Budget. The purpose of this brief is to provide suggestions to union members as to how to engage with these consultations, as well as suggestions about how the next budget can strengthen public services.

The government is predicting a deficit in the next budget, but smaller than originally forecast due to increased global oil and gas prices. However, there could still be large cuts to public services and it appears that the government is trying to get Albertans to agree with those cuts.

UCP online survey misleading

The UCP’s online survey for the budget consultation has a format that pressures people into agreeing to cuts to public services.

One of the questions the government asks is, “If government needs to reduce spending, please select the three most important areas where you think spending should be reduced?” The survey then lists eight suggestions for cuts, including education and healthcare. Despite Jason Kenney’s promise not to cut public healthcare or education funding, they are apparently on the table for the next provincial budget.

If a person wants to finish the online survey, they must choose something to cut in order to complete the survey. This sneaky format in the online survey is a way for the UCP to manufacture consent for cuts, even if you do not agree that Alberta public services should suffer from de-funding or underfunding.

For this reason, the Alberta Federation of Labour recommends that people send budget suggestions to the government directly, rather than using the online survey. Interested union members can send their thoughts on the next Alberta budget to the government in Microsoft Word or PDF format through this webpage.

Here are some suggested responses for how the next Alberta budget can strengthen public services:

Expand and enhance the public health care umbrella

  • The UCP should create a universal single-payer prescription drug plan and universal plans for dental and optical care. This will help Albertans get the eye, dental and medication care they need to be happy and healthy.
  • Include continuing care, such as long-term care and assisted living supports, to Alberta’s public health care regime. Too many seniors and other Albertans do not have access to these supports.
  • A comprehensive mental care strategy and supports for Albertans is greatly needed. The stress from the pandemic has exposed gaps in our province’s mental health care system.

Permanent child care expansion

  • Alberta has the lowest spending on early childhood care out of all the provinces. Recently announced support from the federal government is welcomed, but comprehensive early childhood care should be a permanent feature of the Alberta budget.

Diversify the economy by investing in education

  • Alberta’s future depends on education. We should eliminate tuition fees for post-secondary education at public post-secondary institutions by ensuring they are properly funded using public revenue.

Enhance bargaining power of working Albertans

  • The UCP government has continued the tradition of conservative governments chipping away at the bargaining power of working Albertans.
  • When bargaining power is undermined, workers face stagnant wages and pensions, as well as less-safe workplaces because workers’ voices can be ignored by employers.
  • We need to dismantle existing frameworks that were deliberately designed to weaken worker bargaining power, like the so-called “double-breasting” system in construction.

Strengthen and expand pensions

  • The vast majority of workers in the private sector do not have good pensions. Those workers should have access to the same pensions as workers in the public sector.
  • Instead of undermining the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) by withdrawing from it, the government of Alberta should create a new public pension plan for Alberta workers.

Protect the environment

  • The environment is our shared heritage. We depend on it for the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink.
  • Alberta’s resource extraction industries should be regulated in an open and transparent way that protects the environment.
  • Addressing human-caused climate change is the biggest challenge of any government. We need the provincial government to lead these efforts in order to ensure our economy is environmentally sustainable.

Revenue reform

  • It is the reality that Alberta’s fiscal problem is a revenue problem, not an expenditure problem, and that it has its roots in decisions made by previous conservative governments.
  • Cutting taxes to large, profitable corporations has not resulted in more public revenue.
  • Employers rely on healthy, educated workers. They, too, should help pay their fair share of taxes to support public services.

Preparing for the Energy Transition

  • The global economy is transitioning to a low-carbon economy. We need a provincial government that understands that leadership means public investment in innovation and infrastructure for our economy to grow.
  • Alberta’s transition off coal-fired electricity generation offers lessons on how to ensure energy transition is as smooth as possible. Workers need a seat at the table when it comes to decisions that will greatly change our economy. Workers will need job-transition and education programs to help them build the skills they’ll need in a low-carbon economy.