Budget Priorities: Building Back Better
Relief. Rebuild. Renew.
Originally published February 25, 2021
Albertans deserve better from this Budget. We are in a time of dramatic change, and that requires bold leadership. Alberta’s government needs to help Albertans today and build the bridge to tomorrow.
The Alberta Liberal plan focuses on the three Rs. These will meet Alberta’s needs today and build towards a better tomorrow.
- Relief: We will provide Albertans with the relief to weather the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Rebuild: We have a plan to rebuild our economy for the 21st century.
- Renew: We will renew the Alberta Advantage to be sustainable, resilient and fair.
COVID-19 has left an unprecedented number of Albertans vulnerable and in need of support, but the UCP Government has left over $300 million in federal aid unspent. The Alberta Liberals would use those funds immediately to help Albertans through this challenging time.
We must make sure Albertans can afford to take time off work when they are sick or test positive for Covid-19 so that they can recover and self-isolate. Any Albertans who qualify for the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit should get an additional $100-per-week payment to top off this federal government’s program payment of $450 per week.
We would expand support for struggling businesses through the Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant. We would increase SMERG payments for small businesses from 15% of pre-covid revenue to 20% and increase the payment caps by $5,000.
Students entering the workforce during COVID19 are facing some of the greatest challenges. That is why we propose the suspension of student loan repayments and interest charges until the end of 2021.
Relief for parents struggling to make ends meet and care for children is needed now. But a temporary program isn’t enough. We need to create permanent, affordable daycare for all parents. This is particularly important for getting women back into the workforce. There is no recovery without a she-covery.
Albertans don’t just want to survive; they want to thrive. We need a credible plan to rebuild our economy better and stronger than before.
Unemployment was a persistent problem in Alberta even before the pandemic. Now an ongoing problem is turning into a crisis. We are calling for $160 million in new grants for job training and education for out-of-work Albertans. This Employment Through Education Grant will not only help out-of-work Albertans transition to new careers but bolster our economy by investing in our most important resource: Albertans.
There is no better time to invest in infrastructure than an economic downturn, These publicly-funded jobs can tide people over until the private sector recovers while simultaneously improving our long-term economic prospects. The Alberta Liberals would triple the Strategic Transportation Infrastructure Program to $150 million. This increase in funding will help municipalities create jobs today by investing in Alberta’s tomorrow.
A changing energy market doesn’t mean Alberta’s global energy role needs to change. We can still be a leader in new energy markets while leading on climate change. We will work with researchers, entrepreneurs, and workers to set the stage for an Alberta comeback. Alberta can accomplish this by focusing on exciting growth industries such as geothermal, lithium. hydrogen, wind, solar and alternative bitumen use such as carbon fibres and high-performance polymers.
It’s time to create a new Alberta Advantage, one rooted in equality of opportunity, prosperity and sustainability. This requires ideas so bold they may seem audacious but they are possible because of Albertans can-do spirit.
It’s time to pursue a Universal Basic Income. No Albertan should have to go without the necessities of life. No one should have to work under unacceptable conditions because they are afraid to be homeless and hungry. A Universal Basic Incomes promises the next evolution for society: an end to poverty. Recent studies have proven it’s good for the economy, with the potential to create billions in economic growth.
Over the last year, Albertans have fought back against anti-environment policies from the UCP. We must do more and not only preserve our existing protections but expand them. That is why we are committed to designating 30% of Alberta’s natural environments protected areas by 2030 and 50% by 2050.
Last but not least, a renewed Alberta requires a renewed fiscal framework. The days of oil and gas booms are gone and Alberta needs a sustainable fiscal model. Alberta should implement a Harmonized Sales Tax to assist our economic recovery. Sales taxes have the lowest economic impact of any tax and provide stable and steady revenue to pay for vital public services. This, coupled with a reversal of Kenney’s corporate tax cuts, will help Alberta return to fiscal balance post-pandemic.