The Friday Focus is a weekly blog post from Interim Leader John Roggeveen. It covers some of the pressing political issues of the week.
This has been an important week in Alberta politics, but one that has been shocking internationally. Liberals believe in international cooperation, the rule of law and democracy. The Russian military aggression against Ukraine stands in stark opposition to these values. I want to state my unequivocal support for the sovereignty of Ukraine and its people and condemn in the strongest possible terms this brazen and unprovoked invasion from Russia.
The UCP continues to ride the resource roller coaster. Jason Kenney may be flexing this budget surplus, but we all know these highs don’t last. Following this boom will be the inevitable bust that will send us plummeting back into deeper and deeper deficits. The Alberta government should be taking this fiscal reprieve to plan for a more sustainable and stable revenue model for our province. We cannot afford this chaotic model that gambles Albertan’s health and education on volatile markets.
The budget blunders don’t end with revenue. The UCP government also continues to cut healthcare, education and other public services. While the UCP is quick to flaunt some new education and healthcare spending, this hides the fact that spending increases are not matching population growth and inflation. In real-dollar terms, they continue to weaken the public healthcare, and education Albertans depend on. At the same time, they’re using misleading numbers to convince Albertans of the opposite. This cut by stealth approach will have long-lasting negative impacts on the health of Albertans, the strength of our economy and the future of our children.
Two-Tier Tee Up
In the throne speech, the UCP laid out a plan for public services that included expanding charter schools and expanding private delivery of surgeries. I am not fundamentally opposed to either of these policy options, hypothetically speaking. But we are not talking about a hypothetical here. We are talking about a government with, at best, a dubious commitment to public healthcare and public education.
Charter schools and privately delivered healthcare options are areas of potential abuse by the government. They can lead to preferential business contracts and inequitable treatment of citizens. Worse yet, they can siphon funds from and weaken the support of our public education and healthcare systems. Given the Kenney government’s attacks on teachers, doctors and nurses, we can’t trust the UCP not to damage our public services more than they already have. All Albertans should be deeply sceptical about these moves from the UCP.
The UCP continues to claim they’re leading Alberta’s economic recovery, but that just doesn’t seem to be the case. Businesses are still complaining about rampant shortages of skilled workers in key industries. This skills scarcity is occurring concurrently with still record-high unemployment for Albertans. Two years ago, we proposed a grant program to help out-of-work Albertans access the education and job training they need to meet industry demands. These win-win programs would address labour shortages and put Albertans back to work. Instead of following our advice, the UCP isn’t making the necessary investments in job re-training and has slashed post-secondary education funding while hiking tuition. At the exact time that Alberta needs to invest in post-secondary education for the good of Albertans and our economy, the UCP is making it less accessible than ever.
The UCP throne speech and budget are wrong for Alberta. They’re disconnected from what Albertans need today and completely ignore the problems of tomorrow. Alberta needs the compassionate and forward-thinking Liberal approach to government.