Friday, March 17, 2017

--The ugly part is the lack of a blueprint to return to a balanced budget before 2023-24, which seems to be inviting another round of credit rating downgrades that makes all this debt more expensive to service.-----------Julie Ali · University of Alberta There are many ways to save taxpayers money and decrease the debt. It just takes the political will that is not present. The NDP government needs to cut salaries and positions -at both government and at agencies, boards and commissions. We don't for example need two health authorities. We are paying big bucks for executive salaries and for a duplicated bureaucracy at AHS and Covenant Health. One province wide heatlh authority is the way to go. This can be achieved by the slow phasing out of Covenant Health. We do not need 61 school boards and 61 school superintendants who get major pay. The number of GOA bureaucrats receiving over $100,000 per year for no deliverables that I can detect is astonishing and this is an area for scrutiny. In my opinion there is no reason for the many universities in Alberta. Universities will have to economize and tenure should end. Places like NAIT are providing us more value for our public investment and should receive more money. Like · Reply · Just now


We are collecting debt faster than old fruit collects fruit flies. Why hasn't the government made the cuts necessary to salaries, benefits, pension plans in both the GOA and at the ABCs (agencies, boards and commissions)? There needs to be a concerted effort by the GOA to decrease our losses at the public bank. 
Instead of doing the hard work of pruning this overgrown public sector tree we are supposed to suck up the extra costs of entitled public sector living. Why? We -as families in the private sector do not have the parachute available to public sector employees and we do without the cushy benefits, expense accounts and fun /games of GOA life. What do we get for our taxes and our lack of economic security? We get nothing.
And in addition to lack of deliverables we get a lack of respect that is astonishing if you ever have to FOIP any piece of government associated documentation such as a medical file. The lack of respect and the willingness to ignore problems while at the same time taxing us beyond sustainable levels is the hall mark of the GOA and all the political parties we have hired.
Time for a change. And it can't come soon enough.

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http://calgaryherald.com/business/energy/varcoe-good-bad-and-way-too-much-ugly-in-new-alberta-budget


Varcoe: Good, bad and way too much ugly in new Alberta budget

Published on: March 16, 2017 | Last Updated: March 16, 2017 7:48 PM MDT
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Chris Varcoe on Budget 2017
There’s a little bit of good, a lot more bad and a whole bunch of ugly buried within the Alberta government’s budget released Thursday.
The good news for Finance Minister Joe Ceci comes on a couple of fronts, with higher oil prices projected and new pipelines expected to pay dividends, while Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions finally peak in the early 2020s.
The bad news, however, is after two punishing years of layoffs and recession, the employment picture will remain sluggish and unemployment stubbornly high for a couple more years.
The ugly part is the lack of a blueprint to return to a balanced budget before 2023-24, which seems to be inviting another round of credit rating downgrades that makes all this debt more expensive to service.
But let’s start on a positive note.
The province forecasts benchmark North American crude prices will average US$55 a barrel in the new budget year. In turn, non-renewable resource revenue is expected to climb to $3.8 billion, a healthy 55 per cent bump from last year’s low levels.
The price projection is optimistic given Thursday’s closing oil price of US$48.75 a barrel, but not out of the realm of other energy industry forecasts.
The Notley government has made a big bet on its aggressive climate change plans, vowing it would pay dividends both for the environment and the economy.
In the budget, the province projects greenhouse gas emissions will crest by the early 2020s, something that’s eluded premiers dating back to Klein and Stelmach as oilsands output and greenhouse gas emissions marched higher.
Alberta’s oilsands production is expected to keep rising, hitting 3.3 million in two years, which will drive export growth.
However, the budget cautions there won’t be enough pipeline capacity coming out of the province by early next year.
This would force producers to use more expensive rail to ship their crude, lowering netbacks and widening the light-heavy oil differential.
“Right now if shippers don’t have the option of pipelines, they are spending up to $7 to rail it, per barrel, which is quite expensive — and it’s money we’re not keeping back here in Alberta,” Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd noted in an interview.
Federal cabinet approval of Enbridge’s Line 3 project and Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion should eventually move more oil out of the province, with a payoff of between $2 and $7 extra per barrel due to improved differentials, according to Alberta Energy.
Over five years, this will add about 1.5 per cent in GDP growth and increase annual employment by 12,000, the budget states.
For Ceci, new pipelines are critical because they’re expected to bolster royalty payments by up to $9 billion between 2018 and 2022.
Construction hasn’t started, however, and Trans Mountain faces a raft of legal challenges from opponents.
“We’ve got a few pipelines approved, we need them built though,” said Alex Ferguson, vice-president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
“At the same time, we can’t just assume that, ‘OK, sure we’ll get them built.’ Well, we need to be able attract the investment so we can fill the pipelines.”
Let’s hope they’re finished in a timely fashion because the short-term news isn’t so great on the jobs front.
While the economy is expected to grow by 2.6 per cent this year, unemployment is forecast to average 8 per cent this year and 7.6 per cent in 2018.
Finally, there is the downright ugly news that Alberta won’t get back into balance until 2023-24.
Ceci told reporters he’s not prepared to make deep cuts, insisting he’ll bring deficits down “thoughtfully and prudently.”
“Once we get to balance and run surpluses, we will pay down the debt. And once we pay down the debt, happy days will be here again,” he said.
The minister is promising to keep spending below the rate of inflation plus population — about 3.3 per cent — and hope the budget moves back into balance on its own.
But little is being done to aggressively cut spending. Even with a hiring freeze in place, the government will add 871 full-time positions to its own payroll.
Ceci touted reductions of $16 million in executive salaries and rooting out $200 million through in-year savings, but that’s a rounding error in a budget with $54.9 billion in spending.
The flip side of this inaction means a $10.3-billion deficit this year. Meanwhile, debt is expected to hit $45 billion in this new budget year and escalate to $71 billion by 2019-2020.
“Hope is not a strategy,” said Zoe Addington of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, expressing disappointment in the government’s lack of expense control.
“As we’ve seen in Alberta, in tough times the private sector enterprises are forced to cut expenses,” added Martha Hall Findlay, chief executive of the Canada West Foundation.
“Every government should have the discipline to do the same.”
Many people, myself included, were willing to give the government some breathing room last year as it unveiled a record deficit because of the economic carnage spreading across the province.
But oil prices are recovering, the economy is rebounding, revenues are rising and the deficit is still going to be mammoth for the next three years — another $27 billion in red ink by 2020.
At some point, the NDP must come up with a strategy beyond waiting for oil to hit $100 and the economy to shift into overdrive.
Instead, they’ve skirted Alberta’s real fiscal problem and left the heavy budget lifting for another day.
Chris Varcoe is a Calgary Herald columnist.
cvarcoe@calgaryherald.com


Julie Ali ·
There are many ways to save taxpayers money and decrease the debt. It just takes the political will that is not present.

The NDP government needs to cut salaries and positions -at both government and at agencies, boards and commissions. We don't for example need two health authorities. We are paying big bucks for executive salaries and for a duplicated bureaucracy at AHS and Covenant Health. One province wide heatlh authority is the way to go. This can be achieved by the slow phasing out of Covenant Health. We do not need 61 school boards and 61 school superintendants who get major pay. The number of GOA bureaucrats receiving over $100,000 per year for no deliverables that I can detect is astonishing and this is an area for scrutiny.

In my opinion there is no reason for the many universities in Alberta. Universities will have to economize and tenure should end. Places like NAIT are providing us more value for our public investment and should receive more money.
LikeReplyJust now

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