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Opposition leaders voice their disapproval of budget

(legassemblyofab - Flickr)

Opposition leaders were quick to shoot down the government’s budget and the direction the NDP plans to take the province.

Wildrose leader and Fort McMurray MLA Brian Jean called it a “debt-fuelled disaster.”

“It really troubles me, most people recognize I came back to politics to improve the services that Albertans receive and I think this actually challenges it long term and threatens the viability of the public service,” said Jean who added throwing money at the wall doesn’t fix the problem.

He’s calling for a reshaping of the system by the NDP government.

“The best government is not an ideological government, left or right, it’s one that has common sense, practical decision-making based upon the economic conditions and the circumstances that surround the province and the citizens they serve. They should make those decisions, common sense decisions, and right now it’s not the time to raise taxes, it’s not the time to increase debt.”

Jean says he’s not calling for this to happen right away, but the province has to be moving in the right direction.

He says there are thousands of people who are unemployed and collecting unemployment since the NDP came to power, and he’s troubled by where Alberta is headed.

Progressive Conservative leader Ric McIver says he was disappointed, and says the NDP has declared war on Alberta’s children.

“They have taken part in the biggest intergenerational wealth transfer in Alberta history, heaping — by the time they’re done — $70 billion in debt onto kids that are in elementary school today for things that they’ll never see, like light bulbs,” he said.

McIver says those light bulbs won’t be around in twenty years, but these children will be forced to pay it off, attributing it to an election stunt.

“There is very little to like about their budget, but some of the capital expenditures on schools, roads and hospitals are good things, and that’s about where the good stuff ends,” he said. “The plan that we put on the table includes an annual increase in every department, every year although the expansion of spending isn’t as big as the NDP’s, and it includes two year wage freezes on negotiations and with that little bit, that adds up to billions.”

The Calgary Hays MLA says with his party’s plan, they would have been able to balance the budget in 2020, but instead the NDP has chosen to go on wild spending sprees.

“They will keep Alberta uncompetitive now due to the NDP’s carbon taxes, new corporate taxes, increased personal taxes. It would actually have been fairly simple for them to create a good future for Alberta while still building a good infrastructure, but they decided to go beyond that,” said McIver.

Alberta Party leader Greg Clark believes this budget is going to hurt ordinary Albertans more than it helps.

“It’s worse than I thought,” he said. “It’s so frustrating because it doesn’t need to be this bad.”

“Within just a year or two, the only way to get close to balancing the budget is either massive program cuts or massive tax increases, or both.”

Clark adds there also seems to be a huge discrepancy in what Edmonton’s getting and what Calgary got, adding the NDP base seems to be winning in this fiscal budget.

He suggests having some hard conversations surrounding public sector wages.

“The NDP haven’t talked about engaging with the great people in our public service to find cost efficiencies without impacting front-line services, to have a hard conversation and say why don’t we look at wage freezes, folks? In a difficult economic time getting paid the same next year as they got this year, I think that’s a fair deal.”

The Calgary Elbow MLA adds he’s frustrated over seeing yet another delay to the Green Line LRT.

Alberta Liberal Party leader and Calgary Mountainview MLA David Swann says what Alberta saw today was what the NDP promised.

“It’s dramatically different from anything in the PC era. Of course the PC’s left a huge hole in infrastructure, in maintenance issues and human services and some of the health care services that we suffered in lack of support,” said Swann.

“What I’m very concerned about is that there is no plan to repay this burgeoning debt and no willingness to talk about the ‘P’ word, PST, we need to start talking about a consumption tax and paying our way in this generation,” he said. “We need to start talking about intergenerational fairness, we also to be fair, need to look at the New Democrats to show more vigilance and a willingness to look at efficiencies.”

Swann, a medical doctor by trade, says there are a lot of efficiencies they could find there without harming front line services.

“We need to start paying our way, if we want these services and Albertans say they do, we need to start paying more,” he said.