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Alberta finance minister says first budget to attack spending, not services

Last Updated Oct 23, 2019 at 3:00 pm MST

Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews puts on a pair of cowboy boots during a pre-budget photo op in Edmonton on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

EDMONTON — Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews says the first budget of the new United Conservative government will surgically attack spending but not at the expense of essential services.

Toews says it’s critical to exercise budget restraint to end a recent run of multibillion-dollar deficits within four years, as promised.

“There’s certainly some clean up required,” Toews said.

“This will be a budget of restraint, but this isn’t 1993,” he added, pointing to the early years of former premier Ralph Klein’s government which saw cuts up to 20 per cent.

The minister also won’t be wearing a brand new pair of shoes–a budget tradition. He’s wearing a two-year-old pair of cowboy boots he calls his “town boots”, joking that his “hard-working ranch boots” might be a bit dirty to wear in the office.

He said the used size 10s represent the character of Albertans–resilient and responsible with a strong work ethic.

Premier Jason Kenney has said the province is spending way beyond its means and that action must be taken to prevent rising debt payments from crippling future generations. Toews says first thing is first–the budget needs to be balanced. The party can look at saving money and adding to special funds in different budgets down the road.

The Opposition NDP says the budget will see the tax burden shifted to municipalities, with the most vulnerable paying for the budget austerity.

Lethbridge-West MLA Shannon Phillips says the NDP will be paying close attention to the budget release.

“We are here as a New Democratic caucus to say that there is another way. We can build a healthy diversified economy, that allows us to pay for the public services that we all enjoy without causing further pain to Alberta families. We can put people back to work without handing billions to the wealthiest few. We can protect our loved ones from American style healthcare and overcrowded classrooms. We can build a budget that prioritizes people,” Phillips said.

She continued to say the NDP will counter the UCP’s budget after hearing deep concern from Albertans.

“In the coming days we will be releasing our alternative to Jason Kenney’s plan and in the meantime, we will be paying close attention as he reveals his priorities tomorrow,” Phillips added.

The NDP says a cut to the corporate tax implemented earlier this year has needlessly worsened the situation, while Kenney says it’s important to attract investment to boost the economy.

The Canadian Press, with files from CityNews