If Budget 2022 was a well-lit path, it would lead straight to the ballot box in 2023. President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance Travis Toews, tabled his fourth budget aptly titled “Moving Forward” that defined the priorities for the UCP government as they focus on the endemic, job creation and investment attraction anchored by the Alberta Recovery Plan including the new Alberta at Work initiative which provides $600 million over the next three years to help get more Albertans working.
With the focus on working Albertans, Minister Toews pulled a page from former premier Ralph Klein by personifying a new version of an Albertan – Larry, a 30 year veteran pipefitter and family man who is out of work, barely surviving on financial supports and suffering from declining mental health and nervous about retraining and finding new work at his age. Minister Toews shared with the assembly, “Budget 2022 is for Larry and every Albertan that needs a hand up; it is for the entrepreneurs that have a vision not only for their business but for their community; it is for future generations who may never know the choices we made today so they have greater opportunities tomorrow.”
The UCP Caucus picked up energy as the minister’s budget address continued, offering loud cheers and applause when Minister Toews announced the province is back to black with a modest surplus of $500 million, a vast improvement over the sea of red ink facing the province at the height of the pandemic and the glut of world energy prices.
The positive tone of the budget was not without criticism and partisan jabs of the performance and spending habits of the previous NDP government, providing Albertans with a glimpse of the narrative that is to be expected over the next year as we near closer and closer to election season. The minister reminded Albertans of the UCP government’s fiscal pillars and shared that after much heavy lifting, “we have arrived”, sharing that the annual 4% spending increase trend from the previous government has been brought down to less than half a per cent per year and that Alberta is now delivering government services within a comparable range to other provinces.
Can the UCP government “Move Forward” from the pandemic woes of the last two years? We will have to see how many Larrys join Martha and Henry at the ballot box in 2023.
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