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UCP Budget 2020: Debt will continue to soar

Alberta’s UCP government released their second budget Thursday with debt still soaring.

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Alberta’s UCP government released their second budget Thursday with debt still soaring.

With debt at $80.8 billion when they first took office in 2018, that figure is set to soar to $107 billion by the time the next election rolls around.

Spending over that time will remain essential frozen, reduced by just $1 billion when they took office from the NDP.

In fact, total spending will basically stay the same from $56.3 billion this year to $56.2 billion in 2022-23.

In 2020, the province forecasts a $6.8-billion deficit. That will drop to $2.7 billion next year before hitting a surplus of $700-million surplus the year after that.

“Third-quarter results show the deficit has declined more than expected. With the deficit $1.2 billion lower than projected in Budget 2019, Alberta taxpayers can expect to pay $35 million less in debt-servicing costs,” the government said in a release.

The Tory budget is banking on a $2.4 billion rebate from the feds under the fiscal stabilization program, which Premier Jason Kenney has touted as a way to make Equalization more fair.

The budget’s revenues assume oil prices will average WTI $61.50/barrel. Today it’s selling at $46.34.

The government is expecting a boom in revenue. From an estimated $50 billion this year to $58 billion in 2022-23.  That’s partly because an anticipated 38 per cent increase in energy royalties as oil production and pipeline capacity expand.

There is also a $750 million fund set aside in case of disasters like forest fires which could be used to boost a potential surplus if none happen.

Corporate welfare programs will also see a boom in funding, with $98 million set aside for the Alberta Film and Tax credit.

Budget 2020 also provides stable funding for health, education and core social services, the government says.

“Budget 2020 continues our focus on creating jobs, growing our economy and streamlining programs and services to ensure a sustainable future. Our plan is working. We are on track to balance the budget by 2022-23 and Alberta’s surplus in that year is expected to be higher than that projected in Budget 2019. We are also maintaining funding for health and education while ensuring each dollar is wisely spent on what Albertans need most,” said finance minister Travis Toews.

The NDP opposition were less than impressed with the budget.

“Budget 2020 is built on wildly optimistic forecasts for energy prices and economic growth, but still calls to collect $436 million in new fees, licenses and premiums from Albertans. The sneaky “bracket creep” personal income tax increase will extract another $100 million from families this year, escalating to $200 million next year and the $300 million the year after that,” said a release from the NDP.

“Albertans will pay far more and get far less,” said NDP leader Rachel Notley

“This budget offers no hope to the 50,000 Albertans who have lost their job since this government began on its misguided path, and in fact aims to push more public sector workers into unemployment. It contains no plan to diversify our economy.”

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation gave Budget 2020 mixed reviews.

 They said spending and the deficit is moving in the right direction, but hammered the government for increasing income taxes and provincial property taxes.

“Budget 2020 is two steps forward and one huge step back for taxpayers because there’s some much needed spending restraint and the deficit is moving in the right direction, but Premier Jason Kenney is digging deeper into our pockets with higher income taxes and property taxes,” said Franco Terrazzano, Alberta director for the CTF.

“After more than a decade of runaway government spending, Kenney deserves credit for taking air out of the government’s ballooning labour costs, which increased by billions of dollars even when Alberta went through a downturn.”

The CTF said the government is increasing income taxes through bracket creep which means inflation will push taxpayers into higher tax brackets even though their purchasing power hasn’t increased. The finance department has estimated that this would cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Budget 2020 also increases provincial property taxes by 3.1 per cent this year.

“Premier Kenney promised taxpayers that he would balance the budget without raising taxes, but last year he bent that promise with the bracket creep income tax hike and this year he’s breaking that promise by hiking provincial property taxes,” said Terrazzano.

“Overspending by past governments on both sides got us into this mess, but breaking promises and raising taxes won’t help when the province really needs to get spending under control.”

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter: Nobby7694

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard. He has served as the City Editor of the Calgary Sun and has covered Alberta news for nearly 40 years. dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

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Edmonton homeless protesters vow to stay until changes made

Security is handled by The Crazy Indian Brotherhood, some who are former gang members looking to better themselves.

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A group of Edmonton protesters have set up their own version of Seattle’s CHAZ – and vow not to move until their demands are met.

At last count, 172 tents have sprung up in the Edmonton neighbourhood of Rossdale, frustrating both community residents and police.

Edmonton city administrations said currently about 300 people live there permanently.

The group, there since July 24, has demanded $39 million be taken out of the Edmonton Police Service budget, and end to police violence against the homeless and free transit for everyone.

But in an Edmonton council meeting Thursday, administration said “we are not negotiating on any of their demands.

The camp came about after the province decided to stop pandemic work with the homeless at the EXPO and Kinsmen centres, displacing many of the homeless.

Residents have named their camp Pekiwewin meaning “coming home” in Cree.

The area is reminiscent of the Capital Hill Autonomous Zone in Seattle where hundreds of residents took over a six sq. block area following rioting after the death of black man George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis.

CHAZ was lawless for weeks and saw two homicides before police finally moved in to reclaim the area.

A sign on the Pekiwewin camp entrance reads: “This is neutral territory. Any violence and you will be asked to leave.”

They have a kitchen and a medical tent that also supplies safe injection materials.

Security is handled by The Crazy Indian Brotherhood, some who are former gang members looking to better themselves.

On July 31, organizers called 911 after a trans, two-spirit member of the camp was assaulted and left with life-threatening injuries

City officials are helping with garbage pick-up and portable toilets.

But tensions do seem to be rising as many neighbours have hired their own private security guards who patrol the area. Passing motorists have thrown bottles into the camp.

The area for hundreds of years has served as an Aboriginal burial ground.

Opponents to the camp have argued homeless shelters in the city have more than enough capacity to handle all the residents.

Administration has said staff will allow the camp to stay open, provided there are no COVID-19 outbreaks, violent incidents or weather emergencies.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Tories to try and stop Trudeau’s pay as PM’s vacay days climb

PM has already taken 48 holiday in 2020. In 2019 he took 91.

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After taking 48 holiday days already in 2020, the Tories will try and stop Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s pay until he shows back up for work.

It comes after 2019, when Trudeau took a whopping 91 days off.

“Parliament should suspend Trudeau’s pay until he comes to work. I introduced a motion to that effect at Finance Committee (Thursday). The chair tried to shut it down. I will bring it back,” said Tory MP Pierre Pollievre.

Tofino

“Whereas his absence meant he could not answer questions about his $500 million grant to a group that had paid his family more than $500,000 in fees and expenses,” Pollievre’s motion read.

“Whereas the Prime Minister has taken off 20 days in six weeks – meaning half the calendar days have been days off.

“The House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance calls on the government to suspend the Prime Minister’s pay until he returns to work and takes questions in Parliament.”

Costa Rica and Vancouver, Whistler and Tofino seem to be the favourite vation spots for Trudeua.

This week, Brian Lilley of the Toronto Sun reported RCMP boats had been spotted in the waters off Pointe au Baril, in Ontario cottage country.

The PMO finally confirmed Trudeau was staying with friends in the area.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Liberals will turn to private sector to organize gun confiscation program

A Canadian firearms expert said the buying back of now-prohibited firearms could end up costing up to $5-billion.

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Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government is looking for a private organization to come up with ideas how their gun confiscation program will work after banning more than 1,500 “assault-style weapons.”

Public Safety Canada has invited 15 consulting firms to come up with a range of options and approaches for the planned program to compensate gun owners.

It’s expected any plan will cost taxpayers billions of dollars.

A spokeswoman for Public Safety Canada said options that emerge from the selected contractor “may be incorporated into a final program. Costs will be available once a provider is selected.”

Pubic Safety said any plan would would require the successful bidder to consult with other federal agencies, possibly other levels of government and industry experts to devise options that include compensation plans for each affected firearm, analysis of benefits and risks associated with each compensation model and the identification of “other considerations” that might affect the feasibility of each approach.

The first phase of the work is expected to be complete by the end of March. 

The invited bidders include well-known firms such as Deloitte, IBM Canada, KPMG and Pricewaterhouse Coopers, though Public Safety has not ruled out other entries.

Trudeau’s Liberal government announced in May they are banning 1,500 different makes and models of what he called “military-style” and “assault-style” guns in Canada.

The ban comes into effect immediately and was ordered by the cabinet without any bill or debate in Parliament.

In response to the federal order, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the province will look at appointing its own firearms officer.

A Canadian firearms expert said the Trudeau Liberal government’s plan to buy buy recently prohibited firearms from Canadian gun owners could end up costing up to $5-billion.

Gary Mauser, Senior Fellow at the Fraser Institute, said whatever plan the Liberals come up with will likely end up being a billion-dollar boondoggle.

“Minister (Bill) Blair claimed the cost for the “buy back” of roughly 250,000 firearms would be between $400 million and $600 million—$375 million for the guns and presumably the rest for overhead. That is, if owners comply,” Mauser wrote in a January blog, published before the firearms ban was announced.

“However, the actual full cost of the ‘buy back’ won’t be $600 million; it will be much more.

“Focusing on reimbursement costs is misleading because it ignores the biggest expense—staffing costs. Prohibiting and confiscating an estimated 250,000 firearms is a complex undertaking and would involve considerable government resources. It’s impossible to do with current police resources.”

Gary Mauser

Mauser wrote that if everything went according to plan for setting up the infrastructure to buy back weapons could be up to $2.7 billion.

“Based on these assumptions, confiscating 250,000 firearms would cost the Canadian taxpayer between $1.6 billion to almost $5 billion in the first year. This estimate excludes travel costs and any ministerial administrators,” he wrote.

“Remember, this is just part of the costs to taxpayers for the “buy back.” These estimates do not include the $600 million the government promises to pay owners who surrender their firearms.”

Numerous lawsuits have been filed to try and stop the gun grab.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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