Rachel Notley’s government is entering the midway mark of its first term in government. So far, it’s been a bumpy ride. The government has certainly spent a lot of taxpayers’ dollars, but so far Albertans have seen little to show for that money.
Finance Minister Joe Ceci presented the year’s budget on Thursday and as expected the government didn’t cut spending. Provincial debt is climbing to $45 billion this year. If all goes to plan, the province hopes to get back to balance by 2023-24. But it’s hard to put much stock into that prediction given the rise and fall of oil prices and the NDP’s inability to cut spending. Two years after the “orange crush” descended on the province, all we’ve seen so far has been red ink.
Under the Notley regime Albertans have faced hard times. They’ve lost jobs and they’ve lost faith in their government. They’ve seen the NDP make things harder for businesses through the carbon levy and increases in minimum wage. They’ve seen credit agencies downgrading the province’s credit rating and they’ve seen the NDP continue to pile up debt.
That’s not to say that there haven’t been challenges beyond the government’s control. They can’t control the price of oil and they can’t control natural disasters like the Fort McMurray wildfire. But are Albertans in a better place now than they were in early 2015 when the NDP was elected? According to most polls, Albertans don’t think they are.
We’ve just seen the NDP’s third straight budget in the red. It’s clear that they don’t plan to stop spending money and plan on going further into debt. Debt servicing costs already top $1 billion and that number will be above $2 billion in just a few years. This province is headed down a path where a meaningful percentage of our budget will just be paying for past fiscal mismanagement.
This year’s deficit of $10.3 billion doesn’t include any increases that could come from public sector contracts currently under negotiations, so there will be extra unbudgeted expenses coming our way.
At the midway mark in its term, the NDP hasn’t shown us anything to suggest they are prudent managers of the economy. They hope oil prices will rise. They hope British Columbians won’t elect a New Democrat government that promises to put the kibosh on the Kinder Morgan pipeline. They hope Albertans will trust their financial predictions and ability to turn this province’s fortunes around. Hope is not a sound strategy, but that’s all Notley’s NDP has.