Assessment of the new Alberta 2021 Budget

Last week the provincial government released the 2021 budget. While acknowledging the many challenges facing all three levels of government, federal, provincial and especially the City in these unprecedented times, the province has attempted to address the many critical issues facing us in 2021, with as minimal an impact to taxpayers as possible. What does this mean for Calgary and how will it impact and/or benefit the people of Ward 3?
I have reviewed the new budget as the fiscally responsible citizen (and candidate) that I am, and as with all other reasonable minded Calgarians, I wanted to see the budget directly deal with the unsustainable debt we have incurred, provide near term resolutions for the COVID crisis, as well as increase funding for all the social and public services we value.
The current Provincial and Federal government debts are so massive that we will unfortunately see our kids, grandkids and their kids paying for this for years to come. We cannot afford the city to go down this same path. It is imperative that we have experienced, and focused industrialized professionals elected to see our City get back on track and move away from the tax and spend philosophy of this current City Council.
The Provincial government has provided a new budget that attempts to sustain what is currently in place, while holding the line at 30% of GDP. The GDP levels are important, because if you exceed that threshold, there are few options available to turn things around other than to cut services, which nobody wants to see happen. I believe that paying off debt is dependent on revenue producing companies and jobs. Without those businesses and jobs, the debt will continue to grow, and social programs will suffer.
The highlights of the new budget are:

  1. No tax increases or cuts to essential services (most Calgarian’s cannot withstand additional expenses at this time)
  2. An increase to education to cover the costs of COVID, Healthcare spending, including mental health and addiction, and maintaining our healthcare facilities (these issues are more important now than even before)
  3. Keeping our taxes more competitive than other provinces (keep some semblance of the Alberta advantage)
  4. Investing in jobs and innovation (it’s apparent that we need to diversify the economy and promote economic growth in many sectors)
  5. Ensuring that spending will continue to be monitored with added efficiencies being implemented as needed.

It is apparent that times are tough, for all levels of government, and throwing money at the problem is not a solution without a well thought out and functional plan.
Ward 3 requires many things that the community has missed out on in the past. Along with this long list of needs, the people of Ward 3 are tired of being neglected and ignored. The controversial Greenline was originally supposed to include Ward 3, but constant re-designs have taken it completely out of the deep NW and airport area. The current schedule is still over 10+ years away, and as of now there are still some Councillor’s fighting with the province to get the shovels in the ground, just for the sake of starting the Project. Unfortunately, the City does not have a viable plan on how a different track and train set up will get into the city center, as the existing track system is not viable. This has been a problem since the inception of this project, corroborated by many professional engineers, and is the primary reason the province is choosing to do a further review. I have always wondered why they did not expand the blue line to the airport and over to Panorama Coventry area. This option would have solved two problems, by opening up both the airport and important commuting areas within Ward 3 in one shot, which would have served our community well. I am certain that this alternative would have cost much less than what has been proposed for the current Greenline project.
In conclusion, the City has to move in a different direction than it is now. Taxing and spending is not sustainable in these unprecedented times, or we run the risk of incurring the same levels of debt that are currently plaguing both the Provincial and Federal governments. A solid fiscal plan for the City, combined with providing Calgarian’s with the continued essentials services we need is imperative to move ourselves forward.

Brent Trenholm – Ward 3 City Councillor Candidate