On Thursday, the UCP released its first budget since taking office in the spring. The 208 page fiscal plan includes cuts across the board. Post secondary education is taking a big hit and fees are supposed to rise in a number of different areas. Mental health spending is being increased but public sector funding will be slowly decreased.

Here are five items for young people in Calgary to keep an eye on.

1) Post secondary takes a beating

The tuition freeze on post secondary education has been lifted.

In 2015, the NDP government implemented a tuition freeze which has been in place since. Starting in January 2020, over the next three years, post-secondary institutions will be allowed to increase tuition by up to 7 per cent across the institution and up to 10 per cent for individual programs.

Student loan interest rates are going up by an additional 1 per cent. Loan repayment interest was previously capped at the prime interest rate, now, rates will be prime plus 1 per cent. This, according to the Edmonton Journal, means students paying off $30,000 over 10 years could be paying an extra $15 per month.

In addition to this, most post secondary institutions will see their operating grants decrease this year. In Calgary, MRU will see a 1.3 per cent cut, while SAIT, the U of C and Bow Valley College have cuts between five and eight per cent.

In the 2017-18 year Government of Alberta grants made up 49 per cent of Mount Royal University’s revenue. Decreases in this affects class size, infrastructure up-keep, number of professors, etc.

2) Say hello to fees and taxes

Fees and taxes will be going up for certain goods and services including tobacco, registering a car and museum admission.

The government will be increasing the tobacco tax by $5 per carton in 2019-20.

Admissions costs for museums are going up, in 2019-20 an adult one day pass will cost $13 and will increase to $15 in 2020-21.

Service Alberta administration fees will also be increasing along with land title fees and the application fee for Alberta immigration nominations. In 2018-19 the application fee was zero dollars and this has now increased to $500, other administrative fees like application extensions, withdrawls, or letters of support went up from zero to $100.

3) Alberta’s healthy-ish health care

Mental health and addiction spending is increasing by $13 million, to $100 million compared to 2018’s $87 million. But overall health care spending is only increasing by 1 per cent this year, which is less than the rate of inflation and amounts to a cut over time.

The government says they are still committed to building the Calgary Cancer Centre, but pushed back its construction deadlines.

4) New funding for Alberta’s information war

Despite the cuts to the budget, the government has pledged $2.5 million for a public inquiry. The hearings were announced in July of 2019 and will look into foreign funding of anti-energy campaigns.

They have also promised $30 million for the Canadian Energy Centre, which is tasked with promoting the province’s energy industry and battling what the government deems misinformation online.

5) And none for you, public sector

The budget anticipates the size of the public sector workforce — teachers, police officers, firefighters, etc. — will be reduced by 7.7 per cent over four years.

According to the plan, that difference will be achieved mainly through attrition which means once a position naturally comes to an end — retirement, contract expires, etc. — the position will not be refilled.

The fiscal plan said it will reduce red tape across government agencies. Programs are going to be reformed to find savings which might include private-public partnerships and within four years the management to staff ratio will be reduced. According to the Globe and Mail over 2,000 public sector jobs are on the chopping block.

Current MLAs have taken a five per cent pay decrease while Premier Jason Kenney has taken a 10 per cent pay decrease. A program review will also be completed to check that public services are within the public interest but the plan does not highlight how much that will cost.

Over four years the budget will cut 2.8 per cent from operating spending, making the amount spent $1.3 billion lower than 2018-19. Much of the fiscal plan was based off recommendations from the MacKinnon report that was completed August 2019. The UCP maintains that this cut heavy budget is necessary to decrease the provincial deficit, which currently sits at about $6.7 billion.

Editor | Casey Richardson | crichardson@cjournal.ca 

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