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STRENGTHEN OUR FISCAL FOUNDATION
We can’t secure Alberta’s future without fixing the structural problems in our fiscal foundation. If you compare Alberta’s finances to a family budget, our day-to-day costs have been growing faster than our paycheck. And we’ve been using our bonus from oil revenues and our savings to cover the difference. But, as we’ve seen, that’s an unreliable system because we can’t always count on that same oil bonus, and the programs and services that matter most are put at risk. It’s simply not good enough to keep veering from boom to bust in our economy and finances. We must fix the underlying problems. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. Because, once we get back on track we will have doubled our savings, brought our spending back in line and made our revenue sources more stable.
Break the Boom and Bust Cycle
A strong fiscal foundation starts with a balanced budget. A balanced budget sends a signal to credit rating agencies and businesses that Alberta is a safe place to invest and create jobs. But, with a $7 billion deficit year over year we won’t be able to balance the budget with spending cuts or by revenue increases alone. We need both - and in the right balance - so we don’t tip our economy into a recession. We will balance the budget by 2017 – even if oil prices don’t rebound. We will lessen the impact on jobs, families and communities through a balanced approach. Over the next three years we will save more oil revenues, reduce government spending and use new revenue to break the boom and bust cycle.
1. Save More of our Oil Revenues
Starting in 2019/2020, oil revenues will be directed as follows:
Once the debt is paid down, 50% of oil revenues will go to savings.
2. Reduce Government Spending
Action: Honour public sector contracts now in place, but as they expire negotiate new contracts based on our fiscal reality.
Action: Gradually – over three years – restrain our spending across all ministries.
Action: Bring the cost of Alberta’s public services in line with the national average over the next three to four years.
3. Stable Revenue for Public Services
We have incredibly talented and hard-working nurses, doctors, teachers and other public sector workers. Albertans want to be confident these frontline workers will continue to get the resources they need, and that the services they provide are funded from more stable and sustainable sources.
To ensure this, we must stop depending on energy revenues to fund our day-to-day services. If we want stable public services, we need to find stable ways of paying for them.
We will make fundamental changes to the tax system. But we will maintain the lowest overall taxes and the most competitive tax system in Canada. And we will minimize the impact on lower- and middle-income families.
Action: Reform our income tax system. New tax brackets will be fair and competitive and make Alberta’s income tax system more progressive. Gradually – over three years –taxes will increase on taxable income over $100,000
We will be open and clear with Albertans about how their tax dollars are being used. In the budget we laid out a detailed five year plan for Alberta’s finances and infrastructure and a ten year vision to diversify and strengthen our economy.
Action: Report on Alberta’s finances on a fully consolidated basis in a format supported by the Auditor General of Alberta, starting in 2015/16.
Action: Issue a report card on Alberta’s savings every six months.
Action: Provide public reporting in advance of any international travel for government staff.
Cut Government Waste and Duplication
We took immediate action to cut government waste. And we will continue to reduce the size and cost of government responsibly over three years so that precious resources are dedicated to frontline services – where they belong.
Reducing government spending will not be easy – but it must tackled. Government will have to absorb the cost of population growth and inflation and be more innovative and efficient.
What we’ve done to cut government waste:
Cutting the waste and duplication from Alberta Health Services:
Focus Dollars on the Front Lines in Health
Albertans spend more per person on health programs and services than the rest of Canada. But don’t always get the best results for that investment.
We have dedicated nurses, doctors and caregivers who work hard and do their best for patients. At the same time, for the tax dollars we invest, health care is not always timely, easy to use or giving us the best outcomes.
When you spend so more each year and don’t see better results, the solution is not to increase spending. We will find efficiencies in administration and trim the bureaucracy so that dollars can be dedicated to frontline services. At the same time, we will find ways to improve the quality and performance of our health system.
BRING DECISION MAKING TO THE FRONT LINES
Alberta is a diverse province – no city or community is the same as the next. So health care decisions should not be made on a one-size-fits-all basis. That’s why we are moving decision making closer to the front lines.
Action: Focus on regional decision-making in health care. Establish 8-10 operational districts. Each district will be aligned with a local advisory council to give the community a say on how their health care is delivered.
GET BETTER VALUE FOR OUR TAX DOLLARS
The health care system plays an important role in all our lives – from beginning to end, with countless milestones in between. Albertans must be assured that their health care meets the highest standards.
Action: Improve safety standards and quality of care in health facilities by strengthening the system to monitor, audit and ensure compliance.
Action: Review of the largest hospitals to improve efficiencies and costs through acute care hospital benchmarking.
Action: Expand programs to support the mental health needs of children.
REDUCE WAIT TIMES IN HOSPITALS AND EMERGENCY ROOMS
With a growing and ageing population we have significant pressures on our health system. People are waiting far too long, especially in our emergency departments.
Right now we have too many acute care spaces being used by people waiting for placement in continuing care. We’ve started to act on this problem – staffing additional continuing care spaces in the community – and we will continue to invest in delivering care faster, more efficiently and with a focus on the patient first.
SAVE FOR THE FUTURE
Double Savings in the Heritage Fund
The Heritage Savings Trust Fund is unique in Canada and intended to safeguard Alberta’s future. It was established by a PC government: by Premier Lougheed in 1976.
But since 1987, we have let our commitment to the Heritage Fund lapse. We will put that right.
Alberta’s energy resources are the birthright of all Albertans – present and future.
Action: Invest oil revenues in the Heritage Savings Trust Fund, doubling the size of the Fund by 2024/25.
As with any family savings plan, our perseverance will pay off. Steadily, consistently and responsibly saving in the Heritage Fund will leave a lasting legacy for generations of Albertans – as it was designed to do.
Investments in research and innovation are investments in future generations. The resulting discoveries and ideas give birth to new products and industries that can create countless opportunities for our children, grandchildren and future Albertans.
Action: Provide stable funding for research and innovation.
The people of Alberta are our strongest asset. Building upon past investment initiatives offers the potential to invest in lasting social improvements that increase in value and strengthen our society.
Action: Make lasting social investments like Heritage Scholarships for young people.
Action: Invest in health, education and heritage infrastructure.
Financial Security and a Debt-Free Future
Much like a family’s emergency funds, the contingency fund is there to help handle budget shocks and difficult situations. In the short-term it will be used to help pay operating expenses until the budget is balanced. Over time, Alberta’s debt will be paid off entirely.
Action: Draw on the Contingency Fund to help pay operating expenses until 2017/18.
Action: Starting in 2017/18 (once the budget is balanced), use a portion of energy revenues to replenish the Contingency Fund to its original $5 billion and to pay down Alberta’s debt overall.
PROTECT ALBERTA JOBS
The collapse of oil prices has hit Alberta hard. It seems everyone knows a friend, relative or neighbour who feels at risk of losing their job.
In a global economy where jobs can be moved anywhere, the last thing we should do is increase the cost of doing business. We need to give companies the incentive to stay in Alberta and employ Albertans.
Ninety-five per cent of corporations in Alberta are small businesses, employing less than 50 people. Economist and tax expert Jack Mintz from the University of Calgary has pointed out that a one per cent increase of the corporate tax could cost Alberta billions in investment and 8,900 jobs.
Action: Cut government waste to focus dollars on the jobs of classroom teachers and frontline health workers. Alberta Education achieved a 9% reduction in administration costs in the 2015/16 budget, and these cost savings were moved to support frontline costs.
Action: Maintain the lowest small business taxes in Canada and maintain our competitive corporate tax advantage so investors and job creators will stay in Alberta.
Action: Continue to invest in infrastructure even if the economy slows in order to keep people working and take advantage of market construction prices.
Action: Build on Alberta’s strengths and advantages to strengthen our economy across all sectors.
INVEST AS WE GROW
Alberta is a growing province. Even with the economy slowing down, we are expecting 80,000 new Albertans this year. The last time government cut costs to fight a deficit, it stopped investing in infrastructure and we fell behind. Our plan invests in the needs of our growing province.
Invest in Schools, Health Facilities, Roads and Transit
BUILD AND MODERNIZE SCHOOLS
Investing in education infrastructure is not just about building schools, it’s about building futures.
Action: Complete the construction of over 200 new and modernization school projects.
Action: Deliver more than 160 new modular classrooms this year.
Action: Show progress on projects through an online report card.
BUILD AND EXPAND HEALTH FACILITIES
We will invest the necessary funds to expand capacity and build new health facilities.
Action: Fund health care capacity expansion projects in Calgary and Edmonton.
Action: Support construction of health facility projects throughout Alberta.
KEEP ALBERTA MOVING
Having a modern, integrated transportation network helps us get more goods to market – increasing our economic activity and creating jobs. It also helps families get home safer and improves quality of life.
Action: Complete the twinning of Highway 63 between Grassland and Fort McMurray to improve safety and increase economic activity.
Action: Continue construction of the Edmonton and Calgary ring roads.
Action: Twin Highway 19 between QEII and Highway 60 near the Edmonton International Airport. This will address safety, add southbound capacity on the QEII and support continued economic growth.
Action: Develop a long-term transportation strategy that includes a plan for a sufficient road and transit networks across Alberta.
MAINTAIN OUR INVESTMENT IN INFRASTRUCTURE
Meeting our province’s growing needs is about more than just building new facilities. There are over 1,900 public, separate, francophone and charter schools; over 1,000 health care facilities; 1,600 other public facilities and 31,000 kilometres of highway in our province that we all depend upon, especially across rural Alberta.
Action: Triple the budget for provincial infrastructure maintenance and renewal over the next five years.
A WORLD-CLASS EDUCATION SYSTEM
Education is the great economic equalizer. No matter where a child was born, or into what economic circumstance, in Alberta every child has access to a world-class education system. Our schools exist to give children the tools they need to be successful in an increasingly competitive and complex economy.
All children in Alberta should have equal opportunity to succeed. That’s why we will invest and support them in their early years and throughout their education. If we do this, they can get a good head start in life.
Invest in Early Childhood Development
Action: Implement Alberta’s Early Childhood Development initiative, including an integrated early learning system.
Action: Add three new Parent Link Centres that provide free parenting and play programs to meet the unique needs of families.
Support Student Success
Action: Develop a strategy for higher student achievement including: curriculum changes, coherent grading, 21st century competencies such as innovation, communication and critical thinking.
Action: Shift diploma exam weighting from a 50/50 to a 30/70 weighting where school-awarded grades will be worth 70 per cent.
Action: Dual-credit partnerships: students can now take high school trades and skills courses and get credits at a post-secondary institution.
Action: Promote safe, dignified and respectful education environments.
Invest in Teacher Excellence
Our teachers play a vital role in preparing our children to complete in a 21st century economy and we will give them the tools and support they need to do so.
Action: Preserve front line teaching positions.
Action: Invest in training and support for Alberta teachers with a focus on math as an essential skill.
Action: Work with educators to ensure professional teaching standards address the diverse needs of students in the 21st century.
Action: Provide support and mentorship for new teachers.
Improve Access to Post Secondary Education
We will increase access and reduce financial barriers to post-secondary education in Alberta.
Action: Enhance financial aid (scholarships, grants and awards) and student loans for post-secondary students, including apprentices.
Action: Develop a long-term plan to ensure stable funding for institutions.
Action: Ensure apprenticeship training is better aligned with labour market demands.
SUPPORT ALBERTA FAMILIES
Alberta’s Working Families
For decades, people have been drawn to our province by the promise of making a better life for their families. We must ensure that we protect hard-working Alberta families trying to raise their children throughout this downturn in our economy. Lower- and middle-income families will receive an additional $110 million through enhanced and new benefits
Vulnerable Albertans Caring
for each other has always been part of this province’s defining character. And a duty to support our most vulnerable is government’s most important responsibility. No matter what economic or societal challenges we face, we must never fail at this responsibility to support and protect vulnerable Albertans.
Action: Increase support for persons with disabilities, including PDD, families of children with disabilities and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder initiatives.
Action: Maintain support for AISH – the highest among provinces.
Action: Increase Legal Aid funding. Action: Ensure the Michener Centre stays open and operational to support the needs of its residents.
Action: Ensure support for youth, women’s and homeless shelters and sexual assault services. Action: Protect child care subsidies for lower-income families.
Every generation of Albertans has helped shape our great province, and in return we have a duty to ensure they can live in comfort, care and dignity as they age.
That means taking steps to meet the needs of a growing seniors population – from how we plan our public spaces, to how we deliver health care, to ensuring people can access affordable housing and the supports they need.
Our approach will be guided by three principles:
1. Help ageing Albertans stay at home and stay independent for as long as possible.
2. When a senior can no longer live at home, ensure access to affordable living spaces in their own communities.
3. Ensure all Albertans can depend on safe and secure long-term care.
A LONG TERM PLAN TO SECURE ALBERTA’S FUTURE
DIVERSIFY OUR ECONOMY
Alberta has so many advantages across the province. We are a hub of innovation for health care, technology and biotech. We house banks, national corporate headquarters and high tech companies. From Fort McMurray to Cardston and everywhere in between, we have fertile farmland and an abundance of natural resources Canadians and the world need.
Action: Promote the advantages of doing business in Alberta to attract investment and jobs to the province.
Action: Introduce a Cultural Plan over the next three years: leverage our cultural and tourism resources.
Alberta as a Leader in Innovation and Technology
Action: Help entrepreneurs commercialize their products and services.
Action: Improve the quality of the SuperNet, especially in rural Alberta.
Action: Help Alberta-based entrepreneurs access the venture capital they need.
Alberta as a Leader in Agriculture
There are over 50 million acres of agricultural land in the province. Alberta’s agriculture industry drives $77 billion in economic activity each year.
Action: Expand opportunities for entrepreneurs to use established facilities such as the Leduc Food Processing Development Centre and Agri-Value Processing Business Incubator for product development, key research, innovation and commercialization.
Action: Promote consumer confidence in Alberta as a leader in farm animal health and welfare, plant health and safe food products.
The average age of agriculture producers in Alberta is 54 and increasing. To ensure the sustainability and growth of our agriculture system, we need to attract and retain new producers.
Action: Focus programs on attracting the next generation of agriculture producers to Alberta and supporting them as they enter the industry.
Invest in Clean Technologies
Being a leading energy producer comes with a responsibility to be a leader in environmental and clean energy technologies. Investment in these innovations creates high value green jobs of the future.
Action: Update the mandate of the Climate Change Emissions Management Corporation to accelerate technological investment and partnerships to address specific environmental challenges such as venting and flaring reduction technologies, engineering solutions to GHG emissions and carbon reduction technologies.
Action: Drive innovation and the development of clean technologies across key Alberta sectors – in energy, forestry, agriculture and transportation.
EXPAND OUR MARKETS
Trade between Alberta and the United States helps drive our economic activity – valued at over $200 million per day. Close to 90% of Alberta’s exports are destined for the United States.
Based on an evolving and increasingly competitive global economy, we need to diversify our trading relationships. We must expand our reach into more markets around the world, becoming a sophisticated marketer of energy, agricultural products, forest products and petrochemicals globally.
Action: Position our agriculture industry for growth by encouraging innovation and enhancing access to international markets, especially in the Asia Pacific Region.
Action: Leverage emerging opportunities from the Canada-EU Free Trade Agreement to further open the world’s largest market for our products and services.
Action: Reduce interprovincial trade barriers and promote free trade within Canada. Action: Work closely within the New West Partnership – representing a market of nearly 10 million people and economies worth half trillion dollars across British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Action: Expand Alberta’s market access and petrochemical capacity to become a preferred global supplier, particularly of energy and natural resources.
Action: Expand export infrastructure in Canada so that our businesses and industries can efficiently deliver their products to market.
PROTECT PROPERTY RIGHTS
Private ownership is a fundamental principle of our democracy and economy. We respect the property rights of all Albertans.
Action: The introduction of Bill 1, the Respecting Property Rights Act, repealed previous property rights legislation that concerned landowners across the province (Bill 19). The Respecting Property Rights Act is a solid base from which to start to rebuild a lasting commitment to these key rights.
Action: The Alberta Land Stewardship Act (Bill 36) will also be reviewed to ensure the land use planning process does not infringe on property rights.
The Prentice Plan makes a clear commitment to ensure that government does not have – and never will have – the right to take away land for public purposes without providing full, fair and proper compensation under Alberta’s Expropriation Act.
PARTNER WITH MUNICIPALITIES
Municipalities play a crucial role in the everyday lives of our citizens. They are the level of government closest to Albertans.
Action: Partner with Edmonton and Calgary to ensure their capacity to provide growing populations with the services and infrastructure they need through new city charters.
Action: Help municipalities fund their infrastructure needs – including transportation, transit and libraries.
Action: Continue to support the long-term recovery of municipalities affected by the 2013 southern Alberta floods. And strengthen the prevention, mitigation and preparedness efforts for future public safety and disaster management.
TRANSFORM OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH ABORIGINAL PEOPLE
Over time, our province’s relationships with Aboriginal people have been tested. As we all seek to live together in this great province and prosper as a community, we need a respectful approach focused on the success of all people.
Action: Improve the First Nations Engagement Strategy to strengthen relationships with Aboriginal leaders and communities to support Aboriginal people.
Action: Increase the number of First Nations, Metis and Inuit education professionals. Ensure professional standards for teachers and principals require a knowledge of Aboriginal culture.
Action: Work with First Nations Chiefs on a made-in-Alberta partnership between the province and First Nations Education Authorities to improve educational outcomes for Aboriginal children.
Action: Increase the number of Aboriginal postsecondary students and apprentices.
Action: Develop action plans and long-term initiatives to match Aboriginal people with employment and apprenticeship opportunities in Alberta.
Action: Establish Alberta Aboriginal Construction Career Centres that will support Aboriginal training and employment in trades careers. They will deliver employment training, job coaching and counselling with a focus on construction trades.
Action: Improve integration of health services on reserves through partnerships with the federal government and First Nations communities.
PRESERVE ALBERTA’S ENVIRONMENT
For over a decade, Alberta has led the way in key areas of action on climate change. But we know we can reach higher – for the good of our environment, our economy, our international reputation and, most importantly, our society.
Action: Commit to achieving ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reductions through a comprehensive climate change strategy.
Action: Flood mitigation: more than 500 hectares of wetlands and about 36 kilometres of riparian areas will be restored or enhanced, mostly in southern Alberta.
Action: New steps to reduce tailings ponds and to regulate the use of water from the Athabasca River as part of ongoing efforts to reduce the environmental impact of oil sands development.
Action: Complete the Trans Canada Trail in Alberta by 2017.