Politics blog: A tale of two budgets

Toronto – May 2, 2016 – Recently, the Liberal government in Newfoundland and Labrador and the NDP government in Alberta introduced their 2016 budgets. With both provinces facing massive budgetary holes – due to falling oil and gas revenues – the two governments took opposite approaches to dealing with this problem.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, the Liberal government approached the problem the way right wing governments have always done in the past: with what has been called a 'brutal austerity budget.' There will be cuts to health authorities, Memorial University, arts organizations, schools and library boards, and other entities.

School class sizes will increase. There will be hundreds of layoffs in the public sector and cuts to student financial aid programs. Those most in need of help will once again be left to fend for themselves, with fewer services to rely on. These cuts will disproportionally impact marginalized groups and the most vulnerable people in the province.

In Alberta, the NDP government has tried a different approach. “When oil prices fell in the past,” Joe Ceci, the province's finance minister, told the legislature, “Alberta governments responded by making reckless and extreme cuts to public services, firing thousands of teachers and nurses, cutting supports for seniors, and abandoning the most vulnerable. Some say we should turn the clock back and do the same again,” he continued, “but on this side of the legislature we fundamentally disagree.”

In the Alberta budget, there were no destructive cuts to health care and education. There was no war declared on teachers and nurses. Instead, investments are being made to help stimulate the economy and help individuals, families, and businesses weather the economic storm. The government is ramping up spending on public infrastructure and job creation measures. The Alberta government isn’t dealing out pain – they are pushing hope.

When governments face challenging economic times, there are different approaches that can be taken to deal with the problem. And the Alberta NDP is showing that it is possible to address economic turmoil with investments rather than austerity.