"The result of the historic gamble on the market price of a single commodity won't be fixed in one year, given the stubbornness of the downturn, and that's what this budget acknowledges." — Elisabeth Ballermann, HSAA President
Edmonton (19 April 2016) — Alberta's budget is the best that can be hoped for considering the challenges facing the province, says the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA/NUPGE). It shows a great deal of fiscal restraint without trying to fix the problem on the backs of front-line health care workers or patients.
Financial mess created by Progressive Conservative government being cleaned up by NDP government
"Our members and the public know that falling oil prices, the province's reliance on the price of a single commodity and decades of financial mismanagement by previous Progressive Conservative governments have created the mess we're in now. They're grateful that the NDP government isn't listening to the minority of politicians and special-interest lobbyists who want to make a bad situation worse by slashing health care spending and firing thousands of workers," says Elisabeth Ballermann, President of HSAA, the union of health care professionals, which represents about 24,000 workers.
The consolidated expense for Health for 2016-2017 is budgeted at $20,361 billion, about $507 million or 2.6 per cent higher than the 2015-16 actual spending (excluding debt servicing costs). This is 0.1 per cent below projected population growth and inflation. Consolidated health spending from 2016-17 to 2018-19 (the next three fiscal years) will increase on average $469 million or 2.31 per cent per fiscal year, which is a little below the projected inflation and population growth for the same period.
Health budget will increase to provide supports and care during economic downturn
Meanwhile, the government announced that the operating budget for health will increase 3 per cent this year.
"Laying off thousands of public sector workers now would have been disastrous for Albertans since the need for health services increases with economic downturns. Furthermore, for many families the important and stable public sector job keeps them afloat where one wage earner has lost a job because of the collapse of oil prices. This is also vital for their local economies," Ballermann says.
Best opportunity to build infrastructure for future generations
"The result of the historic gamble on the market price of a single commodity won't be fixed in one year, given the stubbornness of the downturn, and that's what this budget acknowledges. Alberta still has the leanest public sector in Canada, with spending as a percentage of our economy the lowest of all provinces," she says.
"Even with the planned borrowing, Alberta is still in better shape than other provinces, with less debt and more assets. Record low interest rates make this the best opportunity in generations to build some of the infrastructure (including hospitals, schools and roads) that previous governments should have built."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE