Provincial Budgets: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

With the all provincial governments except the struggling Ontario Liberals having introduced budgets, we thought it important to review and place the Dexter government’s budget in context. What jumps out as good political gunslinging budgets? And which government’s hit innocent bystanders with their stray bullets?

The Good: 

While Joe Ghiz’s Liberals in PEI announced their three-year path to a budget balance will be extended by one year – they now expect to post a small surplus in 2015-16 – they are not acting conservatively. They are open to new ideas and Atlantic Canadian co-operation to solve problems. Specifically, PEI will partner with Nova Scotia for the 811 service and establish a Collaborative Emergency Centre, based on Nova Scotia’s model. His Liberal counterparts in Nova Scotia are against CECs, but clearly PEI Liberals do not have blinders on when it comes to improving health care.

In a year when only three other provinces were able to introduce balanced budgets, Darrell Dexter’s NDP in Nova Scotia was able to make strategic investments to improve children’s health. Nova Scotia’s Liberals slashed dental care coverage for kids when they were in power. The NDP has restored that funding. The move to reverse cuts will affect about 40,000 young patients. On the tax side, the Dexter budget also helps out seniors and small businesses.

The Bad:

When B.C. Liberals took power in 2001, the provincial debt was at $33 billion. That number has topped $66 billion. With cuts to federal transfers started by the Chretien/Martin Liberals and the federal axe coming down again on jobs under Harper’s Conservatives, it is a tough time for all provinces including Christy Clark’s to make their way out of the red and into the black. But no province has seen numbers jump like BC’s debt.

Alberta combined it’s district health authorities into one super-board, and it has been a disaster: allegations of queue-jumping for cancer screening tests, a legacy of top-heavy bureaucracy, reduced hours in operating rooms, canceling free hospital parking for veterans…

Now, Allison Redford’s conservative government is slashing $52 million, or five per cent, next year from its budget for the nursing homes. Alberta’s Conservatives have run a deficit for the last six years, which is understandable given the state of the world-wide economy. But a $3 billion deficit and cuts to health care for seniors? That hurts. And helps the Wild Rose Party.

The Ugly:

David Alward’s Conservative government inherited an awful mess from the Liberals. Like most other provinces, New Brunswick hiked cigarette and booze prices. But the mess the Liberals created meant more drastic action for New Brunswick – personal income tax rates will jump by up to 33 per cent.

Even with the tax hike, New Brunswick is still projected to run deficits for at least the next 4 years and is poised to slash health care spending in a way that would make Nova Scotia Liberals blush. All of this will make for ugly politics when the next election is called.