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Kenney’s austerity budget slams most vulnerable


October 28, 2019

In his first UCP budget, gave massive tax cuts to the oil and gas industry, promising to cut the tax rate from 12 % to 8 % over 4 years. At the same time he cut almost 3 % in spending for social services like education, healthcare and urban infrastructure projects.

Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews repeated the old trickle down propaganda, promising the tax cuts would result in job creation. But if jobs don’t appear the taxes will be reinstated. Just kidding. We meant, there will be even more savage cuts. 

Warned Toews: “We live in a world of great volatility. This government is very prepared to take a look at our options and move in the direction of additional spending restraint.”

Oil companies like Husky Oil will get $4.5 billion in tax breaks, in addition to subsidies they already get federally and provincially.

Husky celebrated the good news by laying off around 500 workers. Its stock prices have fallen steadily as costs for extracting oil from dirty Alberta bitumen rise, and costs of foreign crude oil decline.

There was no such generosity for Alberta’s disabled. The Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) was previously connected to inflation. Not any more. Now every rise in the cost of living will be a cut for the disabled. Last year the rate for disabled went up $97 just to keep up with inflation. Too generous, according to Toews, ignoring the endless extra expenses every disabled person pays to have any sort of “normal” life.

Kenney is doing to Alberta’s disabled what Doug Ford did to Ontario’s autistic population.

According to Kenney’s budget, the basic monthly AISH payment of $1685 is “generous”.

This “generosity” is typical of cuts to education. Funding for public kindergarten through grade 12 education is frozen, which will translate into bigger classes, fewer teachers and laid off education assistants previously on hand to help special needs kids.

But there is good news for private schools. Hidden deep in the budget is this: “To ensure that Alberta students have access to private early childhood services, home education programs, charter schools, private schools and alternative programming $400 million is allocated in 2019-20.”

Handouts for the rich, austerity for the most vulnerable, privatization and deliberate underfunding of precious public services: discredited Tory economic ideas live on in Alberta, for now.

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