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Alberta to introduce budget: Promising renewed fight on COVID-19, but more red ink

Last Updated Feb 25, 2021 at 2:14 pm MDT

Finance Minister Travis Toews (rear) waits to deliver the budget in Edmonton on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

EDMONTON — It’s budget day in Alberta, and Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID-19, but more red ink on the bottom line.

Kenney says the budget will concentrate on getting Alberta past the pandemic and on rebuilding the economy that has seen businesses close and jobs lost during the health crisis.

Last year, after COVID-19 took hold, the government abandoned its plan to balance the books within its first term.

Kenney has promised a stay-the-course budget with no deep spending cuts or any tax increases.

He says that’s the prudent path forward for a fragile economy.

Plenty of groups in Alberta have their own wishlists for how the province’s money should be spent including the Alberta Teachers Association (ATA which is calling for no cuts to education.

“This budget needs to reflect the fact that we are still in a pandemic and have a lot of pandemic ahead of us,” said ATA President Jason Schilling. “We need to make sure that schools have better support than what they do now heading into the future.”

With many bars and restaurants struggling Brett Ireland with the Alberta Hospitality Association said he’s thankful for the help already in place from the feds and the province but it doesn’t account for the losses businesses are taking. he says more supports would be welcome.

“Utilities, property taxes, all those types of pieces that I would term the ‘fixed cost space’ would be the best place to start.”

Meanwhile, Franco Terazzano with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation wants to see some savings and tells us Albertan’s will already be paying more this year.

“We heard Premier Jason Kenney acknowledge that this would be the worst possible time for the government to be sinking its hands deeper into taxpayers pockets. Unless Kenney scraps his bracket creep income tax hike, Albertans will be paying higher taxes in 2021.”

Terazzano added he wants the government to focus on more savings and reduced spending.

The Opposition NDP says it wants to see more spending to keep people safe during the pandemic, clear up a backlog of surgeries and provide more support to businesses.

The budget is expected to be released at 3:15 Thursday afternoon.