Jim Prentice’s Budget: The Not-So-Subtle Language of Money

“There is no fortress so strong that money cannot take it.” — Cicero

On Mar 24, 2015 Jim Prentice sent Albertans a message of such heartless cynicism that only the most naïve amongst us would fail to understand.

Money talks.

Here’s what Jim Prentice’s Budget 2015* told Albertans.

Corporations matter, you don’t

When asked why the government did not raise corporate taxes, Finance Minister Robin Campbell replied “The corporate sector is going to do their part, but we have to do our part also.”**

This is utter nonsense.

Mr Campbell looking somber

The corporate sector did its part for its shareholders when it laid off 14,000 Albertans in the month of February alone. It protected its balance sheet and kept its shareholders happy.

The government failed to do its part for Albertans when it refused to entertain an increase in the corporate tax rate. The decision to raise personal income taxes by 1.5% for those earning over $100,000 should have been mirrored by an increase in the corporate tax rate. Even a paltry 1% increase would have created a revenue stream of $500 million.

Mr Prentice also rejected a royalty review. However his willingness to boost the royalty rates for sand, silt and gravel companies indicates that not all royalties are sacrosanct, only those generated by his friends in the oil and gas sector.

Furthermore Mr Prentice sweetened the pot by granting the Department of Energy an additional $250 million while insisting that the departments of Health, Education, Innovation and Advanced Education “absorb” growth pressures of $950 million, $200 million and $80 million respectively. The $250 million bonus is for “running the Alberta Energy Regulator”, a government agency that was 100% industry funded…until now.***

And if that’s not enough, energy companies need not fret about the government’s plan to diversify the economy. It will continue to proceed at a snail’s pace. Mr Prentice set aside a trifling $28 million to support “commercialization capacity focused on diversifying Alberta’s economy.” Gosh, a whole $28 million in a $48.4 billion budget. Can you spare it Jim?

Other friends and insiders make out like bandits

While Health, Education, and Innovation and Advanced Education are fighting over the short end of the stick other governmental agencies, boards and commissions (the resting place for PC loyalists) get a $60 million windfall, bumping their budgets from $580 million to $640 million, with absolutely no justification whatsoever.

Given the Auditor General’s discovery that one such agency, Travel Alberta (which needs 50 managers to supervise 100 employees) failed to properly approve senior managers’ expense claims, a little caution may be in order.

Cue the little match girl

In addition to asking the departments of Health, Education and Innovation and Advanced Education to “absorb” a $1.23 billion operational shortfall (no more front line staff for you!) Mr Prentice expects schools, universities, colleges and hospitals to augment their capital spending requirements by “self-financing” to the tune of $1.6 billion over the next five years.

The little match girl

“Self-financing” is accounting-speak for “charity”.

And to introduce an element of sport (got to keep those schools and hospitals on their toes) Mr Prentice cut the charitable tax credit from 21% down to 12.75%.

May I suggest that until our government perfects the “field-of-dreams-build-it-and-they-will-come” model of providing education and healthcare, we’ll be better off with fewer understaffed schools and hospitals—unless of course the government has figured out how to educate children in teacherless schools and cure the sick in nurseless hospitals.

Your children don’t count either

With the exception of a minor tweak to the personal income tax rate for people earning over $100,000 and 59 new user fees and levies, Mr Prentice made absolutely no changes to Alberta’s fiscal structure.

Budgetary shortfalls will continue be covered by direct borrowing and funneling projects through public-private partnerships (P3s)—the government plans to borrow $30 billion over the next five years. Debt service payments will hit $1.9 billion by 2020.

Mr Prentice looking somber

The government will continue to rely on oil revenues to round out the budget. It is crossing its fingers in the hope that oil prices improve in the second half of 2015. Bitumen and crude royalties must rise from $1.9 billion today to $7.5 billion by 2019 in order for the government to divert 50% of its oil revenues into the Heritage Trust Fund to buttress budgetary shortfalls down the road.

Not to put too fine a point on it, the government’s ability to provide public services continues to depend on the kindness of strangers—in this case OPEC.

Unfortunately if Mr Prentice’s crystal ball is as defective as that of his predecessors our children will be digging themselves out of financial hole even deeper than the one we find ourselves in today.

The power of money vs the power of the ballot box

Budget 2015 showed us the power of money. Mr Prentice will take good care of Corporate Alberta; the rest of us are out in the cold.

Cicero said there is no fortress so strong that money cannot take it…he was wrong.

There is a fortress that all the money in the world cannot buy. It’s called the Alberta Legislature.  Exert your power.  Vote.

*http://finance.alberta.ca/publications/budget/budget2015/fiscal-plan-complete.pdf

** Daily Oil Bulletin, Mar 31, 2015

***Budget 2015, p 20 and https://www.aer.ca/documents/about-us/AER_Brochure.pdf

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20 Responses to Jim Prentice’s Budget: The Not-So-Subtle Language of Money

  1. Julie Ali says:

    Hi Susan,

    I am optimistic that Albertans will vote and they will vote intelligently. I only wish the opposition parties would also be strategic and intelligent by not dividing the vote.

    However, with the opposition parties unable to join together or even to form a strategy to not divide the non-Tory vote, it is a dismal situation for voters who don’t want to vote for these poor Progressive Conservative Party managers any more. Why would we vote for them? They are selling us, our children and grandchildren into debt slavery.

    I am amazed that you were able to dissect the budget and figure out where money is going to be haemorrhaging out. And I’ve a feeling that we are not going to be saved by the price of oil increasing any time soon. We’re going to be going through a pretty interesting revenue deficit for the next couple of years. I think the Tories will put in a sales tax ASAP after they are rehired by the voters in the next provincial election. Then they will plug all the holes in the budget with additional user fees, increased personal income taxes and increased corporate taxes. I don’t think corporations will get out of jail free as they have in this budget— but they won’t be getting their medicine until the Tories are rehired.

    I am also really curious how the Tories produce savings in AHS and somehow manage to get funds for the continuing care spaces that they magically conjure up. I mean this money was taken from other areas right? Or do the Tories have a slush fund that we don’t know about? How is it possible for Alberta Health Services to tell us last year that there would be no long term care (LTC) beds last year as per the article below and yet this year we are supposed to have some LTC beds?

    http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/alberta/rules+long+term+care+spaces/8389001/story.html
    AHS rules out new long-term-care spaces
    JAMIE KOMARNICKI, CALGARY HERALD 05.14.2013

    CALGARY — The provincial health authority announced Wednesday it will no longer add long-term-care beds in Alberta and will focus instead on creating less-costly supportive-living and home-care spaces.

    AHS board chairman Stephen Lockwood insisted the decision is driven by demand from Alberta seniors for more care at their own homes, not by health-system cutbacks.

    “I think most people would prefer as they age to be aging in their homes. We have to react to that apparent desire and put more and more money to allow them to age in their homes as opposed to facilities,” Lockwood told reporters in Edmonton.

    “It’s really driven by society; it’s not necessarily just financial.”

    Appearing before the province’s public accounts committee Wednesday, AHS chief executive Dr. Chris Eagle also suggested the medical authority will rethink its contentious policy that allows seniors to be placed in the first available bed within 100 kilometres of their first choice.

    The bed policy, dubbed “divorce by nursing home” by opposition politicians, would put the brakes on new long-term-care spaces and provoked heated criticism of government in the legislature Wednesday.

    Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith called on the province to immediately end the 100-kilometre bed policy, while Wildrose MLA Kerry Towle accused the Tory government of floundering on nursing-home care in Alberta.

    But Health Minister Fred Horne said the Wildrose is relying on an outdated philosophy of “warehousing seniors” in facilities, while the province is focusing on a new “aging in place” model that has new continuing-care spaces built to standards that allow them to convert from supportive living up to long-term care as needed.

    Whether or not the province is nimble enough to shift the beds’ designation as seniors’ needs change remains to be seen, said Bruce West, executive director of the Alberta Continuing Care Association.

    According to AHS, Alberta now has roughly 14,500 long-term-care beds. Long-term-care beds provide more intensive and costly round-the-clock nursing care for ill and frail seniors.

    Finding the right ratio of nursing home beds is important because the seniors who require the spaces have complex health needs that, if not met, send them to already overcrowded hospital wards, West said.

    “The question is whether those beds are in the right communities. That needs to be looked at more carefully than it is now,” he added.

    Earlier Wednesday, David O’Brien, AHS senior vice-president for primary and community care, told the provincial public accounts committee that a number of current long-term-care beds are old and in need of repairs, and AHS will need to provide upkeep.

    “We’re not planning to increase long-term-care nursing beds. We are planning to ensure that the right capacity is available in the communities where seniors need them,” he said.

    Eagle also suggested that the legislation governing nursing homes could use some modernization and he’s broached the subject with government. He said the health superboard has found most elderly Albertans can get the right care in supportive living spaces, of which Alberta now has 7,500.

    The health authority, meanwhile, plans to turn its attention toward home care.

    O’Brien said AHS is “far exceeding” its target this year to add 3,000 home-care clients, and is committed to adding another 3,000 net new clients in the coming fiscal year, he said.

    Towle also grilled the AHS representatives at the committee meeting on the 100-kilometre continuing-care policy, calling it “detrimental to families” and demanding its removal.

    Eagle told reporters AHS will take another look at the policy and “make sure we’re doing the best job we can.”

    O’Brien said the bed rule “unfortunately is highly necessary in an environment where we have insufficient community capacity.”

    He said it allows seniors to be placed more quickly from hospital beds into a community setting where they receive more appropriate care.

    In an interview Wednesday, O’Brien said the policy hasn’t been fully implemented across the province, with variations in different regions, and that AHS will continue to fine-tune it.

    The health superboard is now collecting data on how often clients must accept the first available bed versus their bed of first choice.

    With files from Postmedia Newsjkomarnicki@calgaryherald.com
    *********************************************************
    Then here is an election year and we will have LTC beds–somehow and somewhere except we don’t yet know where and which towns/cities will be the lottery winners. We know the places that will get Affordable Supportive Living Initiative (ASLI) funding but they don’t know how many of these continuing care beds will be LTC spaces. Yet. There is a ton of cash going to the private sector to fund their dreams because the government of Alberta can’t do the job of providing continuing care spaces in a publicly run format. Why not? I guess the government of Alberta would have to do some work that does not fit its ideology of private sector does it best—and it’s easier to subcontract out the work of government, spend more public money so that the private providers get not only profits but also the initial grants to build the infrastructure and then all the Tories do is issue cheques via AHS for the health portion of the deals.
    It’s pretty neat.
    But expensive and this area needs investigation by the Auditor General of Alberta to see how much money is being wasted on this privatization of continuing care. Could continuing care be done cheaper and better in the publicly run format? If so, why are we parcelling out the care of our most vulnerable citizens to the wolves in the free market who may not have the expertise or the incentive to care for our families when the standards of care are so poorly monitored in Alberta? Maybe putting our families in publicly run facilities might ensure that the standards of care are being met and that it doesn’t cost us a major sum of extra cash that could be used for residents rather than shareholders?

    I think we are getting screwed in all the ways possible in continuing care but I don’t know for sure because no one will release this information on the financials to citizens—- and when I ask the Alberta Health folks for the contracts so I can see the money we are spending they tell me that this is off limits.
    What the heck?
    The public pays for these private providers but we are not allowed to determine how well the money is being spent.
    Apparently the money the public spends on the private long term care providers is “proprietary” information. So this non-transparent financial situation with the continuing care providers’ spending masked to citizens— makes me curious.
    How then do we know that we get value for our money when even the very forgiving AHS audits indicate that a bunch of these providers are overcoding to make more money than they should on the residents we pay for? Why is overcoding not considered to be fraud in Alberta as it is in the USA where folks go to jail for this sort of junk?
    If these overcoding situations were mistakes why didn’t AHS get the folks who made the mistakes to pay the public coffers back?
    Why isn’t the money paid back with interest in fact? Well the AHS auditors say that it’s not a deliberate act on the part of the overcoding administrators—but simply mistakes. So curious. We have folks in continuing care organizations (both public and private operators) being overpaid for services and yet we don’t feel is it polite to get our money back? What the heck are taxpayers? A slush fund for the folks in continuing care? And guess what? They won’t tell us who made these mistakes as it might hurt their feelings.
    I guess AHS audits aren’t the Revenue Canada type audits and this is why the Auditor General of Alberta needs to check the AHS audits of continuing care facilities and tell citizens if we are getting value for the money spent in continuing care or if we are being both ripped off (excessive profits made) and defrauded (“mistakes that aren’t considered to be fraudulent by AHS but is considered to be fraud in the USA”).

    Meanwhile the miracles in Alberta–continue in that money has been found–where previously there had been none— to deliver on continuing care spaces that haven’t been thought about for decades—- because the Tories have been waiting for the private sector to step up to the plate and do the work of providing continuing care beds for the public while the seniors languished in emergencies and in the acute care beds of hospitals. It’s pretty amazing to me that this has been going on for decades and the Tories have managed to keep this junk out of the news in Alberta for so long. We only get the positive stories in the news. Until now that is.

    http://calgaryherald.com/news/politics/braid-the-pcs-the-loaves-and-the-fishes
    Braid: Loaves, fishes and PC promises about senior care beds

    DON BRAID, CALGARY HERALD
    More from Don Braid, Calgary Herald
    Published on: March 13, 2015
    Last Updated: March 13, 2015 6:20 AM MDT
    Seniors Minister Jeff Johnson announced Thursday that the province will create new 2,600 seniors spaces at a cost of $180 million.
    That’s a regular type of PC pre-election promise, except for one thing: Last Oct. 20, seven days before four crucial byelections were held, the province said it would build 1,500 spaces for the same $180 million.
    Thursday’s expanded revelation arrives about three weeks before the expected launch of a general election.
    Between the two voting moments, it seems, there has been such a miraculous reorganization of government, such a fanatical sharpening of pencils, that the province has eliminated more than $50 million of waste from the original project.
    The government can now go into an election with specific promises for communities from Bassano to Whitecourt, including 1,131 spaces in Calgary alone.
    So many fishes, for not a penny more.
    How does this come to pass? How does a government that so often flounders (forgive me) create such a radical reform in five months?
    Johnson says it’s a combination of government reorganization, community co-operation, and the genius of the premier.

    ***********************************************************************************************
    This sort of article in Alberta is very rare.
    You usually only read glowing praise of the Tories of the Jeff Johnson sucking up to the Prentice type.
    Jeff Johnson really likes to praise the Prentice doesn’t he?
    He is in the top dog league in the Legislature now.
    I found this out on my visit to the Legislature courtesy of the nice NDP folks who got me presented when my own MLA –Mr. Mandel—did not help me over my sister’s eviction and my banning.
    I presented my banned self to the self congratulatory Tories and the opposition party MLAs who had good questions that were ignored by the Tory MLAs because .. I guess they are oil monarchs and don’t have to answer to the people of Alberta.

    By the way Jeff Johnsom sits in the last seat in the front row of the power place of the Tories.
    I saw all the MLAs with power— sitting on both sides of the Prentice when I went to show my banned self to the Tories. There was Jeff Johnson at the end, then there was the Mandel next to the finance minister-what’s his name? Robin Campbell. The Campbell sat next to the Prentice. Mr. Campbell must be significant if he is sitting right next to the Prentice. Then the Mandel must be top dog number 2. I think the Dirks guy was on the other side of the Prentice so he is pretty up there as well. Then there is that guy with the turban. I am tired and I can’t remember his name. It’s a crew of characters that’s for sure.
    But certainly they aren’t very good at money management. In Alberta, it seems that the citizens don’t care if the managers are good or not. The citizens just want hot button issues like continuing care problems to be fixed–stat.

    The genius of the Prentice is that he realized the hot button issues and has put found money into them –at least he has “found” money from efficiencies that were apparently not present in government before he magically found them. It’s too bad Redford could not have used the same sort of magical thinking to save herself. She should not have gone on so many trips and instead stayed home to watch the hawks at the mice.
    Prentice has all the hawks in the front row and all the hot button issues defusing right now.
    Long term care and continuing care are hot button issues that bite the Tories in the butt in their Tory communities and so they do what they do best which is make promises before an election, the dumb bunny Tory voters like myself believe them, vote them in again and get no LTC or continuing care beds after the election when there is yet another bitumen bubble.
    This sort of deception has kept the Tories in power for far too long.
    It might be different this election as at least some of the Tory voters like myself have woken up from the sleep of decades in Alberta.
    The Tory MLAs need to get their sorry rumps kicked in the next election. But even with their rumps kicked they probably will form a government of some sort. This is probably a good thing in a way. Why saddle an opposition party with a majority when they will be stuck with all the problems created by the Tories?

    So in a way, I hope the Tories do get to form the next government because I am curious how they will run the government without multiple streams of income and with their oil and gas revenues lowered by their own failures to bump up the royalty rates for the sacred cow of the oil and gas industry. I am curious how soon after being rehired, they will break their promises of continuing care beds and rip up the grant papers.

    I am pretty amazed at their cheek paying for the AER before the election but perhaps they were hoping that you would miss this small detail of major bucks paying for the oil industry cheerleader.
    Not only do they pander to the oil and gas industry they continue the bad business of subsidizing the industry endlessly. Now they are paying the bills for the front office of big oil–the AER. Who knew? That’s just another insult to citizens and yet not a single journalist pointed this insult out to citizens. Must bloggers do all the work of reporting in Alberta? It’s a big surprise to me that the AER is getting our public dollars now and yet will not represent citizens at all. This tiny bit of information of the big bucks going to the spin machinery of the AER is such a surprise.

    I hadn’t heard of any of this news in the newspapers in Edmonton. Why not? I guess no one is interested in the public subsidization of the energy sector in all the ways possible.

    ***************************************************************
    https://susanonthesoapbox.com/2015/04/05/jim-prentices-budget-the-not-so-subtle-language-of-money/

    The $250 million bonus is for “running the Alberta Energy Regulator”, a government agency that was 100% industry funded…until now.
    ************************************************************

    That is a lot of mullah and it should all go into continuing care. The oil and gas industry earns trillions from our non-renewable resources. They can jolly well pay for their own spin factory.

    I don’t think the AER needs to have this taxpayer cash and I certainly don’t want to pay for their employees who do not answer citizen questions or resolve their issues. Why should we pay for a group that is not representing citizens? Oh, I forget, this is Alberta. Citizens aren’t represented by anyone, least of all our MLAs. But the puppets of our MLAs do represent the oil and gas industry. It’s such a scam.

    We need to get our politicians to be accountable to us.
    We pay for their salaries, benefits and cushy offices where they do nothing for us.
    Here is Mr. Mandel, my MLA for example. My handicapped sister was dumped like garbage at the Grey Nuns Hospital by the Good Samaritan Society and he has the cheek to tell us that he can’t do anything but wait—the powerless Patient Concerns folks at the AHS place will help us.
    What the heck?
    The minister of health cannot do anything to get my handicapped sister back to the Good Samaritan Extended Care at Millwoods?
    Why can’t he do his job? Is he a figurehead?
    What about his ability to call for a respiratory review at this facility?
    There are 15 respiratory residents at this place. At least there was 15 residents before they evicted my sister.
    Why can’t the minister of health tell the Good Samaritan folks that they can’t dump their vulnerable handicapped residents just because I found out that the standards of care were not being met at their facility and yapped on a blog?
    Why doesn’t Alberta Health get the folks at AHS to do their work of oversight of the facilities?
    Why did it take a stay at home mummy to point out the problems at this facility in 2014?
    Why didn’t the previous audits of this place find out the major problems?
    What happened at this facility?
    I still don’t know.
    They are going to find the information, give me the recommendations and the action plan that I have been asking for in written format since September 2014.
    It’s pretty amazing to me this sort of junk.
    My sister is dumped.
    I am banned.
    And no one –apparently has the power to do anything about this mess.
    What is going on in Alberta?
    Why is my sister in day 46 of her eviction?
    The minister of health is powerless.
    AHS is powerless.
    Privatization of continuing care has resulted in the abuses that I speak of and no legislation or penalties to correct these unjust situations.
    I guess the message is this–if you find out that the standards of care are not being met, it is best to stay silent and in this way, you won’t get your family member evicted and you, as an advocate won’t get banned for telling the truth.
    And by the way, I went through all the proper channels.
    No one answered my questions.
    I still have no answers to my questions.
    My MLA who is the health minister has no answers.
    Instead of getting help from my MLA, my family is to go to the AHS consultant.
    We are to consult with the consultant at AHS and everything will work out.
    Yeah, sure it will.
    I have been waiting since September 2014 for it all to work out so that the standards of care would be met and my sister would have an appropriate care plan at this facility that is perfectly capable of doing this work –if the standards of care are met.
    As for the eviction?
    They just do this junk with the full cooperation of the folks at AHS.
    Families are the only ones who don’t know and aren’t consulted because we are game pieces to be moved on the game board of a continuing care system that favours only the providers and not the residents. AHS hasn’t even got it’s act together with reference to the laws of the land.
    Despite the fact that the nursing act and its regulations require an appeal process in place for some mysterious reason –the Ali family has been the only family in the entire history of continuing care in Alberta to ask for an appeal of an eviction from a continuing care facility in Alberta.

    What the heck? We -the citizens have to obey the laws, but the AHS doesn’t obey the laws set by the government of Alberta until they are asked (politely) by a stay at home mummy to do this?

    What next? Oh, yeah, the government of Alberta doesn’t even enforce the nursing act that requires RN presence at nursing homes because guess what? They just make the laws but don’t bother to get the laws obeyed. The nurses have to take the government of Alberta to court to get them to enforce their own laws. This is getting simply ridiculous if you ask me.

    http://www.athabascaadvocate.com/article/20150317/ATH0801/303179980/0/ath

    Extendicare Athabasca situation becomes UNA test case
    Alberta nurses union goes to court against seniors home in bid to force provincial government’s hand
    Tuesday, Mar 17, 2015 06:00 am
    By: Jordan MacDonald
    The United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) has asked the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench to issue a writ of mandamus about Extendicare in Athabasca.
    “The Extendicare in Athabasca is in violation of the nursing home act, nursing home operation regulations as they do not have 24-hour registered nurse coverage at that site,” said Heather Smith, UNA president.
    A writ of mandamus is an order given by a superior court to either a lower court or a government agency to perform a mandatory duty correctly.
    The UNA said this is just the latest step in a long story of trying to get the nursing home to comply with the Nursing Home Act – specifically its operation regulations.
    *********************************

    This is such a farce in continuing care and guess what?

    It just gets even worse when you have your family in the continuing care system.
    If you have data showing failures in care, the AHS folks try to get you to “move forward”; then when the failures in care repeat, they let the facility dump your family member at the emergency and tell you that –sorry–as the banned advocate–you are now silenced.
    But there you go.
    The Tories got in because citizens like myself were naive and trusting.
    We believed in them.

    Citizens like myself were bamboozled by the taxpayer money we were bribed with at every election. Also there was a ton of myths and spin generated using our cash and the cash of wealthy donors of the party–so it’s perhaps not surprising that I did not know that there were two spills per day in Alberta or that fracking of the small hamlet of Rosebud, Alberta resulted in the well water on fire miracles.

    I guess Albertans are easily fooled.
    Now we have a new story being told to us that we must all share the pain of the current bust which we would have weathered easily–with savings in place and if the Tories had had the brains to put in a higher oil and gas royalty rate. But nope, theTories are the puppets of the oil and gas industry and worse than their pandering to big oil is their failures as managers. They are all chatter with no deliverables. We have had major entitlement in the managers for decades now. Just who do they think they are? They are all ordinary citizens who have been given the jobs of managing the province. They aren’t any different than any other citizen other than the fact that they got a job to represent us. Instead of doing their jobs diligently they have wasted the opportunities of resources in Alberta and now we are in a bust they tell us to look in the mirror and take the blame for voting for them. It’s such a staggering betrayal of trust. And not only is the trust betrayed we are also having to pay for our mistakes in hiring them. We-the citizens must share the pain by paying up –but not the oil and gas industry which is somehow exempt from our suffering and adds to them by laying off employees.

    The news that Pickpocket Prentice is taking money from us and giving this money to others–the best beloveds so to speak— is also something I hadn’t seen in the newspapers in Edmonton.

    Where the heck are the real journalists? Are they scared of their own shadows? Why aren’t they reporting the news that the money from our pockets is going to best buddies of the Tories? I mean why else are we giving so much cash to these useless entities? Pickpocket Prentice seems to be taking from the average Albertan and giving to the best buddies in the ABCs (Agencies, Boards and Commissions). Why the heck is there $60 million going to these buddies? I guess it is love. The Auditor General of Alberta should check and see why we are giving so much love to so few who deserve so little but get so much.

    I am curious where you got all this information about the Travel Alberta folks. That seems a tad obscure a titbit to find in the major menu of the budget. It is so neat to know that 50 managers supervise 100 employees. It sure sounds like they need more money. I wonder how much they are paying these overworked managers? They must have fixed pay increases in the manager contracts that require this immediate infusion of cash while the respiratory residents at places like the Good Samaritan Extended Care at Millwoods use crappy BiPaP masks over years and do without a respiratory therapist for 2 out of 5 years that I have investigated so far. You gotta take money from somewhere to ensure that the manager pay increases, bonuses for taking care of two employees each and the expense claims are funded–right?

    **************************************************************************
    https://susanonthesoapbox.com/2015/04/05/jim-prentices-budget-the-not-so-subtle-language-of-money/

    Other friends and insiders make out like bandits

    While Health, Education, and Innovation and Advanced Education are fighting over the short end of the stick other governmental agencies, boards and commissions (the resting place for PC loyalists) get a $60 million windfall, bumping their budgets from $580 million to $640 million, with absolutely no justification whatsoever.

    Given the Auditor General’s discovery that one such agency, Travel Alberta (which needs 50 managers to supervise 100 employees) failed to properly approve senior managers’ expense claims, a little caution may be in order.
    *******************************************

    I’m not surprised that the Travel Alberta folks need 50 managers to supervise 100 employees. Each manager must hold hands with two employees who must be scatter brained and need directions at all times.

    The level of thinking abilities has declined in our society apparently. I mean, even I find it hard to navigate the maze at AHS right now —without at least one manager from Continuing Care, a manager from Patient Concerns and a consultant from Patient Concerns.
    But this may just be me.

    Other citizens may find the AHS a far easier place to navigate; they may find it to be a lovely place of transparency and accountability rather than a labyrinth full of talking heads that say the same things –move forward, move forward, move forward. Soon I will be indoctrinated to say the same words to all I meet. This type of chanting by AHS folks gets to be very soporific after awhile and I believe it may diminish one’s ability to spot flaws in story lines. The level of intelligence in all citizens may be significantly diminished in the absence of accurate information release and constant spin generation in Alberta.

    I’m not sure what is going to happen with the bank manager premier in charge of the province. I’m pretty sure this sort of management by a bank manager (borrowing like mad) is the reverse of what is preached at the banks themselves but since he is borrowing from these banks and enriching them with public dollars –maybe such poor fiscal planning is appreciated by at least— the banking gurus. I somehow doubt that fiscally conservative Albertans feel that this budget is a good one. It seems very Redford. And look what happened to her poor woman. The Prentice might be next. But maybe not. Danielle Wildrosie will be getting a plum job in the private sector and won’t be the next premier if they topple the Prentice and who is left to do the job if they dump Prentice? I guess Mandel. He’s pretty good at avoiding his constituents so he might have the ime to mount a leadership campaign.
    This budget is very expensive and gives money to those who are Tory supporters.
    I don’t think this is very good fiscal planning but certainly it is strategic planning to win the next election.
    The Tories are only interested in winning the next election so perhaps it isn’t surprising that they won’t cut and tax until they are rehired.

    The only thing I am sure of after reading your post, is that the peons (us) will be slaves for a long time and let us not forget our kids, grandchildren and so on and so forth.
    We pay. And pay. And pay.
    In contrast the elected hires enjoy, enjoy and enjoy. And yet they complain about dining on Camembert and broken crackers on our dime. Heck, I wouldn’t mind getting Camembert with my broken crackers.

    http://ottawacitizen.com/news/politics/cold-camembert-is-trending-on-twitter

    Camembert is the new orange juice. #cdnpoli

    — Ben Parsons (@bfaparsons) April 1, 2015

    • Julie, you raise so many important points about the tangled mess that passes for healthcare in this province. The best way to address this, as you suggest, is to bring in the Auditor General.

      Budget 2015 includes a section setting out outstanding Auditor General recommendations and the government’s response. Some of these are shocking. For example, the A-G recommends audits to ensure that LTC facilities are adequately staffed–shouldn’t that be a given? The A-G says AHS needs to figure out who in their organization is responsible for LTC facilities and make them set up policies to identify “at-risk” facilities and “escalate” their compliance with the regs so they’re no longer “at-risk”. AHS agreed to do a better job identifying “at risk” facilities and will complete audits of them by Mar 2016. That’s a whole year from now. So anyone with a loved one in a LTC facility should keep a close eye on them if they have any concerns about their care, because the AHS auditor might not get there for another 12 months, and god only knows how much time AHS will give the facility to clean up its act. People matter…just not to the PCs.

      Oh, I got that Travel Alberta information out of Hansard. It was a question from the opposition. The press should pay close attention to Question Period. It exposes a gold mine of corruption and mismanagement.

  2. ABCanuck says:

    Prentice promised a “transformational” budget.

    Instead, he delivered a regressive attack on the tax-paying middle class through user fee increases, effective decreases in funding for health and education by denying funds required by growth in demand for those services, and, most critically, by incursion into massive debt and a raid on the contingency fund to offset future revenue shortfalls.

    By planning on future resource revenues to pay off the massive debt and carrying charges to be incurred, Prentice failed to free Albertans from highly cyclical and unpredictable non-renewable resource revenues which are the cause of the problem in the first place.

    Anything but “transformative”, Prentice and his budget fail to address the root problem but simply defers addressing it, allowing it to get bigger in the process.

  3. ABCanuck says:

    The corollary to Cicero’s quote, “There is no fortress so strong that money cannot take it.” must be:
    The PC fortress is not so strong that poor fiscal management cannot bring it down.

    • ABCanuck….you nailed it. The PC’s convinced voters that they’re prudent fiscal managers and the spin continues with Budget 2015. The document is larded with all sorts of charts and graphs and verbiage about the Euro Area, emerging markets, housing prices, Quantative Easing, etc, all of which is intended to convince the reader that the premier and former banker knows what he’s talking about. The part that cracked me up was he projected oil and gas prices out to the end of 2020 (WTI will be US$83.83) but failed to account for the impact of the Iran nuclear deal–if the deal holds and sanctions are lifted there will be even more oil on the market so he can kiss that US$83.83 goodby.

      I’m banking on your corollary to Cicero…

  4. Midge says:

    A couple of other things: AESRD, our pathetic environment department that now includes provincial parks took a $200million cut including a number of jobs. Our water, land, natural areas, parks, wildlife are at tremendous risk of more abuse by that same industry that is getting a free ride. We have fewer parks people, planners, and non-existant fish & wildlife officers. AER is not the envrionment’s friend.

    The Alberta Seniors Special Needs Assistance grant program that was able to provide help to low incomes seniors, many who are renters, with assistance to replace essentials like stoves, fridges, beds has been scraped. Replaced by a “low interest loan” program only to home owners for home repairs, that ends up as a lien on their property to be paid to GoA when property changes hands.

    All those fee increases in licenses, registrations, gas taxes are paid by the same low income people whose jobs are being cut.

    Albertans need to #occcupyalberta!

  5. Midge, the heartlessness of this budget knows no bounds. I found a line item relating to the decision to consolidate the Calgary Young Offenders Centre with the Edmonton Young Offenders Centre. This results in an operational savings of ONE employee’s salary (the Calgary guy was fired) and whatever they can save on the facility–I don’t know if they’re using the space for something else, renting it out or selling it–but I can’t imagine it would be result in huge savings. The real question is this: was moving the kids to Edmonton worth the increased risk of losing them to a life of crime because they’re taken away from their families and support groups?

    The PCs will move mountains to satisfy Corporate Alberta, especially Big Oil. The rest of us had better get out of the way or be crushed.

  6. Susan Palmer says:

    Wow Susan! what a hard-hitting analysis and so tragic – Alberta has come a long way from the place it once was under the leadership of Lougheed when one could be proud to be Albertan in all respects – before its politics became tainted by corporatist protection policies and a meanness of spirit veiled as ‘balancing the budget’ – on the backs of the least empowered … ala Klein Nation. I hope you keep speaking out and bringing a voice of reason and compassion to these issues – Alberta really needs to hear it.
    Susan on the Island

  7. Thank you Susan on the Island (lucky you!). Interesting that you mentioned Lougheed and Klein. When Prentice gave his pre-budget speech (some would call it electioneering on the taxpayers’ tab) he tried to invoke the spirit of both Lougheed and Klein. Either he doesn’t understand that Klein was the antithesis of Lougheed and that while Klein would applaud this budget, Lougheed would hang his head in shame or it was cheap electioneering. I’m betting the latter. Sad state of affairs here in Alberta.

  8. John Smith says:

    I hope that Albertans get out and vote. Alberta’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few old white men and this last budget only makes it worse. Susan Billington and the rest of the PC insiders can always find more money for their rich friends and, worse, take it from our schools and the most vulnerable.

  9. John, I agree. In Sept 2014 Prentice appointed a committee to conduct a “governance review” of all 194 agencies, boards and tribunals. He said “Under my leadership, your government will ensure the best Albertan for the job is appointed. Party affiliation is not a relevant consideration.” The committee started with 4 agencies. Their findings were supposed to be completed by Dec 31, 2014. It’s now Apr 2015 and we’ve heard nothing.

    Oh, remember Prentice’s promise that the names of everyone earning more than $100,000 in government and these agencies, boards and tribunals would appear on the sunshine list. It only took Prentice a couple of days to renege on that promise as well.

  10. Keith says:

    A couple of weeks before the budget they retroactively added $400 million to municipal grants for 2014 (to be administered as part of 2015 grants). Then in the budget they reduced 2015 grants by the same amount. It’s explained here:
    http://municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/msi-funding-allocations-eligibility.cfm
    They even provide a graph:
    http://www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/documents/LGS/Future_MSI_Capital_Commitments_-_Graph.pdf

    Are they counting this as an $800 million spending cut? What are they up to?

    • Keith, I can’t make heads nor tails of it. According to the Budget 2015 document (p 21) the Municipal Affairs budget is $1.3 billion. It says “This budget includes $850 million in capital and $30 million in operating support to municipalities through the Municipal Sustainability Initiative, and a further $209 million in capital support from the Federal Gas Tax Fund.” The $850 million and the $30 million numbers line up with the estimated $879.6 million and $30 million cited in the first link, but I’ll be darned if I can figure out the rest of the numbers, let alone what the graph means.
      But then again, maybe that’s the point, confuse us with the appearance of transparency when that’s the last thing Prentice intends to do.

      Reminds me of their practice of announcing and re-announcing the same projects over and over again to create the impression of progress.

      And they wonder why we’re cynical!

  11. Pingback: Alberta PoliticsAlberta NDP fields full slate for the provincial election that’s expected to be called today - Alberta Politics

  12. jerrymacgp says:

    Interesting development on the Calgay Young Offenders Centre (YOC). Grande Prairie’s YOC was closed a couple of years ago, early in the Redford regime IIRC, despite the fact that GP is five hours from Edmonton, imposing a greater hardship on the families of these troubled young people. The building still sits vacant, although I believe the City of Grande Prairie will soon “buy” it from the province for some nominal sum, like a dollar.

  13. Jerry, I was unaware of the Grand Prairie situation. I just don’t understand how this government can justify such heartless action. Clearly shutting down the Calgary and Grande Prairie YOCs isn’t saving the government a pile of money, but it sure makes life more difficult for the kids and their families and support groups. The Budget shows the Justice Department getting a $10 million increase over last year, but also notes that there will be a $5 million decrease in the amount spent on correctional services. It looks like the bulk of the increase is going into policing and enforcement. That’s probably all we need to know about the PC’s mindset when it comes to criminal justice.

  14. dbailie says:

    Susan, great analysis. Re: Alberta Energy Regulator, the $250 million in funding is covered by the revenue it gets from industry.

    http://www.finance.alberta.ca/publications/budget/estimates/est2015/energy.pdf

    Check page 78 (that is, 8/11).

    • Thanks for the clarification dbailie! This got me thinking about Prentice’s comment that any increase in corporate taxes will crater jobs. If the energy industry is capable of paying an additional $250 million to the AER, I wonder why all of Corporate Alberta can’t cough up an additional $500 million (the amount of revenue generated by a .5% increase in corporate taxes).

  15. Mike McGonagill says:

    excellent comments. And pure truthful conviction

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