Bell: Danielle Smith to Albertans: ‘We’re all in this together’

The province can’t spend every dollar it has because it also wants to pay off debt, save for the future and build things.

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The speaker is Prime Minister Danielle Smith.

It’s Friday morning, a day after his government presented its budget.

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“I just ask everyone, including members of our public service, to accept that we are all in this together.”

Wow. It had been a long time since she had heard that expression. I heard it a lot not long ago, in days that many of us would like to forget.

“I hope everyone approaches this in a spirit of cooperation and collaboration. We are all in this together. “It benefits us all.”

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The premier clearly has a message for Albertans. One for all and all for one.

Smith says his UCP government is course-correcting.

This year’s spending on provincial government operations will see a much smaller increase than last year.

Next year, the increase in spending will be even smaller.

This idea that the province would spend up to the rate of inflation and population growth is not happening.

Smith tells us that the government cannot continue to spend year after year at a rate much higher than the money coming into the treasury.

“I think we need to be aware that we don’t have to keep doing everything the way we’ve always done it.”

This year the province projects a small budget surplus but not in cash.

The province will continue to go into debt.

The debt continues to increase.

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The question for the prime minister.

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How can you address the pressures of inflation and a growing province and the wage demands of nurses and health care workers and others if you don’t spend to address the rate of inflation and population growth?

How does mathematics work?

Smith says the dollars coming to the province and the amount the province spends must match.

And the province can’t spend every dollar it has because it also wants to pay off debt, save for the future and build things.

“That’s what I ask Albertans to understand, the challenge here.”

This is what Smith means by “a little moderation.”

The Prime Minister says the government has to find a way to put more money in the piggy bank.

Smith is committed to strengthening the Heritage Fund so the province can rely less and less on a windfall from the oilpatch.

I wish Alberta could get there quickly, but it will take time.

Smith wants to “control health care.”

The Prime Minister asks if there is a way for some patients to be treated elsewhere rather than in an expensive hospital bed, where she sets the cost at $1,500 a day.

She says there are 1,547 people in hospital beds waiting to go somewhere else.

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Smith mentions continuing care, home care, rental housing, mental health and addiction treatment.

The prime minister is finally asked if she will abandon her plan, if she will blink if there is a mass of protesters outside the legislature, workers on picket lines and her support wavering.

On Friday morning it seems to be holding firm.

There are voices of opposition.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek
Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek reacts to the provincial budget at Calgary City Hall on Thursday, February 29, 2024. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

On Thursday, Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek will face Smith.

The mayor finds it “incredibly disconcerting” that the province is receiving $96 million more this year from Calgary property taxpayers.

Yes, a portion of your property tax goes to the province even if you receive one bill and not two.

The province says the extra money reflects growth in the tax base.

Gondek tells the press that if Calgarians have issues with how much they pay in property taxes, she understands she is on their side.

If you just spit out the coffee, grab a cloth and wipe it off.

A veteran sleuth who knows every nook and cranny of Calgary city hall (no, it’s not me!) asks Gondek if he thinks the province is stockpiling and trying to amplify the anger directed at that place not so affectionately known as The Big Blue. Playpen.

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The mayor says those are not his words.

But …

“Does it seem like the province is piling resources on city hall at a time when they know property taxes are a concern for Calgarians? Absolutely.”

Speaking of taxes, the full promised cut in the province’s personal income tax, about $1,500 per family, won’t arrive until 2027.

Smith says lowering taxes is possible because his government is controlling spending.

“We heard Albertans loud and clear. They don’t want tax increases. What they really want are tax cuts,” says the prime minister.

“Those are our marching orders. “We have to make sure we can live on the substantial means we receive from Albertans and we have to find new ways to do business.”

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