There is no disputing the fact that Alberta has a spending problem.
Our per capita program expenses are the second highest in Canada. We spend $12,717 per person in Alberta, even as we run a deficit approaching $10 billion. By comparison, neigbouring British Columbia spends $2,500 less.
Alberta’s NDP government has taken the position that any reduction in spending would endanger public services. The opposite is true. Restraint is necessary to keep public services sustainable for the long term. By ignoring runaway public spending, the NDP is abdicating its fiduciary obligation to taxpayers. To suggest that frontline workers alone would face the brunt of any spending restraint is equally ludicrous.
Alberta currently spends $56,181 Billion, and total public sector compensation, including teachers, doctors, and nurses, is just $26.6 Billion. There are plenty of ways to trim the fat.
In the years ahead, Alberta needs a government willing to take a harder line on inefficiency and waste. The first question we need to ask when examining any expense is, “are taxpayers getting full value for our money?”
Take, for example, health care. At $22.1 Billion, this is Alberta’s largest expense, accounting for 40 per cent of our spending. But, are taxpayers getting full value for our money? Today, a patient’s average wait time for treatment by a specialist is 26.5 weeks, up from 10.5 weeks in 1993. Despite spending more on health care, our wait times exceed the Canadian average by more than a month. Obviously, spending increases alone are not translating into better service.
We need a government willing to take a hard look at spending in each and every department, and this includes a department that didn’t even exist 10 years ago: The Department of Paying Interest.
This year Albertans will shell out $1.9 Billion just to cover the public debt. We spend more on servicing the debt than we spend on Seniors and Housing, Environment, Tourism, and Indigenous Relations combined. Paying interest is now Alberta’s fifth largest expense. Are taxpayers getting full value for our money? In this case, we are getting no value for this money.
A key part of government’s fiduciary responsibility is to ensure public resources are managed as efficiently as possible. The reason is simple; this money does not belong to government. It belongs to you.
You deserve to know that every dime is being allocated as efficiently and effectively as possible. And, when you can manage your money better than government, you deserve to know that too.
Drew Barnes is the United Conservative Finance Critic and MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat