Drew Barnes, United Conservative Finance Critic
The biggest takeaway from the NDP’s 2018-19 Budget is that according to the NDP Albertans outside city limits don’t matter much. In Finance Minister Joe Ceci’s entire 3,800 word budget speech the issues that impact rural Albertans the most went ignored.
For example, Alberta’s second and third largest resource-based industries, agriculture and forestry, were ignored throughout the budget speech. The Finance Minister did not use the words agriculture or forestry. He did not once include farm or farmers and failed to mention ranchers. Sadly, this is typical of the Alberta NDP, a government that continues to make rural Alberta less and less of a priority and penalize our producers with increased costs, more regulations and ignoring the serious issue of rural crime.
When you take a closer look at the NDP’s 170-page Fiscal Plan, you will find less than one page relating to agriculture and forestry. The Fiscal Plan mentions only a few economic diversification efforts, although it is difficult to determine how the NDP plans to diversity while decreasing agriculture and forestry spending by $400 million. It isn’t until you reach the Agriculture and Forestry Business Plan that two major issues facing Alberta’s producers are mentioned: the softwood lumber trade dispute and the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Of course, the Business Plan offers no solutions or measures to deal with either of these issues.
Translation: farmers, ranchers, and forestry workers shouldn’t be looking for help from the NDP. But it’s not just Alberta producers who have gone largely ignored in this budget. In the budget speech, Minister Ceci also neglected to mention three major industries employing rural Albertans: natural gas, mining, and coal. In fact, he only used the word rural in relation to crime, an issue the NDP has neglected.
So what are the NDP’s priorities?
Minister Ceci did use the words “tax” 10 times, “spend” 13 times, and “invest” another 17 times. Making the budget quite literally a tax-and-spend budget. The Minister also mentioned “services” 11 times, although he didn’t say the words that rural residents wanted to hear in relation to services: ambulance, wait times and policing.
Reading between the lines, it is clear that rural Albertans are not a priority for the NDP.