Alberta’s United Conservative government today unveiled the final budget of their electoral mandate, with a provincial election expected in May. Budget 2023, titled Securing Alberta’s Future, includes a healthy $2.4 billion surplus for this year, a new fiscal framework, and new policy and spending commitments – ranging from healthcare, public safety, mental health, and affordability – which are certain to feature prominently in the UCP’s forthcoming election platform.
Budget 2023 is organized around five major themes: strengthening health care, supporting Albertans, keeping Albertans and communities safe, boosting Alberta’s advantage, and responsible fiscal management.
- Record-high investment of $24.5 billion total health care spending
- $3.1 billion in capital funding over three years for health care infrastructure
- $158 million this year to retain, support, attract, grow, strengthen, and evolve the health-care workforce
- More than $6 billion for physician compensation and development programs
- Extending the fuel tax relief and utility rebates
- Capping post-secondary tuition fees at 2% for 2024-25
- Extending the student loan grace period from 6-months to 12-months
- Indexing the Alberta Child and Family Benefit to inflation
- $16 million in 2023-24 for municipalities to provide affordable transit
Keeping Albertans and Communities Safe
- $709 million for public security in 2023-24, an increase of $84 million
- $65 million over three years to strengthen First Nations policing
- $94 million in 2023-24 to build more recovery communities, establish health-care services, community policing hubs, and harm reduction and recovery outreach teams
Boosting Alberta’s Advantage
- Additional $176 million for the Alberta at Work initiative to address labour shortages in key economic sectors
- $111 million increase over three years to support targeted post-secondary enrolment expansion in highest-demand sectors like non-trade construction, energy, technology
- $369 million over 3 years for Alberta’s Broadband Strategy
- $100 million over 3 years for the Film and Television Tax Credit
- $54 million more per year for the Alberta Petrochemicals Incentive Program
- $24.5 million in 2023-24 for the Alberta Technology and Innovation Strategy
- $23 billion in capital spending over the next three years, including $2.3 billion over three years to build Alberta’s road and bridge network and $6.5 billion in municipal infrastructure support
Responsible Fiscal Management
- Introducing a new legislative requirement for balanced budgets, with certain exceptions for unexpected disasters and sharp revenue declines
- Limiting year-over-year operational spending to population growth and inflation
- New policies to allocate future budget surpluses, including the creation of a new Alberta Fund that can be used to pay down debt, make deposits into the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund, and fund one-time initiatives that do not lead to permanent increases in government spending
- Introducing a new legislative requirement for the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund to keep 100% of its annual net earnings in the fund
The introduction of Budget 2023 kicks off a brief legislative session which is set to conclude on March 30 – leaving the UCP just one month to pass legislation to implement the budget – and ninety days until Alberta’s fixed election date.
While it’s no surprise to see $2.8 billion in previously announced affordability measures in this budget – record investments in public health care and post-secondary sectors are clear signals that the UCP government recognize voter priorities and likely attempts to be proactive on likely wedge issues heading into the spring election.
The Alberta NDP opposition have called Budget 2023 a ‘plan for the most expensive summer ever’ – framing spending on affordability measures as an attempt to ‘buy votes’ ahead of the spring election – and challenging the provincial government’s forecasts for GDP and employment growth.
Treasury Board and Finance Minister Travis Toews, who has faced questions about whether he will run for re-election this spring, said today that he will be finalizing a decision and announcing that decision the days ahead.
While Budget 2023 may not move the needle on public opinion right away, these policies and investments – combined with the UCP’s yet-to-be-unveiled spring legislative agenda – will undoubtedly shape the issues battleground and political discourse leading into the Alberta election.