CALGARY - The Alberta government is under attack by opposition politicians who say a promise of a balanced budget is being fudged, but Premier Alison Redford says nothing's changed from the government's perspective.
Associate finance minister Kyle Fawcett said earlier this week that a balanced 2013-2014 budget may not happen, saying it would only be the operating budget, which doesn't include infrastructure.
Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith says that would constitute a broken promise on the part of the Conservatives, who spoke before the election of plans to balance the budget by limiting spending.
Smith, who also promised to balance the budget during the election campaign, says Redford owes Albertans "an apology for campaigning on such an intentionally deceptive budget."
Liberal finance critic Kent Hehr says his party has been warning all along that the Tories' promise was based on shaky financial ground.
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Here's a breakdown of how the Alberta government parceled out spending last year. Information provided is <a href="http://finance.alberta.ca/business/budget/2012-13-Expense-by-Function.pdf">Expense by Function estimates</a> provided by the Alberta government.
7.1 per cent of the budget went to General Government - Includes a broad range of additional services including funding for parks and recreation, cultural activities, housing initiatives, economic development, costs to run government and debt servicing expenses (interest payments).
1 per cent of the budget went to Environmental funding - Provides for environmental monitoring and protection, including pollution control, water supply management, air quality control, garbage collection and waste disposal and a host of other environmental programs and initiatives.
Regional Planning and Development
2.7 per cent of the budget went to Regional Planning and Development - Includes amounts for planning and regional development and a portion of the grants made directly to municipalities, including the Municipal Sustainability Initiative.
Protections of Persons and Property
3.9 per cent of the budget went to Protections of Persons and Property - Includes amounts for the protection of persons and property, including amounts for policing and security, the provincial court system, correctional and rehabilitation services, firefighting, labour relations and a host of other regulatory measures.
Transportation, Communications and Utilities
4. 6 per cent of the budget went to Transportation, Communications and Utilities - Includes amounts related to road, rail and air transport and maintenance, public transit grants, as well as pipelines, utilities and telecommunications networks.
Agriculture, Resource Management and Economic Development
5.4 per cent of the budget went to Agriculture, Resource Management and Economic Development - Includes amounts for farming support programs, food supply quality monitoring and protection, weed and pest control, crop insurance programs, natural resource management, economic and rural development, irrigation and veterinary care.
11.5 of the budget went to Social Services - Includes social assistance (e.g. AISH), pension benefits, and care for children, seniors and other vulnerable Albertans.
22.9 per cent of the budget went to Education - Includes Early Childhood Services to Grade 12, as well as post-secondary education, skills training and the construction and maintenance of educational facilities.
40.9 per cent of the budget went to Health - Consists of expenses incurred to ensure necessary health services are available to Albertans and includes funding for hospitals, medical and preventative care and the construction and maintenance of provincial health facilities.
But Redford says nothing's changed and her government is "fully committed to the commitment ... made in last year's budget," adding she has always said this year's deficit would be $950 million.
Finance Minister Doug Horner also says the promise of a balanced budget for 2013-2014 will be fulfilled.
"I think everyone knew back when Redford announced this budget back before the election it was essentially a 'fudge-it budget,' yet she ran on being able to balance the books," said Hehr.
"This is not in the cards and it's an admission by this government that they're unable to do so. We've all seen this dog and pony show before."
Wildrose finance critic Rob Anderson said it is "utter nonsense" for the Tories to claim a budget is balanced without counting any money spent on infrastructure.
"This is like a family saying they have a balanced budget as long as you don't include their mortgage and car payments," he said.
(The Canadian Press, CHQR)
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