Budget 2020: we pay more, services cut, corporations get big tax breaks

Even with deep cuts to public services, and with $436 million in new taxes, fees, licenses and premiums, the UCP are making Alberta’s debt and deficit worse.

Not that deficits are the problem Jason Kenney says they are. But deficits are why we are seeing all these cuts and tax increases, right?

No. Last year, Jason Kenney blew up Alberta finances with a $4.7 billion tax cut to corporations. That tax cut failed to create a single job. In fact, Alberta has lost 50,000 jobs under the Kenney plan.

And we are paying a steep prince. Here are some of the features of today’s budget:

We all pay more

  • Albertans will pay $436 million more in taxes, premiums, licenses and fees. This is over and above the increases from the October budget. And because of Jason Kenney, electricity bills, car insurance, tuition and school fees have gone up.
  • The Kenney government increased personal income taxes by $600 million over three years.
  • The UCP has eliminated the freeze on education property taxes, so expect to pay more if you own a home.

Fewer jobs

  • The so-called, ‘blueprint for jobs’ is a re-stating of the idea that a $4.7 billion corporate tax cut will create employment. Kenney promised 55,000 new jobs, but Alberta has already lost 50,000. Companies like Husky have taken the tax cut and invested it in other provinces and the USA.
  • The budget creates more jobs losses in the public sector. Jason  Kenney will cut $600 million by not replacing public sector workers as they leave.
  • The UCP will cut 1,400 jobs from the public sector, in addition to job losses stemming from the October budget.

Cuts

  • They are cutting $72 million from seniors drug coverage.
  • There is an effective cut to Alberta Health services of $500 million.
  • The Kenney government is cutting $135 million in real dollars from hospitals.
  • There is $120 million cut from schools, in addition to the fact the UCP is not funding enrollment.
  • Five-year-old kids with special needs will no longer get PUF funding, meaning problems in classrooms, and higher costs in the future.

Magical budgeting

Even though the deficit is getting larger, the UCP says they can balance the budget by 2023. That’s because they are relying on unrealistic economic projections. The budget projects a 2.5% growth in the Alberta economy in 2020, while five major banks are projecting an average of 1.7%. The UCP project an average oil price of $58/barrel, when the price has been hovering in the $45 range for some time. And Jason Kenney predicts 7.5% increases in revenue in 2021-22 and 2022-23, when private sector forecasts are much lower.

Summary

  • Jason Kenney promised lower taxes, and we are getting higher taxes.
  • Jason Kenney promised more jobs, and we have fewer jobs.
  • Jason Kenney promised a lower debt and deficit, they are higher.
  • Jason Kenney promised no cuts to front line services, we are seeing deep cuts to front line services.
  • The only promise Jason Kenney has kept is his $4.7 billion tax cut to big corporations that are already earning a profit. Everyone else in Alberta will suffer to pay for that gift to Kenney’s pals.

Yvonne Fast passes away

We have just learned about the passing of Yvonne Fast.

Yvonne spent her entire career in CUPE. She served as the President of the now defunct local at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton, then as President of CUPE Alberta, worked as a National Representative in Red Deer and Edmonton, health care coordinator, and Regional Director from 2014-2018.

It’s no exaggeration to say she dedicated her life to CUPE.

Donations can be made in her name to the Canadian Cancer Society.

Rest in peace Yvonne.

CUPE Local 38 President Responds to Farkas’ Vampire Comments

Calgary, AB

CUPE Local 38 President D’Arcy Lanovaz shares Mayor Nenshi’s concern about the tone of the debate regarding retirement allowances.

“The notion that this level of spending was directed by city employees or is somehow nefarious is absurd,” says Lanovaz.  “The use of terms like ‘blood-sucking vampires’ is unacceptable and does nothing to resolve tensions around this matter.”

At the same time as City Council is dragging its feet on addressing the tax shift, they continue to imply that there is a lack of understanding around the origin and rationale for the longstanding benefit.

“As we move into budget review in 2020 we ask that the Council be transparent, civil and respectful of the hard work, value and contribution city employees provide,” says Lanovaz.  “Our members are reasonable and want to be part of a respectful conversation with the Council.”

“Our members simply come to work every day to make the City a better and safer place and shouldn’t be subjected to insults and blame,” he says.

The scope of which employees will be impacted by this issue needs to be assessed. The benefit is outlined in at least one collective bargaining agreement between the city and the Calgary chapter of the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) and it is yet to be determined how this will impact other collective agreements.

“In these economic times, when the City is looking to adjust budgets and looking at every aspect of operations City Council, City employees and Calgarians need to work together and be forward-thinking in resolution rather than sling insults, point fingers or assign blame,” says Lanovaz. “Only by working together in cooperation can we resolve these issues and focus on keeping Calgary as one of the most livable cities in the world.”

Backgrounder

D’Arcy Lanovaz is Chair of the Coalition of Civic Unions which represents employees across all disciplines within the City of Calgary.

CUPE Local 38 represents the administrative and technical workers at the City of Calgary and Enmax as well as Calgary Parking Authority workers.

Education rally – This is who we march for

This is who we march for.  Today in Edmonton CUPE members who work in the K-12 sector as Educational Assistants, Custodial workers, tradespeople and others staged a rally and information picket to protest Jason Kenney’s cuts to education.  Kenney’s broken promises mean larger class sizes, fewer staff, high fees and reduced cleaning and maintenance at schools.  No one voted for this.  To see more pictures from today’s rally click the link below:

Rally and Information Picket Against Kenney’s Cuts to Education

 

Government wage rollbacks will hurt CUPE members

You’ve likely heard that the Jason Kenney government is seeking wage rollbacks of between 2-5% for different groups of public sector union employees.

This represents another broken promise by Jason Kenney and it will hurt hundreds of thousands of Albertans who work hard every day in our provincial government and health care system.

I don’t need to tell you that many members of the public service haven’t seen a cost of living wage increase in years, so asking them to take a wage reduction is a slap in the face from a Premier who earns $200,000 per year on top of a $120,000 pension from his years as a Member of Parliament.

For the moment, the Kenney government is only seeking wage reductions for a limited group of union members that does not include CUPE. Unions (like AUPE, UNA and HSAA) who have collective agreements in place with arbitrated wage re-openers in 2019 are the subject of this attack.

Our friends and family members in UNA, HSAA and AUPE are under attack by Kenney,  who is seeking to use the wage re-opener arbitration process to roll back the wages of workers who haven’t had raises in at least two years. CUPE will stand with them as they fight back.

But while CUPE isn’t the union in Jason Kenney’s sites at the moment, these decisions affect us in several concrete ways:

  1. There are a couple of CUPE locals in the K-12 sector who have wage arbitrations this year. While the Kenney government has been silent on what position they will take in those arbitrations, there is no reason to believe they won’t seek wage reductions.
  2. Several other CUPE locals have ‘me-too’ agreements in their contracts which tie their wages to settlements made by the unions being attacked.
  3. Rest assured that if Jason Kenney can win wage reductions from AUPE, HSAA, the Nurses or other groups, they will try the same tactics with CUPE.  Just because we are not first, doesn’t mean we don’t have just as much on the line.

CUPE will do everything possible to fight wage reductions in the public sector. We will work with these unions and the Alberta Federation of Labour to let Jason Kenney know this is not an acceptable way to treat Alberta’s employees.  We need you to also speak out. Let your MLAs know what you think of this. Make your voices heard. Together, we can win back our Alberta.

 

In solidarity,

Rory Gill, President
CUPE Alberta

Budget low lights – how Jason Kenney’s budget hurts everyone

During the provincial election, Jason Kenney promised to ‘maintain or increase’ public services, lower taxes and bring down the deficit. His first budget breaks all three of those promises.

Here are some of the details.

Pensions

  • The provincial budget takes control of public service pension plans away from workers. The UCP wants to make decisions about benefits and investments of the plan. Just this year, workers gained full partnership in the management of our pensions (like every other province). Jason Kenney’s budget wipes out that gain and grabs power over our retirement funds.

Education

  • Base instruction funding for grades 1-3 students in metro/urban areas is cut from $8,201 to $6,883, a 16% cut.
  • Funding for increased enrollment will continue this year but be stopped after that.
  • Funding for Educational Assistants (who provide help to kids with special needs) has been cut.
  • Class size reduction funding has been cut.
  • The programs to keep school fees low have been cut.

Health Care

  • A $100 million cut in funding for nurses.
  • A $90 million cut to drug coverage.
  • At least 46,000 seniors will lose drug coverage.
  • Ambulance services will be cut by $11 million.
  • Less funding for acute care services in hospitals.
  • A delay in the building of a new hospital in south Edmonton, and delays to much needed improvements at the Royal Alex and Misericordia.
  • Delay in building the new cancer center in Calgary.
  • Work on a new hospital for Red Deer has stopped.

Municipal services

  • Jason Kenney has broken his explicit platform promise to maintain the city charter with Edmonton & Calgary and the funding arrangements included it in.
  • Alberta will no longer pay property tax on its buildings, meaning a cut to municipal funding of about $81 million.
  • Municipalities with a population of under 5,000 will go from paying nothing for police services to paying 70% of those costs.
  • Funding for new LRT lines are delayed without a renewal date. Funding for Calgary’s Green line is being cut from $555 million to $75 million – putting 20,000 construction jobs at risk.
  • Badly needed Edmonton projects like the Terwillegar interchange and the Stadium Station safety upgrades are on hold.
  • Funding for flood mitigation in Calgary is being cut between $30-$50 million.
  • Other regional infrastructure projects are being cut by $50 million.
  • The amount of fines and penalties collected by municipalities has been cut and kept by the province.

Post Secondary education

  • The tuition freeze has been lifted. Tuition is expected to increase by 21% over three years.
  • The education tax credit has been removed.
  • Interest rates on student loans have been increased by 1%.
  • The Kenney government reduced funding for post-secondary institutions but maintained funding for five private, religious universities.

Taxes & fees

  • Every single Albertan will pay higher provincial taxes as Kenney has not indexed tax brackets. This is a $600 million tax increase.
  • Car insurance fees are increasing.
  • Vehicle registration and recreational vehicle registration fees are increasing.
  • Caps on electricity prices are being removed.
  • Municipal taxes will likely increase to cover lower transfers from the province.
  • New fees on tourism levies – like hotel rooms and Airbnb accommodations.
  • Increased tobacco and vaping taxes.
  • A provincial capital cost allowance has been adopted, meaning a further lowering of corporate taxes by about $370 million.
  • Fees for immigrant programs go from $0 to $500.

Assistance for low income Albertans

  • Employment and income support programs are being reduced by 20% over four years.
  • $45 million in rent supports are gone.
  • $44 million in housing supports have been cut.
  • About 165,000 families living just above the poverty line will see lower child and family benefits – including 55,000 families who will lose them completely. These benefits were credited with cutting child poverty in half in Alberta.
  • AISH funding will be de-indexed. As of January, that will mean a reduction of $30/month. In four years the difference will be closer to $120/month for people with disabilities.

Job creation

  • Elimination of the scientific research and experimental development credit, which will reduce research into new technologies.
  • Removal of the interactive digital media credit, which targeted job creation in software design.

Other

  • Putting lottery funds into general revenue. Previously these funds were used for numerous not-for-profit and charitable organizations.

What are the alternatives? Don’t we have to balance the budget?

Jason Kenney says he will balance the budget by 2023 – the exact same timeline the Notley NDP government was working toward without all the cuts. Under Kenney – the budget deficit is expected to increase by $2 billion this year!

What’s the difference?

  • The Kenney government gave a $4.7 billion tax cut to already profitable corporations. They claimed this would create jobs, but companies like Husky merely pocketed the windfall while laying off hundreds in Calgary. In fact, since the corporate tax cut came into effect on July 1, 27,000 jobs have been lost in Alberta.
  • The UCP has cut the oil by rail plan, which according to their own documents would have brought in $1 billion in revenue this year, or $8.5 billion over four years. And that’s not even factoring in the $1.5 billion it cost to cancel the contract.

The Kenney cutbacks save $1.3 billion. The corporate tax give-away cost $4.5 billion. Cancelling oil by rail cost $2.5 billion this year alone. And our deficit is growing higher under Jason Kenney than it would have been under the NDP.

These are the choices Jason Kenney has made.

 

Have we missed anything? Gotten something wrong? Email larab@cupe.ca with suggestions.