Budget 2021: Protecting lives and livelihoods

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Recently, Finance Minister Travis Toews introduced Budget 2021: Protecting Lives and Livelihoods. Budget 2021 builds on the ongoing efforts of Alberta’s government to protect both lives and livelihoods during the COVID-19 pandemic. It invests in healthcare and it positions the province for economic recovery with a continued focus on the efficient delivery of government services.

Although we are one year into Alberta’s COVID-19 response, Albertans still face a long road ahead until life returns to normal. While vaccines offer some hope, ongoing delays from the federal government mean widespread immunization will not be achieved for several months yet. This means that Alberta’s health care system will continue to remain under pressure for some time.

Budget 2021 makes a historic investment in healthcare to make sure the health system is properly resourced to keep fighting this pandemic. On top of the $21.4 billion in non-COVID health care spending – nearly $1 billion more than last year – the government has set aside another $1.25 billion in contingency funds specifically to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. This represents the most ever spent on health care by any government in the province’s history.

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This year’s budget also paves the way for growth in Alberta’s post-pandemic economy. Over $20 billion in capital infrastructure projects will create 90,000 new jobs now when they are needed the most. Budget 2021 also includes $1.5 billion to support core sectors like agriculture, technology, energy and tourism, and $500 million in contingency funds to take advantage of further economic diversification opportunities that come our way later this year.

Alberta’s government is also taking a careful approach to spending that will help get the province’s finances back on track. Moving forward, government spending will be anchored to sound fiscal principles that will put us back on a path to a balanced budget. We will also keep our debt-to-GDP ratio below 30 per cent, which will allow us to bring our spending in-line with other provinces such as B.C., Saskatchewan and Ontario. Alberta’s hard-working public servants will also be asked to help find labour efficiencies so we can invest more in health care and economic recovery. While we’ve had to delay our timeline to eliminate the deficit in order to fight COVID-19, these solid fiscal principles will get us back on the path to balance as soon as possible.

In local news, the AJHL has been given the green light to begin doing 50/50 fundraisers. This means that our Crusaders will be able to take advantage of some 50/50 sales to boost their revenue. Albertans will have the chance to support Junior hockey in their communities with a new 50/50 draw (Jackpots for Junior Hockey presented by RE/MAX) that will share proceeds with Alberta’s five WHL teams and 15 AJHL teams to help offset revenues lost because of the pandemic and the suspension of play. The 50/50 draws will occur each weekend in March, with Albertans able to purchase tickets online from anywhere in the province. Let’s go Crusaders!

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Finally, it was an honour to recently celebrate locally Black History Month with some of our Francophone Black Canadian leaders. I sincerely thank everyone who was able to attend that wonderful Zoom event and salute and recognize Black Canadians’ contributions to our culture and community.

As always, it remains a privilege to serve as the MLA for Sherwood Park.

Jordan Walker is the Member of the Legislature Assembly for the Sherwood Park constituency. If you have any questions or comments about this column or any other provincial issues, he would like to hear from you. Please contact Walker’s constituency officer at 780-417-4747 or by email sherwood.park@assembly.ab.ca.

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