Budget 2017-18 holds the line on spending as Alberta enters the third year of economic downturn. The budget maintains spending on front-line public services, which is consistent with what the government had signaled leading up to yesterday’s release. A projected $10.3 billion deficit should remain a concern to the sector, as potential future cuts to balance the budget could significantly impact nonprofit organizations.
“While the budget provides much needed financial stability for organizations struggling to meet increased community needs and coping with reductions in other funding sources, the longer-term consequences of relying so heavily on debt to finance government operations is concerning,” says Katherine van Kooy, President and CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations (CCVO).
The budget does not include any funding to offset the increased cost to organizations of the carbon levy and minimum wage increases. And while stable funding in other program areas is welcome, the cumulative effect over time of holding the line against rising costs produces a gradual erosion that can impact service delivery on the front lines across all areas.
Funding for arts and culture programs received notable increases, with the Government delivering on $5 million of the promised $15 million in funding for the Alberta Foundation for the Arts. Creative Industries also received a sizeable boost in funding this year; however, the Alberta Media Fund saw its funding decrease.
Other program funding increases to highlight include:
- Employment and Income Support Services received increases that reflect the significant increase in demand over the past year.
- Support for Early Child Care Intervention was increased to help strengthen Alberta’s child support system.
- Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped saw an increase of $70 million.
Funding for the Community Initiatives Program and the Community Facility Enhancement Program remains flat, while increases in infrastructure spending in the Ministry of Culture and Tourism will support renovations for Fort Edmonton, Winsport, and continuing projects at the Calgary Zoo.
While program funding remains stable for another year, the budget does not put forward a plan to reduce or eliminate the deficit. CCVO continues to encourage the government to take a critical look at the current fiscal framework and revenue model, and to consider options beyond deep cuts and extended deficits. Budget 2017 is evidence that a conversation about identifying new sources of revenue is more timely than ever before.