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PCs defeat cost-cutting and reporting improvements to Fiscal Management Act

EDMONTON, AB (April 25, 2013): Last night, PC MLAs united to defeat 12 Wildrose amendments to the Fiscal Management Act that would have strengthened budget accountability for Alberta taxpayers, grown the province’s savings and limited government’s ability to spend beyond its means. 

Wildrose Finance Critic Rob Anderson, who led the Wildrose efforts to improve the legislation, said the amendments were all reasonable measures that Albertans want to see incorporated into how the government spends tax dollars and how it reports budgets to the public. The Fiscal Management Act eliminates several strict rules around debt and scraps several key budget reporting mechanisms in order to intentionally hide the true scale of the government’s fiscal incompetence. “This bill, maybe more than any other legislation put forward under this Premier, epitomizes the culmination of this government’s track record of incompetence and fiscal mismanagement,” Anderson said. “With these amendments, Wildrose has tried to force measures to implement fiscal responsibility and accountability to taxpayers but sadly the PCs have banded together to defeat them.” The Wildrose amendments to the Fiscal Management Act included:

  • Section 4 – Ending the 30-year raid on the Heritage Fund The government should not continue to raid the Heritage Savings Trust Fund to pay the government’s bills. The amendment would have forced them to leave 100% of the interest in the Fund starting in 2014.
  • Section 1(1) - Restoring “actual” expense instead of only “operational” This amendment would have ended the PC government’s shell game of dividing spending into operational and capital expenses and only including operations in calculating the deficit. The previous act called for the presentation of “actual expense” but the PCs have insisted on hiding the true numbers from Albertans to cover for the government’s lack of fiscal discipline.
  • Section 6 – Keeping it illegal for the government to put us back in debt The current Section 6 sets a so-called borrowing limit that enables the government to borrow up to $40 billion. Alberta does not need to go into debt to build capital. There is more than enough revenue if government would responsibly manage its pocket book, and the Wildrose has shown this is possible with the 10-Year Debt Free Capital Plan and Wildrose Financial Recovery Plan.
  • Section 9 – Ensuring the budget has a real bottom-line The provincial budget should be clear, transparent and consolidated. This amendment would have made sure that the budget presents the consolidated net revenue and expenses in a clear and understandable format.
  • Section 11 – Restoring the key information in quarterly reports By refusing to release a revised deficit number in his quarterly updates, Finance Minister Doug Horner opened his government to a charge of violating their own law. The Fiscal Management Act attempts to change that law.  This amendment would make sure that quarterly updates show how accurate the budget projections were and where the year’s finances are heading.
  • Section 10 – Restoring minimal requirements in government business plans This amendment would return mandatory reporting of basic items like core business plans to the budget. In the current Fiscal Management Act, the Minister of Finance will have complete discretion over what degree of planning is reported to the public.
  • Section 12 – Restoring the Historical Fiscal Summary Since the Klein and Dinning days, the budget has presented a Historical Fiscal Summary at the back of the fiscal plan tables so that Albertans could easily see where we are and where we are going. The Fiscal Management Act scraps it. This amendment would bring it back.
  • Section 13 – Strengthening Auditor General budget oversight This amendment would have legislated the Finance Minister to either immediately accept and implement any future Auditor General recommendations or make a public declaration as to why the Auditor General recommendations were not accepted.

By defeating the Wildrose amendments, Anderson said the PCs are putting future generations of Albertans at even further risk. “This government has already vapourized Alberta’s savings, plunged us back into debt and risked the long-term sustainability of core programs with years of overspending, squandering Alberta’s wealth,” Anderson said. “Now is the time to get a grip on our budget before it spins way out of control. I am afraid we have missed an opportunity to do that by passing this legislation with absolutely no changes to it.”