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UCP to cut seniors services by $50M if reelected

The UCP plan to, assuming they get reelected next year, cut funding for seniors services by nearly $50 million by 2025, including cuts they have already implemented.

As I was perusing Alberta’s latest provincial budget, I came across something that I thought I’d share.

According to page 138 of the budget, the UCP government plans to spend $27 million on what it calls “Seniors Services”.

The Seniors Services division of Alberta Seniors and Housing provides financial assistance programmes and services for Albertans aged 65 and over. These programmes and initiatives address issues of social isolation, elder abuse, ageism and aging in community, as well as administer these financial assistance programs:

  • Alberta Seniors Benefit
  • Supplementary Accommodation Benefit
  • Special Needs Assistance for Seniors
  • Seniors Home Adaptation and Repair Program
  • Seniors Property Tax Deferral Program

The division also administers enrolment into Alberta Health’s dental, optical, and drug programs for seniors.

Last year, they spent only $23 million; although, they had originally budgeted $26 million. Either way, the $27 million budget is an increase. Plus, the year before, they spent $20 million.

So, that’s great, right?

Well, consider this. Even though they spent only $20 million in 2020–2021, they had originally budgeted $26 million, which means they undespent by $6 million.

Not only that, but in their first year in power, the UCP government had forecasted spending $35 million on Seniors Services, yet ended up spending only $31 million, a reduction of $4 million.

And last year, even though they spent only $23 million and had budgeted $26 million, their previous target for 2021–2022, which they set in the 2020–2021 budget was $27 million. Another $4 million loss.

That brings us up to $14 million.

It gets worse though.

Here, take a look at the original targets they set in their first budget in the autumn of 2019.

2019–2020$35 million
2020–2021$35 million
2021–2022$36 million
2022–2023$36 million

The NDP spent $34 million in their final year in office, which makes it look as though the UCP originally planned to outspend the NDP in this area.

But now look at what each of those years look like, either in how much was actually spent or what the revised forecasts look like.

2019 targetActual/revisedDifference
2019–2020$35 million$31 million-$4 million
2020–2021$35 million$20 million-$15 million
2021–2022*$36 million$23 million-$13 million
2022–2023**$36 million$27 million-$9 million
Total$142 million$101 million-$41 million
* Forecast
** Estimate

So, the UCP government went from wanting to spend more than the NDP on these services to underspending on these services by over $40 million.

Plus, the government has decided to freeze spending over the next two years at the 2022–2023 level, which means those will also be each $7 million less than what the NDP had spent in their last year.

Which brings us to a total of $55 million in less spending, $49 million if you account for the marginal increases the UCP had originally planned.

So basically, $50 million less over 6 years, assuming they stay in power next year.

And it’s not just how much they’re spending on the Seniors Services division either.

Check out how much they had originally planned to spend on the Alberta Seniors Benefit every year when they released their first budget.

2019–2020$403 million
2020–2021$417 million
2021–2022$428 million
2022–2023$437 million

Now, check out the revised numbers.

2019 targetActual/revisedDifference
2019–2020$403 million$405 million$2 million
2020–2021$417 million$403 million-$14 million
2021–2022$428 million$410 million-$18 million
2022–2023$437 million$476 million$39 million

So, that’s a net increase of $9 million over the entire 4-year period.

However, keep in mind that last year, they had bumped up their forecast from $428 million to $450 million. Yet they still ended up spending only $410 million. That’s an extra $22 million.

Which means that net increase of $9 million ends up being a net decrease of $13 million over 4 years.

And given that the UCP never met their targets over the last two years, can we really trust them to follow through on their promise to increase spending on the Alberta Seniors Benefit by nearly $40 million this year?

If they underspend this year, we could end up seeing underspending by even more than $13 million over these 4 years.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news stories, focusing on municipal, provincial, and federal politics, specializing in investigative journalism and critical analysis from a leftist political lens. He also writes regular editorials on general politics and social issues.

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