If you’ve been following my coverage of the 2023–2024 budget for Alberta, you’re probably already familiar with the fact that the UCP government released their latest budget late last month.
This is their fifth budget since being elected and their last budget before the election, which is anticipated to take place in two months.
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When the UCP dropped their first budget in October 2019, had budgeted $1.285 billion for the programme’s operating expenses that year. This would’ve been a $143 million increase over what the NDP spent in their last year.
However, when they released their annual report for that budget year, they reported actually spending $1.310 billion on the programme.
Here’s how AISH operating expense spending has looked for each year the UCP have been in power, what it’ll look like if they’re reelected, and what it was like during the NDP’s last year in power.
|2022–2023 (forecast)||$1.408 billion|
|2023–2024 (estimate)||$1.538 billion|
|2024–2025 (target)||$1.650 billion|
|2025–2026 (target)||$1.751 billion|
What we see here is that in the first year, they increased spending by $168 million, or 14.71%. However, the following year, spending increased by only $4 million, which was up less than 1%. In fact, for the last 3 years in office, the UCP have kept increases to the programme to under $100 million each year.
It wasn’t until this year, just months before the next provincial election, that funding for AISH increased by over $100 million.
During their first four years in office, the UCP increased operating expense spending by about $266 million, or about 23.29%. By comparison, the NDP, in their four years in office, increased spending on the programme by 24.45%, or $224 million.
With the new budget released last month, the UCP anticipate bumping their five-year total by another $130 million, or 34.68% since the NDP’s last year in office.
Now before we get too excited about the UCP being generous, there is another figure we should keep in mind.
In December 2018, CSS had a total AISH client caseload of 61,555. Another 3 years later, in December 2021, that number was at 72,679. That’s an increase of 18.07%, or an average annual increase of 3.61%.
So, the 23.29% increase isn’t really a 23.29% increase when you consider that the number of people receiving that new $1.408 billion also went up.
Let’s look at this another way.
At 61,555 AISH recipients in 2018–2019, that $1.142 billion in funding would work out to about $18,553 per case.
Assuming last year’s caseload of 72,679 remains the same this year, then the 2023–2024 ASH budget of $1.408 billion would have a per case amount of $19,343.
That’s an increase of about $790, or 4.26% Over a 5-year period. And if this year’s caseload increases, then that amount will drop.
On a related note, Alberta’s consumer price index increased from 140.5 in January 2019 to 160.5 in January 2023, a 14.2% increase. And that’s not including any increases seen in 2023.
So, the per case bump of 4.26% isn’t even enough to cover inflation increases, which means AISH recipients will find it even harder to make ends meet than they did 5 years ago, even though, theoretically, they’re receiving more funding.
Update (8 March 2023): An earlier version of this story had some figures in millions that should have been billions. The numbers have been updated.