UPDATED: UCP’s August fiscal update hides severity of budget cuts

An earlier version of this article misrepresented data from the 2020–2021 fiscal update.

In an earlier version of this story, I had misrepresented information from the first quarter fiscal update presented by Travis Toews, Alberta’s finance minister, last month.

In the story, I had inadvertently presented the Schedule 4 of the 2020–2021 budget instead of Schedule 6 and compared it to the operating expenses outlined in last month’s fiscal update. Schedule 6 summarizes operating expenses; Schedule 4 summarizes all operations, including but not limited to operating expenses.

As a result, it made it seem as though there was a larger reduction in operating expenses than originally proposed in February.

My mistake was seeing the line items by ministry, listed under “Expenses”, and not confirming that these were indeed operating expenses.

Here is the actual comparison of Schedule 6 from February and the operating expenses from the fiscal update.

2018–2019 Actual2019–20 Budget2019–20 Forecast2019–20 Actual2020–21 Estimate2020–21 Budget2020–21 Forecast
Advanced Education$5,392$5,117$5,472$5,478$5,126$5,126$5,305
Agriculture and Forestry$967$879$876$868$833$833$827
Children’s Services$1,492$1,586$1,560$1,548$1,636$1,636$1,636
Community and Social Services$3,634$3,910$3,847$3,965$3,910$3,910$3,909
Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women$236$218$217$205$185$185$173
Economic Development, Trade and Tourism$333$286$285$282$281$298$296
Environment and Parks$574$610$577$558$532$532$508
Executive Council$17$20$20$18$17$17$17
Indigenous Relations$213$190$179$162$203$203$104
Justice and Solicitor General$1,452$1,449$1,444$1,442$1,443$1,443$1,443
Labour and Immigration$208$219$213$196$209$209$204
Municipal Affairs$284$257$255$244$238$241$241
Seniors and Housing$630$637$634$635$637$637$637
Service Alberta$534$521$513$494$482$482$479
Treasury Board and Finance$2,205$1,842$1,853$1,903$1,693$1,693$1,541
Legislative Assembly$136$157$150$140$126$126$126
In-year savings-$59-$59-$18

While there’s still a reduction in spending overall, compared to the last budget of the NDP, and even compared to the UCP’s budget last year, that reduction is not as pronounced as I presented it in the previous version of this story.

Likewise, while some ministries still see a reduction in spending (education and finance seem to be hit the most), some will see an increase (such as health and advanced education).

I have not analyzed these numbers to account for population growth or inflation.

I apologize for my reckless inattention to detail in the research I performed to write the original article. This oversight was a disservice to my readers, and was unfair to the UCP government. There is much to hold them accountable to that doesn’t rely on inaccurate reporting, unintentional or otherwise.

I hope that this does not detract from the accuracy of the dozens of other articles I have written this year, and I intend to learn from this grave error to improve the rigour I use in my research and writing.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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