The “stay-the-course” 2021 provincial budget contains few surprises for local businesses, said a spokesperson for the Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce.
But that’s a good thing, in terms of no new taxes, fee increases, or unexpected spending cuts, said Reg Warkentin, the chamber’s policy and advocacy manager.
Like most Red Deerians, Warkentin had hoped to see more money for Red Deer hospital expansion in the budget.
However, he was pleased to see other large capital projects, such as the downtown justice centre and the twinning of Hwy 11, going ahead as expected to create more jobs.
From the perspective of impact on local businesses, he believes, “this is the right budget for the situation we are in… It’s not a caviar budget, it’s a macaroni budget.”
The province included $4 billion in COVID-19-related spending in the budget. Given this amount, he would have liked to have seen more provincial assistance programs for Alberta businesses that were most impacted by the restrictions around limiting the spread of COVID-19.
“We’ll have to advocate more for our hospitality sector, in particular,” he concluded.
Warkentin credited the provincial government for spending on a recovery program for the tourist industry. And he was glad to see some diversification incentive programs for the aerospace, pharmaceutical, life sciences and liquefied gas industries. The latter can be used to off-set the use of coal in Asia, said Warkentin.
The unexpectedly positive news is that, despite falling corporate tax revenues, the province was able to reap more money from gas and oil prices climbing higher than predicted — which means the provincial deficit is less than anticipated, said Warkentin.
“It could have been much worse. It goes to show the resiliency of Alberta’s economy. There are still a lot of people out there, figuring out how to make it work in this environment.”