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Alberta Budget: Smith’s prudent approach to budgeting is laudable

Le 29 février 2024 (En anglais seulement) – The Smith government’s decision to invest in the Heritage Fund is prudent, according to a researcher from the Montreal Economic Institute’s Alberta office.

“Given the recent boom in resource revenues, it’s wise to set some funds aside for a rainy day,” explains Krystle Wittevrongel, senior policy analyst and Alberta project lead at the MEI. “The Smith government is right to resist calls for higher spending, and its prudent approach is laudable.”

The government of Alberta is expected to run a $367 million surplus in the 2024-25 fiscal year. As is required by the province’s fiscal framework, half of the surplus will be used to repay maturing debt.

Nevertheless, the province’s debt will increase by $2.3 billion by March 31st, 2025, reaching $78.4 billion.

The government plans to send $2 billion into the Heritage Fund this year. It expects to reach a balance of $23.8 billion by end of year. It has also pledged to reinvest any investment earnings it generates into said fund.

The Heritage Fund, also known as the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund, is a sovereign wealth fund aimed at investing and saving resource revenue for future generations of Albertans.

The government was able to maintain its budget surplus by keeping the growth in program spending low, at 3.9 per cent, at nearly half the rate of inflation and plus population growth.

The researcher also praises the government’s approach to the opening up of nurse-practitioner and pharmacist-care clinics, which will help increase access to care in a budget-friendly way.

“Alberta’s nurse practitioners and pharmacists are capable of doing a lot more than they’ve been doing,” notes Wittevrongel. “Allowing them to run clinics and provide certain diagnoses and treatments, or refer to specialists for more complex cases, is a very good way to improve access to health care for all Albertans.”

The government is allocating $15 million towards compensation of nurse practitioners acting in a primary care capacity.

The province’s nurse practitioners learn how to assess, diagnose, and treat multiple conditions, as well as order tests, prescribe certain medications, and refer to specialists when necessary.

Earlier this year, the Smith government promoted pharmacy clinics as another means to improve access to primary care in the province.

In Alberta, pharmacists also have the training and license to not only renew and adjust prescriptions, but also prescribe new medication when needed.

The researcher is hopeful that this will help improve access to care for the roughly 600,000 Albertans without a family physician.

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The MEI is an independent public policy think tank with offices in Montreal and Calgary. Through its publications, media appearances, and advisory services to policy-makers, the MEI stimulates public policy debate and reforms based on sound economics and entrepreneurship.

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