The NDP government has tabled Bill 3, the Appropriation (Interim Supply) Act, to reverse cuts made by the Progressive Conservative government in the previous budget.
The province said Bill 3 would fund day-to-day operations for the government between July 1 and November 30 – providing $15.4 billion.
“The approval of this Act will provide the funds needed to continue the business of the province,” Finance Minister Joe Ceci said.
“This government will reinvest in healthcare, education, advanced education and human services.”
In addition, the legislation would reverse cuts to a number of services - $500 million to health care, an additional $40 million to post-secondary education, $103 million to education, and $39 million to human services.
“This funding means that we would avoid cutting over 1,500 healthcare worker positions,” Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said. “Alberta’s doctors will be able to see more patients.”
For education, the additional funds will go to pay for the thousands of new students expected in Alberta classrooms in September.
“The interim supply bill ensures that 12,000 new students starting school in Alberta in the fall will have the tools they need to get the best education possible,” Education Minister David Eggen said.
For post-secondary education, the province said a 1.4 percent funding cut would be reversed, and a two-year tuition freeze would be enacted.
Human Services Minister Irfan Sabir said more funding for that department will help thousands.
“Increased funding to the human services program will strengthen services for 7,100 children in care,” Sabir said.
However, during second reading Thursday afternoon, opposition MLAs were asking where the money would be coming from.
“That’s an incredibly large amount of money,” Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt said. “And the money has to come from somewhere, it doesn’t grow on trees.”
Some questioned whether the government would add to the province’s debt load.
“I think they’ll be able to find the money, they’ll find it by borrowing, and going deeper into debt,” Alberta Party leader Greg Clark said.
The bill has been tabled ahead of the NDP budget, which is expected to be released in October.
“We’ll have more to say in the weeks and months ahead about the fall budgeting process,” Hoffman said.
As for money coming in, the government has provided some answers with Bill 2, An Act to Restore Fairness to Public Revenues will increase the corporate income tax rate for profitable corporations by two percentage points – from 10 percent to 12 percent – effective July 1.
Bill 2 also includes progressively higher income taxes for people making more than $125,000.
Ceci said the changes will raise between $600 million and $800 million.
“We’ll use some of those monies for paying off these expenses that we’ve incurred,” Ceci said.
The province has also said taxes on small businesses won’t change, and other increased fees the PC government proposed will also be scrapped, including the health care levy – hikes to taxes on gas, tobacco and alcohol will stick around.
With files from Bill Fortier