Thursday, August 27, 2009

Alberta Budget Cuts Coming - Can We Do Them Better This Time?

Well we are going ot see a $430M set of budget cuts this fiscal ending March 31, 2010and a requirement for an additional $2B in the year after that. Lets hope this time we do the cutting judiciously and strategically so we maintain key programs and services, especially to vulnerable Albertans.

Already we are seeing cutbacks in departments and memos are coming out from Deputy Ministers with staff directives eliminating overtime, out of province travel and so forth. This is all consistent with the fiscal update announcements earlier this week. It should not be a surprise.
Here is a window on "yesteryear" back in 2001 and a memo from Richard Ouellet, the fellow in Children's Services who was recently found in contemtp of court. It was a cost cutting exercise then, just as we face now. Question is, have we learned anything from those past experiences? This time can we avoid the kind of damage done to kids and others like the last time government had to impose budget cuts? Time will tell, but are you optimistic?

> From: Richard Ouellet
> Sent: November 16, 2001 11:42 AM
> To: Interim - CFS10 All
> Subject:
> 16 November 2001.
> To all staff.
> Bill has asked me to share the following with you on behalf of the
> Management Team. As Bill mentioned in his letter to staff yesterday we
> need to continue to scrutinize expenditures to meet our budget targets.
> In order to achieve this it is critical that we continue to assertively
> implement cost management strategies that have been developed over the
> past several weeks. These strategies are based on the principle that any
> changes will not affect the safety of children.

It is imperative that all staff are aware of, understand and support
> these strategies. The next few months will require your help to ensure
> that we continue to provide quality and responsive services to the
> children and families we support.
The first phase of our cost management involved a structural review
> of our organization. While there are a few areas yet to be completed we
> have made significant progress in reducing the administrative costs of the
> Authority.
A second key element of our strategy was the development of a Cost
> Management document that was distributed to all NCCYFs and CFRO in early
> November. I encourage you to read the document and discuss these
> strategies with your manager and co-workers, as well as bring forward any
> other ideas you may have.
The third phase has been a detailed review of all contracted
> services which has resulted in the reduction or termination of several
> Agency contracts and a request for a 1% reduction in contract costs for
> the remaining agencies. While these adjustments have been difficult we
> have remained true to the underlying principles inherent in the four
> pillars of our service plan. I have provided each NCCYF and CFRO manger
> with a copy of the attached listing of Agencies who received notice of
> contract reduction or termination on November 15, 2001. I should note that
> while the notice was given yesterday the effective date for the changes is
> February 15, 2002.
We know there are a lot of pressures on you, your peers, on
> agencies, stakeholders and the community. These have not been easy times.
> Management is asking a great deal from you and it is important for you to
> fully understand the measures being implemented and how they will affect
> you and the people we serve. We are confident that together we can
> achieve our goals.
> M. Richard Ouellet

Isn't it interesting how the more things change the more they stay the same. Lets hope we are wiser this time in how we implement program cuts that in the Klein days. I am optimistic by nature but will be watching carefully to see if my faith is well founded.


  1. I live in Alberta9:22 pm

    Thanks for this Ken. I thought our government only did cutbacks in the early 90's but obviously I am wrong. I hope we do better this time as well.

  2. Anonymous11:33 pm

    It is clear to me that right now Alberta's fiscal fortunes are directly tied to Oil and Gas revenues. We need to build the knowledge-based economy that government constantly makes references to. The way to diversify the economy and create innovation is through continued investment in the post-secondary sector. A knowledge-based economy needs educated citizens.

  3. One of the successes from the last big reorganisation of the education sector back in the early Klien years was the they "enveloped money". That was important to maintain frontline education services.

    Maybe it is time to seriously assess whether the school board function is really that essential.

  4. Anonymous10:58 am

    I'd like to see at least 20% cuts coming across the board and then further tax cuts like the Progressive Conservative Mike Harris did in Ontario in the 90's.

  5. Anonymous5:24 pm

    Ah but if you did a "line and line" analysis of the Ontario Budget, like I did, that had cuts that went retroactive in Mr. Harris's day, you will have discovered that he replaced public servants with consultants,in some cases at twice the cost. So the question is are you going to just look conservative for ideology sake, or are we going to concentrate our efforts on effective management? I did not even get into the capacity issues that were lost in the Ontario public service that gave rise to inadequate inspections that contributed to the Walkerton, Ontario crisis. You do cuts across the board you better not get sick, need help, need protection, drink your water, or loose your government I.D.