Budget 2023 is an opportunity to promote generational fairness
Budget 2023 is an opportunity to improve the health and wellbeing of all generations, from the early years onwards. Generation Squeeze recommendations on priority actions to achieve this goal are summarized below. Some require bold leadership – others point to easy steps to improve accountability. All are pressing, as we seek to make life more affordable for Albertans, and steward wisely our natural resources so that we leave behind at least as much as we inherit.
Generation Squeeze will analyze Budget spending and impacts by age, and mobilize findings across our 37,000+ network. We welcome opportunities to discuss our recommendations in more detail, and to collaborate with MLAs from all parties to make Alberta work for all generations.
Generation Squeeze 2023 Budget Recommendations
Budget 2023 should commit to prompt implementation of the Alberta-Canada affordable child care agreement, including supporting caregivers to quickly transition their fee structures, to ease the growing financial squeeze for Alberta parents. In addition, Budget 2023 should commit to making $10 a day the maximum child care fee for everyone, not just the average, with no fee for low-income households. We should apply the same logic to child care as public education and medical care – more affluent individuals are asked to pay more via taxes – not via higher fees at the door. As we do, let’s be sure that all child care workers earn pay equity salaries, not parking-lot attendant wages.
Budget 2023 should commit to the principle that restoring housing affordability for all requires home prices to stall so that earnings can catch up, because a home should be in reach of what hard work can earn. To align policy with this principle, Budget 2023 should put a modest price on housing inequity via a small annual surtax on the most expensive homes, a proposal supported by 68% of Albertans according to recent polling. The surtax would apply only to homes over $1 million – it won’t cost the majority of Albertans a penny more. But it will help ratchet down the runaway home prices driving up wealth inequity and crushing affordability for younger generations, while raising $5 billion annually to invest in deeply affordable, energy-efficient rental and co-op homes.
Budget 2023 should commit to upholding pollution pricing, and affirm that today’s affordability challenges should not be addressed by scaling back climate action. Doing so is false economy, given the enormous immediate and long-term costs of climate change; and it is intergenerationally unjust, given that younger generations face the lion’s share of the burden of climate risks. In addition, Budget 2023 should incentivize carbon sequestration using nature-based solutions. This notably includes: (i) preventing further damage to old growth forests, wetlands and peatlands, given evidence of the enormous ecosystem and sequestration benefits they offer which cannot be meaningfully replaced once lost; and (ii) realizing the carbon drawdown potential of regenerative agricultural practices that increase soil carbon, and decrease reliance on water and fossil-fuel based inputs.
Budget 2023 should improve accountability for investing in wellbeing from the early years onwards by integrating the following three metrics. This recommendation requires almost no new spending – just leadership on better monitoring.
Budget 2023 should report on the ratio between spending on key social investments relative to medical care spending because science shows that health does not begin with medical care. It begins where Albertans are born, grow, live, work and age. As pandemic pressures accelerate demands for more medical care spending, it’s increasingly important to make clear that investments in social supports like housing, child care, and poverty reduction are necessary to create health. Reporting on the social:medical spending ratio will help Alberta prioritize investing in wellbeing and illness prevention with as much urgency as investing in treating illness after the fact. Budget 2023 should call on the Canadian Institute for Health Information to facilitate this reporting by using their data and expertise to track social spending, alongside spending on medical care.
Budget 2023 should include an accurate and meaningful assessment of spending by age. Age-based spending data is necessary for analyzing whether aging Albertans are contributing a fair share for the services they want and need; and whether we are leaving an irresponsible legacy of unpaid bills versus preserving what’s sacred for generations to come. See this study for more information.
- Budget 2023 should call on Statistics Canada to remedy inaccurate reporting on inflation in home prices. Data that under-estimate inflation by failing to adequately account for the skyrocketing price of established homes risk sending the wrong signal to the Bank of Canada as it manages interest rates and monetary policy. While low interest rates have economic benefits, they also contribute to driving up home prices, as the lower cost of borrowing allows buyers to bid up prices. This systemic problem erodes intergenerational fairness by reducing affordability for younger residents while growing wealth for established (often older) home owners. See this report for more information.