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Alta. ag minister talks provincial budget

Alta. ag minister talks provincial budget

The ag ministry had its budget cut by about $88 million compared to 2018-19

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Reducing spending across multiple ministries is necessary to ensure Alberta remains fiscally responsible.

That’s the message Agriculture and Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen shared with during a recent interview about Alberta’s first budget under Premier Jason Kenney.

“We knew that we had to get spending under control,” he said. “We take very seriously the intergenerational debt that has been placed on Albertans and that’s why we’re trying to get our fiscal house in order and spend within our means.”

In total, Alberta plans to reduce spending by $1.3 billion this year. Those cuts will affect 18 ministries including Dreeshen’s.

Agriculture and Forestry will be allotted $879 million in 2019-20. That figure is a decrease of about 9.1 per cent, or $88 million, compared to the $967 million the ministry received in the 2018-19 budget under Rachel Notley’s NDP government.

“When it comes to agriculture, we cut more than any other department,” Dreeshen said. “But it was very targeted. We ran the department like a business for the last six months and looked at where we could find efficiencies, we looked at programs that weren’t achieving the economic goals of the province and we made specific decisions.”

One area of decreased spending is research.

The ministry hopes to save $34.1 million over four years by switching to producer and industry-led research.

Consultations on how to approach this framework will occur soon.

“We really want to reform how Alberta does research,” Dreeshen said. “We’re going to have a bunch of consultations in the next month or so on how to achieve outcomes that benefit farmers.”

The consultations will include farmers, crop organizations, and academia, he said.

While the spending cuts affect multiple areas of the ministry, farmers shouldn’t be worried.

Alberta farmers can expect to receive the same kinds of front-line programs and support services they’re used to, Dreeshen said.

“We are still spending over $800 million in key and important farm programs,” he said. “When it comes to safety nets, they are remaining whole and premiums are staying the same. We are streamlining efficiencies, but still spending where we need to – much like a farm would.”

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