A Tale of Two Budgets

3 minute read

Spring may still be a month away, but politicos across the country are already coming out of hibernation to welcome budget season. Budgets are always as much about the politics as they are about the money. But this year, two provinces have more riding on their budgets than usual. With Alberta’s budget dropping last week and Ontario’s on the way, let’s take a look at the dynamics that are shaping these provincial fiscal plans and what their respective leaders have to gain – or lose. 


Why is this budget different from all other budgets? In just a few months, Ontarians will have their say on whether or not to keep Doug Ford in the Premier’s chair at Queen’s Park. And whereas Ford’s popularity skyrocketed early on in the pandemic, he’s since sunk to the bottom of the barrel in terms of favorability ratings. The Ontario PCs are still comfortably leading their competition, which is split between the Liberals and NDP, but a majority government may no longer be in the cards

Will Ford, who isn’t known for being the most subtle politician, take advantage of the forthcoming budget and use it to help voters feel the love? That appears to be where he’s headed. Just last week, the Premier announced that he would be scrapping vehicle licence renewal fees – putting $120 a year back into Ontarians’ pockets and sending up to a billion dollars back into the economy. Is there any better way – other than $1 beers – of winning voters’ hearts than sending them a cheque? 

Whether or not Ford is eyeing the budget as a means of drumming up partisan support remains to be seen. Nevertheless, his recent efforts to postpone the budget until late April – a move that opponents have already labeled a campaign trick – signals that a number of populist surprises may still come. 


Unlike Ontario, Alberta’s next election is still a ways away. However, Premier Jason Kenney is in dire need of a political lifejacket. In April, Kenney will face an internal leadership review that could spell the end of his tenure of premier. The one-time Conservative wunderkind, then, is likely counting on last week’s announcement to buy him some goodwill and time with party faithful. At the very least, he’s hoping that the budget gives his colleagues a reason to think twice about ousting him come spring. 

As Alberta begins to move away from pandemic restrictions and attempts a return to normal, this budget may be just what Kenney needs in order to show his caucus that he remains their best chance at electoral victory in 2023. Right now, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Kenney’s popularity has plummeted throughout the pandemic, reaching an approval rating of just 26% back in January. Meanwhile, Rachel Notley’s NDP is consistently polling above the governing UCP and the possibility of another orange wave in the west seems more attainable every day. 

But if there’s one thing that can convince Albertans to give Kenney a second chance, it’s a balanced budget. Luckily for him, rising oil prices have created a rare opportunity to put the province’s finances back in black. Will a $511 million surplus and $62.2 billion estimated revenue growth be enough to redeem Jason Kenney and the United Conservatives in voters’ eyes? That remains to be seen. 
Check out Summa Strategies’ recap of Alberta Budget 2022 here, and keep an eye out for insights on Ontario’s upcoming budget – whenever it may come.

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