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Rapid Recap: Alberta’s 2024 Budget Focuses on Health Care, Education, and Safe Communities


February 29, 2024 – Today Alberta Minister of Finance Nate Horner tabled his government’s $73.2 billion budget. Budget 2024 forecasts a slim $367 million surplus due to lower revenue projections than last year’s fiscal plan. With a total expenditure of $26.2 billion on health, this budget provides an additional $1.1 billion in health care spending compared to Budget 2023. This 4.4 percent increase in funding aims to increase Alberta’s health care capacity, improve primary health care, reduce wait times, grow the workforce, and advance the Health Care Action Plan.

Overall, in this budget year, primary care is set to receive $475 millionacute care $4.4 billion, and mental health and addictions $1.13 billion. Doctor compensation is expected to cost more than $6.6 billion. Additionally, education also saw a budget increase with $9.3 billion allocated for operating expenses and $680 million in capital funding. $10 million of the Public Safety and Emergency Services’ budget will go towards hiring another 100 police officers in Calgary and Edmonton, and the Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence program was increased to $85 million.

There were no increases in personal or corporate taxes but a promised personal income tax cut, which will save Albertans a maximum of $760 per year on the first $60,000 of income, is being delayed until 2026. The new tax will cost the government $1.4 billion annually. The budget documents state that its implementation is contingent on the government’s ability to balance the budget though Minister Horner insisted they plan to proceed with the plan.  Budget 2024 did introduce new taxes on electric cars and vaping and increased tobacco taxes. A new Land Title Registry Levy will move from a fixed fee to a sliding scale that will generate $45 million in revenue this year.

Summary of Health Care in Alberta Government Budget 2024

Budget 2024 prioritizes “the delivery of high quality, reliable health services across the province” with an operating budget of $26.2 billion for the Health Ministry, up $1.1 billion, or 4.4% from the 2023-24 forecast.

Budget 2024 Includes:

  • $475 million to support the continued implementation of the Modernizing Alberta’s Primary Health Care System, including:
    • $200 million over 2 years to improve access to family physicians.
    • $10 million for primary health care initiatives in Indigenous communities.
    • $15 million to further develop a compensation model for nurse practitioners.
  • $300 million for Primary Care Networks to provide additional support for collaborative primary health care services.
  • $8 million allocated over 2 years to expand the Alberta Newborn Screening Program.
  • $10 million to support the development of a province-wide midwifery strategy.
  • $10 million over 2 years allocated to the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation Legacy Grant in Edmonton and $10 million to the Calgary Hospital Foundation, to support women’s health initiatives.
  • $140 million per year over 3 years for the yet-to-be-signed, Federal Bi-Lateral Aging with Dignity Agreement, which includes $70 million for long-term care initiatives and $70 million for home and community care initiatives.
  • $1 billion over 3 years to transform the continuing care system in response to the Facility-Based Continuing Care Review.
  • $1.55 billion total expense to continue building the Alberta Recovery Model and ensure anyone suffering from the deadly disease of addiction or facing mental health challenges has an opportunity to pursue recovery.

Prioritizing Patients

Budget 2024 “invests in world-class care by reducing wait times and improving access” through investments including:

  • $3.6 billion over 3 years in capital funding to maintain or expand health care facilities throughout the province including:
    • $810 million to advance the redevelopment and expansion of the Red Deer Regional Hospital, including Ambulatory Services.
    • $35 million to purchase new Emergency Medical Services vehicles and ambulances, upgrade the existing fleet and acquire additional equipment.
    • $25 million in additional funding for the Beaverlodge Municipal Hospital replacement project to support better access to health care for area residents.
    • $20 million over the next 3 years, including $17 million in new funding, to continue planning for a standalone Stollery Children’s Hospital.
    • $313 million for Alberta Surgical Initiative to help increase the number of surgical procedures performed in Alberta annually.
  • $2 billion per year for Drugs and Supplemental Health benefit programs, including $883 million for the seniors drug program that supports over 700,000 seniors.

Empowering Health Care Professionals

Budget 2024 prioritizes Alberta’s health care workers:

  • $126 million over 3 years for the Rural Physician Expansion Program to increase rural and Indigenous access to medical education and increase the number of family medicine and generalist physicians.
  • $6.6 billion for physician compensation and development programs, including:
    • $129 million annually for recruitment and retention of physicians who practice full-time in underserved areas.
    • $12 million increase for the existing Rural Remote Northern Program.
    • $12 million annually to enhance physician support programs.
  • $20 million per year to the Business Costs Program to enhance physician practice viability.
  • $200 million over two years will improve access to family physicians and primary health care.
  • $26 million in capital funding over three years for the University of Lethbridge Rural Medical Teaching School to provide more opportunities to train doctors in smaller communities.

Additional Points of Significance in Budget 2024

In addition to “refocusing” Alberta’s health care system, Budget 2024 outlined a few other areas in which health was significant. These include:

Strengthening Post-secondary Programs

  • $62 million over three years will create Rural Health Professional Training Centres and expand physician education.
  • $10 million in operating funding over the next three years to create additional mental health professional spaces in post-secondary schools.

Helping Those In Need

Budget 2024 also provides targeted help to vulnerable Albertans:

  • $151 million in operating expenses for Seniors, Community and Social Services.
  • $2.9 billion for the Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) program, the Alberta Seniors Benefit and Income Support programs to cover indexing for inflation and caseload changes.
  • $355 million, or an increase of 9.6%, to cover indexation and population growth, for payments under the Alberta Child and Family Benefit, provided to lower-income families.
  • An increase of $24.5 million in 2024-25 and $70 million over three years to add hundreds of new homeless shelter spaces through the Homelessness Task Force Action Plan and support operational cost pressures at shelters.
  • $85 million in 2024-25 for the Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence program.
  • $15 million over three years to the implementation of Alberta’s Safe Streets Action Plan, as well as to support women’s shelters and sexual assault counselling centres.

Caring for At-risk Albertans

Budget 2024 supports compassionate care and recovery for Albertans at risk of, or experiencing, mental health and addiction challenges:

  • $328 million in capital funding over three years to develop recovery communities and children and youth mental health facilities (consisting of $191 million in provincial funding and $137 million in federal funding).
  • $10 million to create additional mental health professional spaces at Alberta’s post-secondary institutions.
  • $10 million in capital funding over three years to plan for the development of five Adult Mental Health and Wellness Centres that will be used for the implementation of Compassionate Intervention legislation.

Additional Detail and Analysis

This Alberta budget is the first since UCP Premier Danielle Smith was re-elected in May of  2023. Premier Smith told Albertans last week during a television appearance that the government would hold the line on new spending until it had paid off the provincial debt and invested in the Heritage Fund.

This budget lays out the broad themes that the UCP will likely focus on over the next four years and is consistent with commitments made during the election campaign. This includes fiscal responsibility, efficient delivery of public services, investments in both rural Alberta and urban centres, boosting Alberta’s Heritage Fund, and improving timelines in Alberta’s health system.  In advance of today’s budget, Albertans were told to expect that it would feature fiscal restraint.

Beyond its commitment to invest in several key areas, the budget speaks to the traditionally fiscally conservative focus of the UCP. This is Alberta’s third balanced budget in a row; 2022-2023 featured a $500 million surplus and was the first balanced since 2014-2015. Budget 2023-2024 expanded upon this with a projected surplus of $2.4 billion. This new budget continues the trend of balance, though with a surplus of only $367 million.

Ultimately, despite the measures in this budget, there are still significant challenges to address in Alberta’s health care system. Of note, the budget did not include any funding for a long-promised hospital in south Edmonton. Regardless, today’s budget reaffirmed the United Conservative Party’s vision to tackle these problems over the next four years.

In response to today’s budget NDP Official Opposition’s Leader Rachel Notley asserted, “Today’s budget is a litany of broken promises that leaves Albertans worse off than they already are.”

However, after its unveiling, Minister Horner stated, “It is a solid budget based on measured choices.”