The affordability measures in Alberta’s 2023 budget are not long term solutions, but more temporary fixes made with the upcoming election in mind, according to one Lethbridge political science professor.
“The reality is this is a political and election orientated budget, and I don’t think anybody is surprised by that,” says professor of political science at the University of Lethbridge, Lars Hallstrom. “I think there are some things there that do definitely address affordability, I wouldn’t suggest that they are long term or solutions. They’re sort of band aids and let’s see what we can do in the short term for it.”
The measures include areas like gas tax and the tuition cap for the 2024-2025 school year.
Hallstrom says students these days can have multiple jobs and still struggle to scrape things together, and can’t prioritize being in school because of bills that need to be paid. He adds that bills are becoming more and more expensive and that the deferral is a good short term benefit.
“So again, it’s a little bit not a long term strategic response to student economic issues, but it does provide a little bit of immediate relief,” says Hallstrom. “There’s been a little bit more of a recognition that students aren’t just sort of complaining, but they may actually have some legitimate concerns about what it means to be a post secondary student in Alberta in the early 2020s.”
Hallstrom suggests the government has started to take notice of evolving challenges of post secondary students in Alberta and the relationship between government and post secondaries is evolving.
“We’ve seen a lot of attention to not just questions of affordability and employability, but also to health and wellness such as mental health, the implications of COVID and moving to online courses,” says Hallstrom. “They are tuition payers, they are recipients of services and they do go on to become employees and business owners and consultants and contractors and contribute to the economy and are taxpayers.”
The 2023 provincial budget was released on February 28th and is available on the province’s website.