Ever since the release of their inaugural budget, Jason Kenney’s government has faced tough questions about their austerity measures. 

Defending their government’s budget cuts, the United Conservative Party has frequently resorted to one particular talking point. Jason Kenney and his party often claim that they have, in fact, increased funding for services.

Take healthcare spending for instance. Yesterday, Jason Kenney took to Twitter to assert that his government is “maintaining or increasing funding.”

The Premier even posted a screenshot of the province’s four-year expenses summary. There you can see the meager $200 million increase his government has allocated for healthcare. Kenney expects his constituents to look at these numbers, out of context, and accept his claim that Conservatives are not actually cutting healthcare spending. 

There’s only one problem with that assertion. It is only true if we look solely at the gross numbers. Funding doesn’t tell the whole story and is always relative to a couple of factors, namely inflation and population growth.

In Alberta, annual inflation is set to hover around 2 percent the next few years. The province’s population is estimated to grow approximately 200,000 by 2022. The UCP budget only allocates 1.3 percent more funding over four years. In real terms, the amount of per-person healthcare funding will be substantially lower by the end of Kenney’s term. 

Once we account for the larger population and the higher cost of living, it becomes clear that Alberta’s healthcare system is facing some substantial cuts. According to the Parkland Institute, a non-partisan research centre at the University of Alberta, Kenney’s budget will mean an effective healthcare cut of 17 percent by 2022.

These numbers also don’t account for the aging population of Alberta. The number of seniors living in the province is set to double in the next 15 years. Without sustained increases in healthcare spending, Alberta’s Health Services are bound to face a dangerous funding shortfall.

This communications strategy is not isolated to Kenney either. Conservatives across the country rely on this sort of doublespeak to mislead their constituents. Doug Ford’s government in Ontario has relied on this same tactic to justify his austerity budget and have cut spending relative to inflation. 

Our healthcare system is underfunded as is. Conservatives like Kenney and Ford who prioritize corporate tax cuts over healthcare funding are only making things worse. 

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