If you’re on Twitter, you’ve probably seen the following image by now.
It’s an image shared by Tyler Shandro, Alberta’s health minister, as you can see in this tweet below:
Shandro is trying to give the impression that Alberta is maintaining spending, which impression might assuage public fears that they’re making spending cuts to healthcare.
After all, $20.61 billion certainly seems bigger than $20.40 billion.
Here’s why this is misleading.
Here’s another image of the same data. I created it just for comparison’s sake regarding some more graphs I created
Now, this graph would normally be fine, except it fails to account for two things: population growth and inflation. If the population increases, then demand on services increases, too. If inflation increases, then the cost of delivering services also increases (and not just in wages).
Alberta’s population in 2016 was 4,196,061. In 2019, it was 4,371,316. That means there are over 175,000 more people in the most recent budget year potentially needing health services than there were at the start of the first budget year of the above charts.
A good way to measure spending based on population is to see how much we spent per capita.
We can see that spending per capita was increasing for the second and third years in this chart. In the most recent budget year, however, per capita spending actually dropped.
So, health spending per capita increased during at least the last two years of the NDP administration and dropped during the first year of the UCP administration.
Remember, however, that population was only one of the factors we needed to consider. The other is inflation.
Here’s where the information is even more telling.
The following graph shows what per capita spending is based in 2016 dollars.
Alberta not only spent less per person in the most recent budget year, they spent even less when you account for inflation.
Except this isn’t even just a UCP issue. In an effort to reduce the deficit in an election year, the NDP spent less on healthcare services per capita in 2016 dollars than they did in not only 2017–2018, but even less than they did in 2016–2017.
The UCP government spent $4,490.31 per capita in 2016 dollars on health care in the most recent budget year. They should have spent $4,797.00 per person in 2016 dollars. That $20.61 billion they spent should have been $20.969. That’s almost $400 million more than they had budgeted.
And that’s for the most recent budget year. Clearly both population and inflation have increased since last year, so not only should spending be more than $20.61 billion in the current budget year, it should be more than $20.969 billion.
And the budget year right before the next provincial election should be $23.37 billion instead of $20.67 billion. In other words, in the year leading up to the health, the UCP will be underspending on education by over $2.7 billion in that year. If you add up the difference from each budget year, the UCP will underspend by $6.083 billion during their entire term.