By Medicine Hat News Opinon on December 23, 2017.
Over the past year the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has been quite critical about many of the Notley government’s major financial decisions.
From her massive new carbon tax to her plan to more than triple the province’s debt (in just one term in office), many of her government’s fiscal decisions have been anything but taxpayer-friendly.
But alas, it’s Christmas, and the Notley government has implemented several other changes that deserve praise. Let’s take a moment to acknowledge some of those decisions and hope for more positive initiatives in 2018.
First, the Alberta government has moved forward with some constructive reform measures concerning government agencies, boards and commissions. Notably, the government has reduced the number of those entities from 301 down to 263. This reduction is expected to save $33 million over three years.
They have also reduced executive compensation for agencies, boards and commissions, delivering $16 million in annual savings. We need to see a lot more of these kinds of decisions if the government is ever going to address the province’s $12 billion deficit, but these moves are clearly a step in the right direction.
The government has also brought in a new standard set of conflict of interest rules for boards, agencies and commissions and introduced a cooling off period for CEOs of those entities before they can work for an entity they may have interacted with while working for the government. Finally, several agencies, boards and commissions will also have to start abiding by employee compensation disclosure rules as well.
Next up is the government’s small business tax reduction. On Jan. 1 of this year the government reduced the tax rate from 3 per cent to 2 per cent. This move helped bring Alberta’s tax rate more in line with other provinces in western Canada —British Columbia (2.5), Saskatchewan (2) and Manitoba (no tax for small businesses).
The tax reduction was implemented on the same day that businesses and consumers began paying the new carbon tax, so for many businesses the tax reduction has not left them better off financially.
In fact, for businesses that are struggling to stay afloat, and aren’t profitable, the small business income tax reduction won’t save them a cent. Those businesses will, however, pay higher electricity bills, fuel bills and input costs due to the carbon tax increase.
While the current government is unlikely to eliminate the carbon tax, if a new government is elected after next election, we would hopefully see them eliminate the carbon tax, but maintain the business tax reduction.
Finally, Premier Notley deserves credit for going on the road and speaking favourably about Alberta’s oil and gas sector in Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa.
Given that she regularly rubbed shoulders with anti-oil sands protesters at rallies prior to becoming premier, it’s easy to understand why some question whether her heart was truly in those recent sales pitches for the energy industry. However, critics can’t dismiss the fact she spoke up — we need to see more of that in 2018.
Again, Premier Notley and her government need to sharpen their pencils and do a much better job on some the big picture financial decisions they make, but it’s important to note her success on some of the smaller issues.
Colin Craig is the interim Alberta director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation
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