June 12th, 2024

Albertans will soon need to choose between massive cuts, tax changes

By Letter to the Editor on July 4, 2018.

Public Interest Alberta recently hosted a public discussion at Medicine Hat College regarding the provincial government’s revenue shortage and the consequences it has for our public services. The discussion centered around our new Revenue Reno campaign – http://www.RevenueReno.ca – which advocates for protecting and revitalizing our province’s public services by solving our significant shortage of annual tax revenue. Albertans deserve to be informed about the budget choices our province is facing, and we are simply not getting all of the facts from the political parties in the Legislature.

Massive cuts to public services in the recent provincial budget would have been a great leap backward for the province. In fact, the budget was full of piecemeal cuts to public services, which was still a step in the wrong direction, as spending in most areas failed even to keep up with population growth and inflation. That means yet another year of our health-care and education systems — among other services — being stretched even thinner.

Albertans want to see our public services strengthened, not cut. While the recent budget’s hopes of high levels of resource revenue returning are a better alternative than massive cuts, that path is not sustainable. Resource revenues just don’t exist at the levels they used to. Even in the unlikely event that high resource revenues return for a time, they would be better saved for future generations, rather than spent on our year-to-year operations.

The hopeful news in the budget is that the problem is not our economy; it’s our tax system, which is much easier to fix. The government’s budget documents show that our tax system is grossly inferior to that of every other province in the country at raising revenue. Applying the tax system of any other province to Alberta would raise us a minimum of $11.2 billion in additional annual revenue, more than covering the projected $8.8 billion deficit in this year’s budget and giving us the funds we need to strengthen our services.

There are two clear paths in front of us, and Albertans will need to choose one sooner or later. One path is massive cuts to our public services, and it will mean big drops in the quality and accessibility of our health-care and education systems, an increase in poverty levels, and higher out-of-pocket expenses on things that are currently covered by our public systems.

The only alternative to that path is renovating our tax system to raise significantly more annual revenue, with a sales tax and changes to our personal income tax system. That is the only way Alberta can protect and revitalize our public services. We need our elected officials to start that discussion now to decide what mix of changes will solve our province’s revenue shortage.

Joel French

Edmonton

(The writer is executive director of Public Interest Alberta)

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Fedup Conservative
Fedup Conservative
5 years ago

Gee I wonder who created this massive revenue mess we are in. It certainly wasn’t the NDP government, and the UCP have certainly made it crystal clear they have no intention of fixing it, while they look after their rich friends. Joel is absolutely right we need to fix it with much higher taxes and royalties on the rich. However when you are sitting on this massive wealth you certainly don’t need a sales tax to burden the people with, in fact, if Klein hadn’t slashed royalties and taxes to benefit the rich we shouldn’t be paying any provincial taxes, and our property taxes should be next to nothing, like in Alaska and we should have at least $300 billion in our Heritage Trust Fund for our future. But thanks to Klein, Stelmach and Redford those days are gone and Alberta seniors are paying a huge price for supporting them.

Our savior is the increases in oil prices and the Kinder Morgan pipeline, if they can ever get past the lawsuits and get it built.