By Carl Svoboda, President of the Green Party of Alberta, and Critic for Public Finances
August 3, 2017
Brian Jean, former leader of the Wildrose Party and candidate for leadership of the new United Conservative Party, proposes cutting government expenditures by $2.6B, while reducing corporate tax by $0.7B, for a net cut of $1.9B. Applied to the current budget year, this would leave us with a deficit of around $9B.
To eliminate the deficit further, budget cuts would require an across the board cut of 17% in all departments, including healthcare and education, which I think even the most ardent conservatives would find hard to stomach.
The obvious alternative, as the rating agencies point out every time they lower our credit rating, is to increase taxes to properly fund government programs. The province of Saskatchewan, which Alberta conservatives cite as a model of fiscal probity, is able to balance its budget only because it imposes a 6% sales tax. Were we to do the same, that tax would raise about $6B/year and eliminate most of the deficit. Yet in Alberta both government and opposition are adamant they will do no such thing, preferring instead to cling to the hope that the good old days of $100 per barrel oil will return and bail us out, even as the deficit hole grows ever deeper.
The Greens are the only party willing to state the obvious: It is time for Alberta to grow up, behave like an adult (normal) province and bring in a sales tax.