March 3, 2019
INTRODUCE PROVINCIAL SALES TAX, SAY GREENS
CALGARY – The Green Party of Alberta is calling for a provincial sales tax to be implemented as a means of establishing predictability to budget planning in a time when the price of oil is in free-fall on the world market. The move would generate revenue needed to maintain essential social services in the face of irresponsible cuts suggested by the UCP.
Carl Svoboda, Green Party of Alberta Shadow Cabinet member for Public Finance and the party’s Nominated Candidate in the riding of Calgary – Edgemont, says our province is depriving ourselves of a viable income source by not having a sales tax. “The other parties are terrified to mention a sales tax other than to denounce it, but the Green Party is not. It is time for Alberta to start acting like a normal province and bring in a sales tax.”
This week the finance minister presented a third quarter budget update, announcing that the projected deficit for 2018-19 would be $6.9B, down from an initial estimate of $8.8B. Several more years of deficit were forecast, culminating in a balanced budget by 2023-24. Meanwhile, the UCP opposition has been denouncing the deficit in thunderous terms, most recently in an apocalyptic four-page ad in the Calgary Herald.
Upon closer examination, the government’s forecast of balance by 2023-24 hinges upon royalty revenue increasing by 120% over 2019-20, implying a hefty increase in the price of oil.
Svoboda and the Greens say existing and future trends for world oil prices call this planning into question. “While we acknowledge the difficulty of forecasting long term oil prices, current trends are not encouraging for substantial increases. Worldwide oil consumption will have to decline if we are to preserve the climate within acceptable limits. At the same time, technology has increased exploitable reserves. We are likely to remain in a situation of oversupply and low prices indefinitely.”
The UCP implies that they would balance the budget by cutting expenses, but have been stingy with details. Their only concrete proposal was to impose a 5% cut in MLA salaries, which would reduce the 2019-20 deficit by something less than 0.01%. To balance the next budget by cuts alone would require an across the board cut of over 13%, which would have a disastrous effect on government services.
Svoboda indicates that Albertans do not have to be held hostage by the fluctuation of oil revenues. “A five per cent tax, harmonized to the GST, would bring in something in excess of $5B/year, which would close most of the budget gap. If the oil price should return to $100 by some stroke of good fortune, we could use the resulting surplus to pay down the debt and fatten up the long-neglected Heritage Fund.”
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For more information, please contact:
Leader of the Green Party of Alberta and Nominated Candidate in Calgary-Varsity.