EDMONTON - The Alberta government's plan for the coming year - as outlined in today's Throne Speech - is based on two dangerous myths, says the President of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
The first myth is that privatization in health care will lower costs and reduce waiting lists. The second myth is that flat taxes will enhance tax fairness and prompt economic growth.
"The government has decided to make private health care and flat taxes the dual centerpieces of their agenda for the year 2000," says AFL President Audrey Cormack, "but both of these policies are deeply flawed. Bother policies will weaken the social fabric of our province."
Cormack says the government's plan to spend tax dollars on private, for profit hospitals represents a serious threat to the future of medicare.
"The government says its privatization plan will protect medicare," says Cormack "but the truth is privatization will undermine the very foundations of our public health system. Wherever privatization in health care has been tried, it has failed. All we have to do is look at the experience in places like Britain, Australia and the United States. Wherever private health care has been allowed to spread costs have gone up and waiting lists have grown longer. Given this experience, why on earth would we want to go down this road?"
Cormack says the government's plan for a provincial flat tax is also ill conceived.
"Albertans shouldn't be fooled into thinking that a flat tax will actually make the provincial tax system fairer," says Cormack "this plan will provide a big break for the wealthiest Albertans but middle income earners are going to carry a disproportionate share of the burden. The flat tax will also rob the government of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue - revenue needed to pay for health care, education and other important programs and services."
If the government really wants to defend medicare and promote tax fairness, Cormack says they should shelve their plans for private health care and flat taxes."The answer to our problem in health care is adequate funding for our existing public system. And the answer to our concerns about fair taxation is a tax system that is more progressive, not less," says Cormack.
"By introducing a flat tax the Alberta government is abandoning one of the central principles of fair taxation. And by promoting privatization in health care they will be weakening Canada's most cherished social program. These are not bold plans for the future - they are dangerous ideas that will take us backwards not move us forward."
For further information contact:
Audrey Cormack, President: (780) 499-6530 (cell)