The Alberta government must do a better job of collecting revenue to provide the vital public services Albertans have clearly said they want, according to the 2012 Budget submission sent today to Finance Minister Ron Liepert.
"Alberta is one of the wealthiest places in the world, but that wealth isn't benefitting all Albertans," says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), which represents 145,000 workers.
"Our broken revenue system means the province is running deficits even during good times. Rather than fix the revenue system, the government has previously chosen to slash spending and throw our public services into chaos. We need look no further than the situation in our schools, hospitals and long-term care to see the tragic results of this folly," he says.
Today is the deadline set by the government for the public to make suggestions for the 2012 Budget. The AFL's submission shows that the government's fiscal problem is on the revenue side of the ledger, not on the spending side. It points out that Alberta is wealthy, with a bigger economic pie than other provinces, with corporate profits hitting new highs (up 450 per cent from 1998-2008) and astronomical investment in capital projects. Meanwhile, spending as a percentage of the province's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has fallen by nearly 40 per cent since 1989. On a per-capita basis, expenditures are about the same as the rest of Canada.
"What this tells us is that if there is any province in Canada that should be able to afford high-quality public services, it's Alberta," says the AFL submission. "The evidence is clear and incontrovertible: we are running deficits even during strong economic times because tax and royalty policies pursued by the government over the last 20 years have essentially blown a hole in the revenue base that the province needs to fund public services. In other words, the cupboard is bare because we've decided to make it bare," says the submission.
The AFL calls on the government to consider real solutions that can be included in Budget 2012:
• replace the flat tax on personal incomes with progressive taxation;
• introduce a surtax on high-income earners;
• increase corporate taxes to at least the Canadian average; and
• increase royalties to at least the rates proposed by the 2007 Royalty Review Panel.
"These solutions would bring in billions of dollars every year, eliminating the deficit and removing the threat to services, while still leaving Alberta a great place to do business and to live," says McGowan. "We urge the Redford government to take the same approach as other right-of-centre politicians – including Peter Lougheed, Danny Williams and Sarah Palin – and do a better job of getting value for the resources Albertans own."
Gil McGowan, AFL president, 780-218-9888 (cell)