Instead of cutting services, we need to end sweetheart deals for corporations and the wealthy, says Better Way Alberta campaign
Edmonton – In response to comments from Premier Jim Prentice blaming Albertans for the province’s budget woes, a coalition of major unions is launching a $500,000 province-wide campaign aimed at saving public services from deep cuts by urging the provincial government to fix its broken revenue system.
“Who created the current budget mess? It’s time for Premier Prentice and the Tories to look in the mirror,” says Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan.
“We’re not facing a budget crunch because of anything individual Albertans did. The real problem is that successive PC governments have blown holes in the revenue base we need to fund education, health care and other services that Albertans rely on.
“The premier wants to impose a reckless nine-per-cent budget cut. Cuts of that magnitude will devastate public services that are already stretched to the breaking point…and they won’t address the root causes. The real solution is to reverse years and years of irresponsible tax and royalty giveaways to profitable corporations and the wealthy.”
The Better Way Alberta campaign’s home is www.betterwayalberta.ca. On the site, Albertans can explore the various ways in which the provincial government has destroyed the revenue system, and given away billions of dollars to big corporations and to very wealthy individuals.
“The premier is trying to blame the looming deficit on nurses, teachers, janitors, secretaries—the people who work hard every day for the citizens of the province—when the problem was really caused by irresponsible tax and royalty giveaways.” McGowan said. “He’s trying to spin a tale that the province isn’t frugal enough, when the truth is that Alberta is in the middle of the pack when it comes to how much it spends on public services. We spend a little more per person than Nova Scotia, and a little less than New Brunswick.”
The province-wide campaign will consist of a central website and petition; a radio and online advertising campaign; a direct-mail campaign to every household in Alberta; and a door-to-door campaign in which canvassers will have face-to-face conversations with Albertans about the Better Way Alberta campaign. The coalition is also considering townhall meetings and rallies.
“Poll after poll shows that Albertans understand there is a better way to approach revenues,” McGowan said. “They’re willing to look at how this province pays for services. But successive premiers have done nothing but cut. To his credit, Premier Prentice has said he’s willing to talk about revenues and ‘put everything on the table.’ But if he’s serious about that, why has he ruled out increasing royalties and taxes on corporations and the wealthy? It sounds like the more of the same from an un-reformed Tory: perks for their friends and pain for everyone else.”
According to the government’s own numbers, Alberta could increase the amount it gets from taxes by $11.6 billion a year and still have the lowest taxes in Canada. Most of that $11.6 billion that is going uncollected by Alberta’s inequitable tax code is being left in the pockets of the province’s richest individuals and most profitable corporations.
“If we’re all in this together, as Premier Prentice says, why should corporations and the wealthy get a free pass?” McGowan said. “And why should ordinary Albertans pay for the mistakes of politicians again?”
If the Prentice government imposes a nine per cent cut, Alberta will end up spending less on public services than much poorer provinces, even as its population continues to boom. Albertans will have to deal with larger class sizes, more over-crowded hospitals and even longer waits for new infrastructure. Economists also agree that government cuts will likely tip the whole economy into recession.
“Oil prices go up and down. Albertans know that, and their government should know that by now,” McGowan said. “But every time there’s a slight downturn, government takes aim at public servants, rather than planning for the long term, budgeting better, and fixing the holes in the province’s revenue system.”
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.4351 (cell) or via e-mail [email protected]