Alberta Party calls for small-business tax cut, action on carbon, sustainable funding in Budget 2014
Posted on February 27, 2014 by Katherine Taylor
Next week’s provincial budget is an opportunity to set a course to long-term prosperity while also stabilizing program funding, says Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark. The Alberta Party’s priorities are to tackle carbon emissions, diversify the provincial economy, stabilize revenues and invest a portion of resource revenues into the Heritage Fund.
“Despite the mismanagement of our provincial finances, Alberta is still in a fortunate and unique position – at least for now,” said Clark. “Our resource revenues are up, we’re receiving a $1B windfall health transfer and we have a dynamic, entrepreneurial population,” said Clark. “All that’s missing is vision and leadership from the provincial government.”
The government must make incremental but meaningful changes to our economy, if we want future generations to enjoy the prosperity that continues to attract people to Alberta, Clark says.
The economy remains too reliant on unstable non-renewable resource revenues, he says. We need to return to progressive taxation to fund our programs, save more of our non-renewable resource revenues and look to the private sector to drive diversification.
“As an entrepreneur I’m living proof Alberta is the best place in the world to start a business,” said Clark. “Many of those businesses are related to the energy industry, and although that helps the Alberta economy in the short term, we need to find ways to broaden our economic base and increase the number of knowledge-based businesses in Alberta.”
Clark says the key to economic diversification lies in the gradual elimination of Alberta’s small-business tax and stable, predictable investments in both K-12 and post-secondary education.
“Government megaprojects rarely work. We need to harness the power of current and future entrepreneurs to ensure Alberta’s economy is strong for generations to come,” said Clark. “Alberta’s tax advantage doesn’t extend to small business in our province – B.C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba and P.E.I. all have lower tax rates for small business. Phasing out our small-business tax over time will cement Alberta’s reputation as Canada’s entrepreneurial capital and serve as a catalyst for economic diversification.”
Clark also called for decisive action to lower carbon emissions.
“The world is moving to a low-carbon future and Alberta has a high-carbon economy. This is a fact whether we like it or not,” said Clark. “In this challenge lies enormous opportunity. We can address Alberta’s carbon emissions through technological innovation and create world-leading industries, while earning social licence to continue to access new markets and develop our oilsands.”
Clark advocates a firm 10-year timeline to end coal-fired electricity generation in Alberta.
“The time has come to end coal-fired power,” said Clark. “Coal contributes 40% of Alberta’s carbon emissions. Replacing this with a combination of gas-fired electricity generation and renewables like wind, solar and geothermal will significantly reduce Alberta’s carbon footprint.”
On the revenue side, Clark hopes the government uses the budget to announce a plan to stabilize provincial revenues, primarily through a return to a progressive income tax.
“It is unacceptable for a province with the resources of Alberta to have such wild swings in funding for our core programs like health and education,” said Clark. “Alberta’s flat tax not only leaves money on the table, it’s fundamentally unfair. A graduated income tax, like every other province and the federal government, would stabilize provincial revenues and allow us to put a portion of our non-renewable resource revenue into the Heritage Fund.”
The following are the Alberta Party’s priorities for the Budget 2014:
- Real action on economic diversification and support for the transition to a knowledge-based economy, including phasing out Alberta’s small business tax, provincial support for Startup Edmonton, Innovate Calgary and regional small business incubators, and a commitment for stable post-secondary funding.
- Formally commit to achieving Alberta’s existing carbon emission reduction targets.
- Phase out coal-fired power within 10 years.
- Commit to a stable, five-year funding plan for K-12 education, post-secondary education and health.
- Find creative ways to build schools quickly in high-growth areas, including portables, partnerships with before and after school care providers, etc.
- A firm commitment to increase investments in home care and add 1,500 publicly funded long-term-care beds.
- A formal strategy to increase high-school graduation rates and post-secondary participation, including firm targets.
- Revise Alberta’s curriculum to focus on the skills needed in a knowledge-based economy, including basic math skills, entrepreneurship and exposure to creative industries and the arts.
- Meet the existing commitment to provide full-day kindergarten.
- Implement a progressive income tax.
- Appoint a Legislature Budget Officer who reports to the Legislature to ensure Albertans understand the full cost of proposed budget expenditures. This will increase the accuracy of budget forecasts and improve accountability – reducing the ability of the government to play politics with budget forecasts.
- Reinstate a single set of budget books with a clear, consolidated statement of deficit or surplus
- Conduct a systematic management audit of all departments to ensure all management positions provide good value for money for Alberta taxpayers.
- Commit to increasing the amount of non-renewable resource revenues committed to savings in the Heritage Savings Trust Fund.
- Allocate funds to start flood-mitigation projects in 2014, complete all projects by spring 2015.