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Where the experts agree

Posted on March 01, 2017 by David Benson

Political parties often make big ideological statements about the best things to do. We hear a lot from right-wing parties about the need to cut spending. Left-wing parties talk about raising taxes. Much of this ideology is based in emotion.

What’s often missing from these positions is the voice of reason. The facts. The evidence that those left-wing or right-wing ideas come from some kind of proof. Or at least some kind of proven theory. That’s why the Alberta Party is different. We are the smart and sensible centre. We build policy on good ideas, not just what feels right to us.

Our Bold Ideas process is all about finding good ideas for Alberta. In this first round, we’re looking for good ideas to fund Alberta’s future. We know that good ideas can come from anywhere, including you. Click here to share yours with us. We also know there are lots of people who have spent time thinking about different ways a government can bring in money to cover its costs. They’re called economists. And we’re talking to them.

In November, we heard from ATB Chief Economist Todd Hirsch, Professor Ron Kneebone, Energy Futures Lab Fellow Justin Smith, Professor Trevor Tombe, and VP of CFIB Richard Truscott at our #CentreTogether event. In February, we heard again from Justin and Trevor, as well as Kara Levis, a commercial lawyer.

There’s a joke that if you ask three economists a question you’ll get five different answers. We want to share what we’ve heard from the economists we talked to. They disagreed on some things, but they agreed on a couple important points.

Albertans need to talk about both sides of the budget. Our first Bold Ideas question asks about different ways a responsible government could raise money. We’ve heard loud and clear from experts and others: we can’t talk about bringing in more money without talking about showing spending restraint. It’s widely agreed that we need to talk about revenue AND expenses together in the same conversation. Not just one or the other.

A sales tax is a very efficient way to raise revenue. While we know the words “sales tax” aren’t often talked about in Alberta, we can’t ignore the facts. The economists we’ve heard from agree that taxes on consumption are generally less harmful to economic growth than, say, taxes on income. There are many different ways to bring in a sales tax. PST, HST, VAT. We’ve also heard a consumption tax could lead to other benefits, like tax cuts to personal, corporate and small-business rates. There are many options worth exploring. There is no current Alberta Party policy supporting a sales tax but Alberta needs to consider all its options.

The Bold Ideas process is about finding the best ideas for the majority of Albertans. Share your ideas with us before March 15, 2017. Then in April, we’ll share the big, bold ideas we heard through this process. We’ll ask you to help us pick the one or two that are fitting of a centrist position.

At the Alberta Party, we know good ideas should come first and ideology second. Not the other way around.

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