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Alberta has a golden opportunity to right past government wrongs

April 23, 2019
Alberta has a golden opportunity to right past government wrongs

Congratulations premier-elect Jason Kenney, but there’s no rest for the elected. A tough campaign is only the precursor to the hard work of governing. Yet, despite daunting challenges, this is a unique opportunity to strengthen accountability and save taxpayers money.

As the United Conservative Party promised, the first step to right past government wrongs is to scrap the carbon tax, which hammered Albertans struggling through a downturn with higher heating and fuel bills.

Albertans have been waiting for years to vote on the carbon tax and we came out in droves against it. Now we need our provincial politicians to stand-up to the federal government as it tries to impose its tax against our wishes.

We also need to learn an important lesson from how Alberta’s carbon tax was imposed. The previous government bypassed the pesky process of earning public buy-in by failing to mention the carbon tax in its 2015 election platform. Alberta taxpayers need greater protection from politicians who want to increase taxes without consent from the people.

Fortunately, the UCP has committed to expanding the Alberta Taxpayer Protection Act, to ensure no future government can introduce a provincial sales tax or a new carbon tax without first holding a referendum.

“It’s the old idea of no taxation without representation,” stated Kenney.

On this Kenney is right. But why stop the idea of “no taxation without representation” at the carbon tax and sales tax? The new government can prove it respects taxpayers by requiring a referendum before the government can impose any tax increase or new tax. Let’s not forget that the previous Alberta government also increased taxes on incomes and businesses.

With the economy still failing to fire on all cylinders, now is the perfect time to reverse course on the previous government’s economic strategy, which increased taxes on all Albertans and gave subsidies to hand-picked businesses.

Scrapping the carbon tax and reducing the business tax to 8 per cent are good steps to make Alberta’s economy competitive for all and not just for certain businesses who are lucky enough to win government favours.

Kenney’s government can grow the economy without risking taxpayers’ money by listening to former premier Ralph Klein and getting government “out of the business of being in business.”

Alberta governments have a long history of burning taxpayers with their economic development projects. Between 1973 and 1993, economic diversification projects cost taxpayers over $2 billion in losses.

Referring to the Lloydminster Bi-Provincial Upgrader debacle, which cost Alberta taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, Klein famously remarked, “I guess the one saving grace is that we were probably all stupid together.”

Ending corporate welfare will also help the United Conservative government tackle the province’s fiscal woes. Taxpayers are ready for a government who will balance the budget, begin repaying the debt and cut back more than a decade of overspending by both New Democrats and Progressive Conservatives.

The new government has a lot of work to do to get the province back on the right track. But in four years from now, Kenney needs to show taxpayers a government that increased accountability, cut taxes and addressed its spending problem.

This column was originally published in the Edmonton Sun on April 23, 2019.

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