In 1987, the value of Albertas Heritage Savings and Trust Fund stood at $12.7 billion. That year, the province faced a massive budget deficit and transfers to the fund from resource revenues were suspended. Such deposits did not resume again until almost two decades later and only lasted two years before being suspended again.
Having spent itself into a considerable deficit problem, the Alberta government seems to be considering a sales tax as part of its plan to dig provincial finances out of the red (or at least theyre trying to start a discussion to that end). The alternative, were led to believe, is fewer and lower-quality public services due to obligatory spending cuts. A closer look at the facts suggests thats not the only option available.
Instead, they could choose a win-win scenario that improves health care while reducing waste and inefficiency.
The idea that some Albertans might be getting their publicly-funded health care more rapidly than others because of who they happen to be, or who they know, or indeed if they have greater ability to pay, seems to have generated a fair amount of rage. Yet many of those who decry such queue jumping by elites and the politically connected are supporters of the current public monopoly in health care insurance and hospital care delivery, and it is this very structure and the rationing by waiting it entails that is to blame for the situation.
The red-ink budgets that have engulfed Alberta since the last recessionAlbertas Finance Minister Doug Horner just announced this years deficit could hit $4-billion are not accidental. Such red ink is not just the result of weaker resource revenues, as Alberta Premier Alison Redford regularly claims.
The last time Alberta was in a fiscal mess due to low energy revenues and over-the-top government spending, some politicians and pundits said what Albertans really needed was higher taxes. That was back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Those voices were wrong then and they are wrong now.
For one thing, any fantasy that a tax hike will solve Albertas fiscal woes is the preserve of people who dream in tax-happy Technicolor.
Sure, tax reform is desirable. A provincial sales tax would be smart economic policy since sales taxes are some of the least harmful imposts.
When Alberta Premier Alison Redford took to the television screen the other night, she paid much attention to the revenue side of the government's books. On Alberta's massive budget deficit, the premier blamed the below-world price that Alberta-based companies receive for oil.
More than three years after the end of the recession and Albertas provincial government continues to struggle with deficits, which as of the last quarterly update could reach $3 billion. Relying on revenues to rebound enough to catch up with spending just doesnt work as Albertas own history aptly demonstrates. Similarly, municipalities across the province continue to struggle to find sufficient resources for infrastructure needs while balancing their books.
A year ago the Alberta Government appointed a Critical Transmission Review Committee to determine whether the Alberta Electric System Operator's (AESO) proposal that two high voltage direct current (HVDC) north-south transmission lines be built because of occasional congestion on the Edmonton to Calgary corridor is reasonable. In spite of the availability of lower-cost alternatives, the Committee agreed with the AESO's proposal, the Redford government accepted the Committee's recommendation, and AltaLink and ATCO Electric are now in the throes of planning to commence construction.