Talk to your friends about Al­berta's debt

Prairie Post (West Edition) - - Opinion - BY COLIN CRAIG Colin Craig is the Al­berta Direc­tor for the Cana­dian Tax­pay­ers Fed­er­a­tion

We all know some­one who doesn’t pay at­ten­tion to bal­loon­ing gov­ern­ment debt. How can we help them un­der­stand the con­se­quences of ir­re­spon­si­ble spend­ing?

First, ask your friends to re­flect on the old ex­pres­sion – “if some­thing sounds too good to be true, it prob­a­bly is.” Ris­ing gov­ern­ment debt is no dif­fer­ent; it ul­ti­mately means higher taxes.

Premier Not­ley is cur­rently on pace to take our province’s debt from about $12 bil­lion (when she started as premier) to $53 bil­lion in just four years. Her gov­ern­ment is in­creas­ing the province’s debt by a stag­ger­ing $344 ev­ery sec­ond.

What’s the con­se­quence of all that new debt? Well, just like if you quadru­pled your credit card debt, the gov­ern­ment’s min­i­mum in­ter­est pay­ments have also in­creased.

And guess what hap­pened as in­ter­est costs rose over the years? The gov­ern­ment in­creased in­come taxes, busi­ness taxes and the premier has now set her sights on higher car­bon taxes as well. Her debt ex­plo­sion is al­ready hurt­ing tax­pay­ers in the pock­et­books.

Next comes the em­ploy­ment an­gle. Ask your friends what they think hap­pens when busi­nesses see a gov­ern­ment rapidly in­creas­ing its debt?

The an­swer of course is busi­nesses start to worry about gov­ern­ments rais­ing taxes to ad­dress the debt prob­lem. And if busi­nesses worry about tax in­creases, some will de­cide to build their new fac­tory some­where else – tak­ing all kinds of jobs with them.

We’ve also heard sto­ries of ex­ist­ing busi­nesses shut­ting down be­cause of ris­ing taxes and costly gov­ern­ment de­ci­sions.

Just ask the former owner of Abruzzo Ris­torante in Calgary, who cited ris­ing prop­erty taxes as a key rea­son for per­ma­nently clos­ing the doors. How many busi­nesses shut down or avoided Al­berta be­cause of the gov­ern­ment’s 20 per cent busi­ness tax in­crease? It’s hard to say: busi­nesses don’t usu­ally alert the me­dia when they choose to in­vest some­where else – they just do it.

The third thing peo­ple need to keep in mind is that if gov­ern­ments run into debt prob­lems, the ser­vices peo­ple care about most are even­tu­ally im­pacted.

Premier Not­ley rou­tinely re­fuses to get spend­ing un­der con­trol, claim­ing she’s “pro­tect­ing” ed­u­ca­tion and health care. On the sur­face, her claim sounds valiant, but in re­al­ity, she’s do­ing more to put those ser­vices at risk than any­one else.

When Greece ran into debt prob­lems a few years back, the Guardian news­pa­per ran the fol­low­ing head­line “Greek Debt Cri­sis: Of all the dam­age, health care has been hit the worst.” Even­tu­ally, even the most sa­cred of gov­ern­ment spend­ing cows are im­pacted.

To be clear, Al­berta isn’t likely to run into a Greece-like debt prob­lem any­time soon. But it’s reck­less for the gov­ern­ment to be step­ping on the gas to­wards such a prob­lem.

What we need to see is for the gov­ern­ment to get its spend­ing prob­lem un­der con­trol – and do­ing so wouldn’t re­sult in the sky fall­ing.

Next door in Bri­tish Columbia, we find a gov­ern­ment that is pro­vid­ing sim­i­lar ser­vices but at sig­nif­i­cantly lower costs. They’re sim­ply a lot more cost-ef­fec­tive.

If Al­berta merely got its spend­ing lev­els down to what B.C. spends per per­son, our gov­ern­ment wouldn’t have a deficit right now … nor would it have piled on the ex­tra $56,656 in debt since your started read­ing this col­umn.

Don’t for­get to tell your friends.

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