Calgary Herald

In Rebuttal

- DANIELLE SMITH DANIELLE SMITH IS LEADER OF THE WILDROSE PARTY.

The Calgary Herald recently ran an editorial asking Wildrose to “rethink” the Alberta Energy Dividend. The editorial identified a number of important issues and questions which we would like the opportunit­y to address.

During this provincial election, Wildrose has been unveiling its Pledge to Albertans — a series of specific commitment­s a new Wildrose government will undertake if elected.

Our first pledge commitment, the Balanced Budget and Savings Act, lays out the fiscal framework in which a Wildrose government would operate — specifical­ly, we will: balance the books without cutting front line workers such as nurses, teachers and doctors; save 50 per cent of all surplus dollars in the Alberta Heritage Fund and leave the interest in the fund so it grows significan­tly; and limit year-over-year spending increases to inflation plus population growth.

Our second pledge, the Wildrose Family Pack, will create a series of targeted tax credits and other measures which help make life more affordable for Alberta families, including Alberta’s first Child Tax Credit, the eliminatio­n of mandatory school fees, and the Child Culture, Arts and Sports Tax Credit.

However, it is the third Wildrose pledge commitment, the Alberta Energy Dividend, which has created the most excitement in this election campaign. The Alberta Energy Dividend mandates that 20 per cent of all surplus dollars be sent directly to Albertans in the form of Alberta Energy Dividend cheques. Some have likened this program to the prosperity rebate cheques issued by the Klein government in 2006 without noting the difference­s in our

Alberta seniors can use the dividend to help manage their budgets.

proposal, and some news organizati­ons and commentato­rs have raised questions about the dividends and how they fit into our overall fiscal framework.

Firstly, the Alberta Energy Dividend is based on surplus dollars. This means that for a dividend to be paid out, government services like health, education and infrastruc­ture developmen­t would already have to be fully funded. As contained in our Wildrose Family Pack pledge commitment, supporting healthy, active and educated families is a priority for Wildrose, and funding in these areas will be unaffected by the Alberta Energy Dividend.

Second, like all of Wildrose’s rigorously crafted pledge commitment­s, the Alberta Energy Dividend has been reviewed by three leading economists as well as by the Alberta director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. They have all found the pledge — and Wildrose’s fiscal framework — both affordable and credible, with the government sticking to its plan.

The Alberta Energy Dividend will benefit all Albertans, and students and seniors in particular. Faced with a rising cost of living, premium hikes on medication, higher property taxes and soaring electricit­y bills, Alberta seniors can use the dividend to help manage their budgets. For students, the dividend can be put toward textbooks, tuition costs, or equipment costs for trade school courses. Similarly, it can be invested in an RESP over a longer period of time and used to substantia­lly offset future tuition costs.

Some have asked why Wildrose introduced the Alberta Energy Dividend as opposed to further tax reductions. It is important to note that Wildrose’s position on taxes is clear: we are the only party that opposes any tax hikes or the introducti­on of any new taxes. We believe the last thing Alberta families need are more taxes. The reason we are proposing this dividend rather than tax cuts is because the dividend is responsive to the ups and downs of Alberta’s economy, whereas tax cuts based on a couple of good years leave us vulnerable to structural deficits if a downturn in the economy or a drop in resource prices occurs the next year.

Since the Alberta Energy Dividend is based on surplus dollars, it is responsive to Alberta’s economic situation. In periods of high economic growth, when the cost of living increases for Albertans, the dividend will help families manage and save for the future.

When Alberta’s economy slows, and budget surpluses are smaller, the dividend isn’t paid out and puts no pressure on annual spending.

Finally, it is important to understand the role the Alberta Energy Dividend plays in our proposed fiscal framework. In its Commitment to Municipali­ties, Wildrose committed to send 10 per cent of all tax revenues and 10 per cent of surpluses directly to municipali­ties. In our Balanced Budget and Savings Act, Wildrose pledged to save 50 per cent of budget surpluses in the Alberta Heritage Fund and to leave the interest in the fund to enable it to grow substantia­lly.

Now, with the Alberta Energy Dividend, 20 per cent of budget surpluses will be sent directly to Alberta families, who own Alberta’s natural resources. Taken together, these three measures establish a fiscal framework to manage surplus dollars in a prudent and responsibl­e manner, while ensuring that all Albertans are able to share in the prosperity our resource wealth provides.

 ??  ?? Danielle Smith
Danielle Smith

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