NO CASE FOR PST
Provincial government needs to rein in spending on things like health care first
A sales tax doesn’t bother me — in theory. It’s in the real world that a sales tax scares the bejeebers out of me.
A consumption tax (a tax on how much you buy) is preferable to a tax on how much you earn (income tax) because, in theory, it allows you to control how much tax you pay by controlling how much you spend.
But in the real world, a tax by another name is still a tax. In the real world, most of us feel we have little control over what we spend.
The family needs a house. Both spouses need vehicles. The kids need food, clothes, sports fees and school supplies.
We all need a little vacation or a dinner out or tickets to a game now and then.
Since most of us feel there is little we can do to control our spending, we’re not convinced a sales tax would be any different from other kinds of tax.
Imposing a sales tax would simply increase the amount the government takes from our pockets even more and lower the amount we have left to spend on the things our families need and want.
A government that imposes a sales tax, then, is simply adding to our tax burden. No “ifs,” “ands” or theories about it.
But what if a government (like the UCP) made big spending cuts and balanced the Alberta budget, first? Then it imposed a small-ish PST (provincial sales tax) — say three per cent — and agreed to put a corresponding amount in the Heritage Savings Trust Fund each year.
I could live with a small PST that went to rainy-day savings.
But that’s easy to say because I don’t ever expect any provincial government to meet those requirements.
In a report released on Thursday, Grant Bishop of Toronto’s C.D. Howe Institute, said Alberta has a unique opportunity to, through “spending restraint and restructuring of its revenues … move to saving resource revenues and increasing investment income for future generations.”
Bishop’s prescription would not be easy to implement.
He calculates a freeze on overall provincial spending would be needed, plus a per capita reduction of 11 per cent in education spending and nearly 14 per cent in health spending over the next four years.
These cuts sound like a lot — and they are — but they would only bring Alberta back down to the spending levels of other “have” provinces.
Under the Redford Tories and Notley NDP, our provincial government permitted pubic spending to get way out of whack.
How far out of whack? Another study, this time by the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation (CTF), also released on Thursday, calculates that Alberta health care professionals earn more (often far more) than their counterparts in other provinces.
In 24 of 26 health employment categories examined in the CTF study, Alberta public employees were paid substantially more.
A top Alberta nurse, for instance, makes almost $113,000 a year (salary and benefits). That’s nearly
18 per cent above her or his Prairie colleagues.
“Over 90 per cent of Alberta’s health-care positions examined receive more than the average of the other provinces” and “more than half of all positions examined earn more than $10,000 more than the average of the other provinces every year,” according to the CTF.
We spend more per capita on health care than any province (except maybe Newfoundland), yet our health outcomes and wait times are in the middle or lower third of national results.
Before we even start to talk about a PST, the provincial government needs to reduce these wage gaps and reinstate (and abide by) balanced budget legislation.
Then, and only then, a government that wanted a PST could go to Albertans in a referendum and make its case.