Sunday, November 27, 2011

Alberta Tories talk taxes

Very interesting debate going on in Alberta: "Alta. Tories defend talk about provincial sales tax." The Alberta PCs are finding themselves in a budget bind, with dwindling revenues from energy sources and are looking for new ones. Yes, they are looking at increasing revenues. It sounds as if they are getting the predictable push back, with the Wild Rose Alliance waiting in the right wing to pounce.

This could be good news. It would be a positive development in Canada for a PC government to get this done, to either implement a health care premium (that was removed by former premier Stelmach) or whatever other form of tax they're eyeing, although the health care one seems to be most likely based on this read. I wouldn't say Nixon to China, let's not get carried away, but it's that kind of feel. Times are tough and yes, all measures need to be on the table for a responsible government. Redford should stick to her guns in saying so.

What's a little funny is the language being used as they contort themselves away from the "t" word. They're using clinical words like "attachment" and "connection" which are a little weird and are not going to convince anyone. They seem to be more concerned with minimizing the discussion rather than saying the right things to convincingly win the argument, and they can:
Liepert said his government will not bring back health-care premiums as they existed before, but perhaps Albertans should have “an attachment” to health-care costs.

“What we heard and what I think we have to discuss at the caucus level is, is there a way that we should have an attachment to the cost of health care. And that’s all we’re talking about,” Liepert said on Friday.

Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths also said last week that many jurisdictions outside of Alberta are trying to build a “connection” between the taxation system and the provision of services.

“They have a health tax to pay for health care, or an education tax to pay for education — to try to get people an idea of why they’re paying those taxes,” Griffiths said this week.

“It makes it more meaningful. They realize that this is for a service, this isn’t just the bad, old government taxing me.”
They should try talking about investments in health care, health care being a necessity, the province's wealth not just being monetary but about the well-being of their citizens, hence the need for investments in the health care system, etc. They seem defensive in the piece, only Redford seems firm. If they believe they're doing the right thing for their province, they need to convince the people in a much better fashion than they're demonstrating here.

It's a tough environment in Canada to make these arguments right now. People are feeling stretched, worried about the economy here and in the rest of the world and how that might affect us. In Alberta's political climate, the opposition and media are all over this, the Wild Rose with a view to a fall election. Further, as we well know, the federal government is leading the way in establishing a Canadian anti-tax orthodoxy. Yet when revenue shortfalls produce deficits, something has to give, even in Alberta it seems.

This is something to watch, let's see if one party in the Canadian conservative family can break the mould on taxes.