Tuesday, 12 December 2017 05:32

Facts support Alta. economy: labour leader

Written by  Dave Mabell
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Alberta’s economic growth is leading the nation. But residents are being told the province is on the skids, losing jobs and investment.


That’s part of the U.S.-style campaign of misinformation being spread by one of the NDP government’s opponents, a Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs audience was told Nov. 30.
And without checking the facts, some Albertans are believing it says Alberta top labour leader.
Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, warned the only effective way to counter half-truths or deceptions is to “call it out” and refute it with proven facts.
In the U.S., he noted, there are “politicians who shamelessly lie.”
And now, McGowan said he’s seeing that happen in Alberta.
“The United Conservative Party and Jason Kenney go far beyond ‘bending’ the truth,” he said.
But when “post truth” statements are repeated often enough and loud enough, some people will take them as accurate. First impressions on a given topic may “stick.”
“And familiarity leads to acceptance.”
McGowan had a list of examples to offer.
Raising the minimum wage is not “killing jobs” as Kenney claims, he said.
Retail sales are on the rise, he said, with more young people working.
Consumer spending creates 70 per cent of Alberta’s economic activity, McGowan said, and paying more to entry-level workers adds to that growth.
Albertans are the best-paid employees in Canada, he added, and the minimum will be rising to just half of the province’s $30 per hour median.
Though Kenney says Alberta’s economy is “a disaster,” McGowan said, the Conference Board of Canada is predicting 6.7 per cent growth in the coming year – far ahead of the rest of the nation.
The Royal Bank has predicted 4.2 per cent growth, he added, but the government is sticking with its 4.0 per cent expectation.
McGowan also challenged Kenney’s assertion that the New Democrats are driving away investment. Per capita investment in Alberta business and industry is also the highest in Canada, he said – except for Newfoundland and Labrador, also recovering now from the disastrous fall in the price of oil.
“When 35 to 40 per cent of your economy is brutally exposed,” a province depending so heavily on oil-related income is in trouble.
“Any government would have struggled,” and the NDP is no exception. But McGowan said it prevented worse economic results by using “counter-cyclical” investments in Alberta’s long-neglected infrastructure – as many economists recommend.
Spending on Alberta’s health care, education and other public services is on a par with most other provinces, he said.
But the province has a revenue problem – leading to deficit budgets unless oil prices soar.
McGowan said while other provinces assess 15 to 20 per cent of their gross domestic product as taxes, Alberta collects barely 12 per cent. Governments following Peter Lougheed’s time as premier repeatedly lowered their business tax rates – and stopped investing in the once-vaunted Heritage Trust Fund.
So Albertans now face a revenue problem, he said – not a spending problem. They can’t expect to prosper with a boom-and-bust economy.
“We can no longer live in a fantasy world.”

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