Thursday, 07 March 2013 08:57

Alberta Liberals visit southern part of the province

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Alberta Liberal leader Raj Sherman toured through southern Alberta last week and met with media in Medicine Hat before the Legislature started its spring session. Alberta Liberal leader Raj Sherman toured through southern Alberta last week and met with media in Medicine Hat before the Legislature started its spring session. Photo by Rose Sanchez

Alberta Liberal leader Raj Sherman wants to know where the money went.
That’s a question he asked at a media availability in Medicine Hat last week on Feb. 27.

 

In a tour of southern Alberta that included the Gas city, Lethbridge and Calgary, Sherman asked where did the money go generated during the boom years of Lougheed since the present Conservative government is forecasting a $4 billion deficit, the funding in the Sustainability Fund is shrinking and the growth in the Heritage Savings Trust Fund has stagnated.
“... It appears we’re heading towards a $4 billion deficit at a time when the economy is booming. That’s unheard of in this country,” said Sherman.
The answer to the financial woes is obvious in his eyes — a progressive tax structure. He said even Premier Ralph Klein, who helped rid the province of debt, couldn’t balance the books without corporate tax rates at 15 per cent and a progressive tax structure.
“Premier Klein balanced the budget in the 90s. Yes, he tightened the belt, but he put in a surtax to the wealthiest ...,” said Sherman.
“We have a solution. We have to better manage our resources, yes, but it’s time for our leaders to have the courage to say we have a revenue problem. It’s time to bring back the advantage Albertans used to have.”
Currently Albertans are taxed at a flat rate of 10 per cent, no matter how much they earn.
Sherman cited a Parkland Institute report which suggests “if the 1999 income tax structure was still in place in 2006, revenues for that year would have been $10.4 billion compared to actual revenue for 2006 of approximately $4.7 billion.”
He wants to see the government bring back a progressive income tax system, where those residents who earn more money would pay more tax, as well as fair but moderate increases in taxation for corporations. When asked about his opinion of the introduction of a sales tax, Sherman didn’t think it was necessary if income taxes are raised.
“I think an Alberta advantage is not having a sales tax.”
He adds a modest tax increase of two per cent for corporations would not effect Gross Domestic Product figures.
Sherman pointed to the province’s neighbours to the west. The B.C. government will balance its books this fiscal year even though Alberta is the province that is booming.
“We have a (money) mismanagement problem and a revenue problem,” added Sherman. He said a “smarter, more efficient government” is needed.
One way of doing so is to reduce the number of upper managers in the health-care system and roll back wages for managers who make more than $150,000 a year.
“We also need to introduce a progressive income tax and a moderate increase on corporate taxes.”
Sherman said education and health care need to be invested in, but often for both teachers and front-line health-care staff such as doctors and nurses, the issues aren’t about money, it’s about the support they are receiving.
“I believe teachers, nurses and doctors are very reasonable people. They understand these are tough economic times, but it’s not about money, it’s about support.”
Sherman said he has a soft spot for rural Alberta, having himself been born on a farm in India, and understands the unique challenges faced by smaller communities including depopulation and a lack of doctors and general services.
A Liberal government would focus on ways to ensure young families are staying in their small towns and choosing to live and work there, as well as ensure there are adequate services for the senior population.
He is also supportive of the lobbying that has been done by Dr. David Swann on behalf of the Alberta Liberals to try and get farm workers protection under Occupational Health and Safety and Workers Compensation legislation.
“We need to protect every worker in this province,” he said, adding one of the keys is prevention and safe work practices.

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Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor

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