Home Regular Contributors Paige MacPherson Government New Year’s Resolution: Focus on Honesty, not Fantasy

Government New Year’s Resolution: Focus on Honesty, not Fantasy

Paige MacPherson.

It’s a new year: a time when people commit to stop dreaming, and start doing, adopting an air of clarity and honesty about their goals, their failures and how they’ll improve.

Can we send that message to our governments?

In 2015, Alberta’s NDP government raised business taxes, and still business tax revenue flowing to government coffers declined. In 2017, perhaps it’s time to recognize the economy has worsened since then, and the tax hike doesn’t seem to be improving anything.

Remarkably, the provincial government spent the latter months of 2016 pushing the idea it was improving the employment situation for Albertans. A $9-million ad campaign focusing on the carbon tax pushed the message the government has created oodles of glorious new green jobs.

Been there, done that. The NDP is simply going down the same path as former PC governments, taking billions of dollars out of the hands of actual job creators and throwing it into various forms of corporate welfare.

Unemployment is at its highest in over two decades. Sixty thousand Albertans have now been jobless for half a year or more. Why not be honest about that and turn over a new leaf?

The provincial government can no longer reasonably blame all job losses on the price of oil; not when the government is imposing policy decisions that are increasing the cost of doing business.

It’s time to be honest about the carbon tax, too.

Trucking companies are sending notices informing customers their rates are increasing thanks to the carbon tax. Grimshaw and Hi-Way 9 are both introducing surcharges. Good on them for being transparent. Other service providers are doing the same. The YMCA let parents know in a letter that the cost of childcare will go up.

The carbon tax isn’t all that transparent, by design. It’s a hidden consumption tax. While Premier Notley is feeding Albertans the lines that gas price increases won’t matter since gas prices fluctuate anyway, and that they won’t notice the carbon tax on the price of consumer goods, businesses are making it clearer. And so they should.

But shouldn’t government officials be clear about that too?

Here in Calgary, 2016 at least brought some changes that reflected reality. Calgary city council froze property taxes for 2017, and although they could have gone further, the freeze was welcome.

And as councillors’ wage growth is tied to annual earnings in the province, their salaries are going down in 2017. It’s not as though councillors made this decision themselves, but the reduction makes sense.

Still, Calgary city council should be honest about its own spending which has increased 2.35 times the combined rate of inflation and population growth over the last decade. Mayor Nenshi says suburban businesses could see “shocking” tax increases – why not reduce spending to stop that?

Ultimately governments should focus on honesty, not fantasy. Municipally, it’s fantasy that the government can’t do anything to control tax increases. Provincially, it’s fantasy that the government is creating jobs and not costing them.

Business owners are being honest. In 2017, let’s send a message to our governments to be honest and transparent about the cost of their policies, too.

Paige MacPherson is Alberta director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.