The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.
Gillian Steward is a Calgary writer and journalist whose column appears every other week.
To live in Alberta these days is to run the risk of getting severe whiplash.
This is because our provincial government often tells us how fortunate we are to live in such a prosperous a province; how Alberta is blessed with such an abundance of resources. But the next day our government tells us it doesn’t have enough money to cover its spending, there will have to be cuts to services; and we are all suddenly jerked into a different reality.
This time around our premier, Alison Redford, seems quite panicked about the drop in government revenues. So much so that she prepared a special TV spot (eight minutes) that was broadcast across the province last week at taxpayers’ expense to reassure us that the sky is not falling.
She wasn’t very clear about what exactly her government intends to do about the shortfall in revenues: the provincial budget won’t be revealed until March. All we know at this point is that the government has $6 billion less than it thought it would have, a big chunk of a projected $38-billion budget.
Redford said “tough choices” will have to be made; a code phrase for cuts to services and planned infrastructure projects. And, of course, this being Alberta, she promised there would be no new taxes to cover the deficit.
The culprit, of course, is weak oil prices and what Redford referred to as the “bitumen bubble.”
Alberta gets a lower price than other jurisdictions for its oil because most of it is not refined oil, but tarry stuff from the tarsands. Add to that the fact that key pipeline projects have been stalled so Alberta can’t get that oil to market and you have the perfect excuse for not being able to balance the books: the gods have turned against us what can we do?
Albertans have heard similar versions of this excuse over and over again ever since Peter Lougheed left office in 1985.
Redford talks about the looming budget cuts as “tough choices.” But Trevor Harrison, director of the Parkland Institute, a progressive think-tank based at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, says cuts are the easy way out.
“The really difficult thing to do would be to start an intelligent province-wide conversation about Alberta’s tax structure . . . taxes are the most stable form of revenue and yet Conservative premiers keep boxing themselves in by promising no new taxes.”
For the rest of this article, please go to the Toronto Star website: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/1321185–steward-alberta-premier-alison-redford-flip-flops-on-budget-promises