Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith predicts Albertans will pay more taxes and the province will raid the $17-billion Heritage Fund based on Tuesday’s throne speech.
The provincial Tory government says Alberta’s economic future and quality of life starts with “sound finances” and examining the province’s “entire fiscal framework.”
“This will include reviews of the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust and Sustainability Funds, capital and infrastructure projects, gaming revenue, our operating budget and income taxes, along with existing programs,” said Lt-.Gov. Don Ethell, who read the throne speech to the legislature on Tuesday.
Smith said Premier Alison Redford’s government has been hinting at reviewing the tax structure for a few months and there’s only one reason why they’d do it.
“The taxes are only going to go in one way if they get elected again, and that’s up,” said Smith on Tuesday at Red Deer College before giving a speech in front of about 70 people as part of a speakers series organized by the college’s Political Science Society.
“The Wildrose Party is the only party that will not be advocating for tax increases. We think the way you balance the budget is you control your spending.”
Premier Alison Redford would not comment on whether Albertans will see higher taxes.
“I’m saying we’re going to review the whole fiscal framework. I’m quite open to that discussion. I have no presuppositions to what that will be or whether that will even be part of the conversation,” said Redford during a press conference in Edmonton after the throne speech.
Asked again, Redford would only say: “There’s a budget on Thursday. We’ll see what’s in the budget.”
But she did say Albertans need to have a conversation about the Heritage Fund.
Established to collect a portion of Alberta’s non-renewable resource revenue for future generations, the fund produces income to support government programs like health care and education.
“We need to be deciding as Albertans what we want the Heritage Fund to be in the future and what we want it to be used for,” Redford said.
Smith said the PC government has mismanaged the fund on a “colossal scale.”
“It’s shameful that we only have $17 billion in that account. It was started in 1976, adjusted for inflation on a per capita basis, it’s worth less today then when it started.
“They’ve blown two booms. We should not give them the opportunity to blow a third.”
Redford’s government says it is time to reshape Alberta.
“Alberta’s current fiscal framework relies too heavily on volatile energy revenue as a source of income. It’s time for change. It won’t be easy, but it is the right way to better manage the annual unpredictability in the budgeting process,” read Ethell.
Wildrose said there was no indication that the province will control its spending and has no measures to eliminate the deficit.
“We’re in the position now that we’re getting $10 billion worth in resource revenue and they are running a $6-billion cash shortfall. They have a major spending problem,” Smith said.
“Over the last 10 years they’ve increased spending at double the rate of inflation, plus population growth.”