A unionwide plea for the Redford government to address a revenue problem instead of spending is somewhat misguided, said the president of the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce on Monday.
Gayle Langford was reacting to news that five of Alberta’s largest unions were calling on the Progressive Conservatives to think more about revenue issues as it prepares to unveil an expected hardhitting budget to Albertans on Thursday.
Businesses look at their budgets from both a revenue and spending perspective, she said.
The Alberta Chamber of Commerce has made a number of suggestions regarding controlled spending.
“There’s a certain amount of spending needed for infrastructure that supports economic growth,” said Langford.
“You have to identify priorities and then have targeted spending, but it has to be limited and linked to something. One of the (chamber) recommendations is that it should be linked to population growth and inflation.”
The unions held a news conference in Edmonton and while they say their pitch won’t make any changes to the upcoming budget, they wanted Premier Alison Redford to know loud and clear that major cuts to public services will not help Albertans.
The conference was represented by the United Nurses of Alberta, Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, Health Sciences Association of Alberta, Alberta Teachers’ Association and Alberta Federation of Labour.
They called for higher taxes for larger corporations and the wealthy, and increasing oil and gas royalties.
Alberta Federation of Labour leader Gil McGowan said that good public policy and responsible budgets need to based on facts and “not based on talking points from Conservative ideologs and their thinktanks.”
“The facts tell us that Alberta is actually fifth among provinces when it comes to per person spending on public services,” said McGowan. “We’re rich like Saudi Arabia but we spend like New Brunswick. This is not a problem of overspending.”
Elisabeth Ballerman, president of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta, said that by cutting funding, the government is saying it’s easier to make sick Albertans pay for years of government mismanagement than to ask corporations and the wealthy to pay their fair share.
President Heather Smith of the United Nurses of Alberta said the government budgets have been lacking when it comes to evidence-based decisions. It’s been a slash and burn approach when it comes to health care and education and other public services, she said.
Langford said the government has taken an evidence-based approach.
“I know it’s really easy to say to up the taxes and keep the spending the way it is,” said Langford.
“But the impacts of that can actually decrease growth.”