A healthy democracy key to a healthy balance sheet: Taft

Curtail corporate power with limits on political party contributions to yield more public money.

Curtail corporate power with limits on political party contributions to yield more public money.

“If we had a more healthy democracy, we’d have a healthier balance sheet,” former provincial Liberal leader Kevin Taft told about 50 people at the Red Deer Public Library Wednesday.

He spoke in the series Exploring Our Democratic Deficit at a free event sponsored by Public Interest Alberta, Red Deer Action Group of Fair Vote Canada and the library.

Taft worked with University of Alberta economists Mel McMillan and Junaid Jahangir studying Statistics Canada data for their book Follow The Money.

The trio found Alberta’s public spending only slightly higher than other provinces, the Heritage Savings Trust Fund is worth less today than when it was created and personal incomes are higher than average here.

“Where the heck is all the money going? Who’s really benefitting from Alberta’s amazing wealth? We’re one of the richest places in the world and we’re seeing public institution closures and post secondary education cuts.”

The real beneficiaries from publicly owned resources are big corporations, reaping profits 100 per cent higher than the rest of Canada and the United States.

“Our wealth is flowing to New York, Houston, Shanghai and London.”

He said this plays into Alberta’s democratic deficit because “the government is the people’s agent and whoever controls the government, enjoys the benefits of the wealth.”

The solution is to change the way political parties are financed in Alberta by capping personal and corporate contributions just as federal limits do.

“It could be done with a single piece of legislation and reduce the influence of big money in Alberta politics.”

The average Albertan can affect change by pressuring MLAs for such a law as well as by voting since typically about 40 per cent of eligible voters don’t cast ballots.

rfiedler@bprda.wpengine.com

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