Alberta needs tax fairness

In an interview with Alison Redford about the 2012 budget reported in the Dec. 26, edition of the Advocate, the premier said that it will not be a balanced budget but that she was “pretty confident Albertans will see a budget that reflects their values.”

In an interview with Alison Redford about the 2012 budget reported in the Dec. 26, edition of the Advocate, the premier said that it will not be a balanced budget but that she was “pretty confident Albertans will see a budget that reflects their values.” She also asked, “Are we going to be ideological about it? Or are we going to think about how we’re investing in the future of the province?”

She apparently intends to produce a budget which she thinks will be good for the province over the long haul. Of course, her perspective on what is good for us in the future may be quite different from that of others, but in principle it seems to be better than constructing a budget based on the prevailing ideology.

If the government ditched the “lowest taxes in the country” ideology inflicted on us by the likes of Ralph Klein and Stockwell Day and, for a start, replaced the 10 per cent flat rate tax with a progressive tax regime, that is, one where we all pay taxes in proportion to our incomes, Redford could add several hundred million dollars to the revenue side of the budget every year and at the same time correct the unfair tax advantage, which high income earners and the rich have received for the past 10 years. There is nothing fair about someone with an income of $60,000 paying taxes at the same rate as someone with a six- or seven-figure income.

Alberta is the only province with a flat rate tax. The median top tax rate in other provinces is 17.58 per cent, ranging from 11.16 per cent in Ontario to 24 per cent in Quebec. Nova Scotia has the most progressive tax regime. It has five brackets increasing from 8.79 per cent on the first $29,590 of taxable income to 21 per cent on an amount over $150,000. Such a regime in Alberta would not be as equitable as it could be (we should have at least three more tax brackets on incomes over $150,000), but it would go a long way toward establishing a fairer, more dependable source for funding services vital to the well being of all citizens now and in the future.

From my point of view, this would mean provincial investments such as building and operating more long-term care facilities, expanding mental health programs, services and facilities; substantially increasing education budgets at all levels, especially in rural areas; and putting more emphasis on preserving wild places for species with whom we share this planet.

As a human rights lawyer, Redford has dealt with issues of justice, equality and fairness in difficult, high-profile situations. Is she willing to do the same with respect to the mundane, ordinary, unfair tax regime in Alberta?

Dale L. Watson

Red Deer