Ted Morton, the former two-term Tory MLA from Foothills-Rockyview and two-time Tory leadership candidate who served as Finance Minister from 2010 to 2011, penned an opinion-editiorial in Wednesday’s Calgary Herald pointing out some common misconceptions about Alberta’s fiscal situation.
While Professor Morton correctly points out that the symptoms of Alberta’s financial woes are not a new phenomenon, his prescription is a tough pill to swallow.
In his column, Dr. Morton dispels the myths that 1) our fiscal problems are just because we are having a bad year, 2) our fiscal problems are just because of the low price of bitumen (also known as the notorious ‘Bitumen Bubble‘), and that 3) this is just about a Budget 2013 deficit.
On his fourth argument, Dr. Morton diverts into a more conservative ideological direction. While he correctly points out the fickleness and limited life-span of some political agendas, the former Finance Minister criticizes his successor for choosing to use financing to fund capital projects. On this point, Dr. Morton appears to share the view of his ideological kin in Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Party, who spent the waining days of 2012 on a relentless offensive against the government on this very issue.
Ron Liepert, the former two-term Tory MLA from Calgary-West who served as Finance Minister from 2011 to 2012, has suggested that it was time for the government to address its revenue problems by looking at tax hikes.
“Nobody likes to pay more taxes. Nobody likes to pay the taxes you’re paying today. But everybody wants the services,” Mr. Liepert told the Calgary Herald in December 2012.
Meanwhile, disgruntled former Finance Minister Lloyd Snelgrove, who quit the Tory caucus in 2011 citing irreconcilable differences with Premier Redford, told the right-wing Sun News that he does not believe the government has a revenue problem, but if it does then a sales tax should be imposed.
Back in 2010, the last Tory to seriously discuss the idea of a sales tax was then-backbench MLA Doug Griffiths (now Municipal Affairs Minister). Mr. Griffiths was publicly demonized by the opposition for even broaching the topic.
Only two years earlier, another now-former Tory MLA, who is also now one of the government’s most vocal critic of the government, stood up in Alberta’s Legislative Assembly and called for tax reform and the introduction of a sales tax in Alberta:
“I, too, believe that the government of Alberta should look into studying the feasibility of eliminating our provincial income tax and using a consumption-based taxation system in its place, with a provincial sales tax being the likely substitute revenue generator.” – Newly elected Progressive Conservative MLA Rob Anderson in April 2008.