Alberta's Looming PST

March 16th, 2013 | R. Rados 

“We're not introducing a provincial sales tax, period.” - Alison Redford

“Read my lips: No. New. Taxes.” - George H. W. Bush

“I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” - Bill Clinton


Politicians lie. Once in a while, when we deserve it, we get an elected official who isn't just saying something to win votes or prevent an unmanageable popularity meltdown. This is what democracy has produced. The culture of lies belongs to us. We turned our leaders into liars by rewarding the ones who told us what we wanted to hear and punishing the ones who told us the truth. We shouldn't expect anything more than sugar-coated horseshit from here on in. It's what we've asked for, so it's what we're going to get.

During Alberta's golden years, Ralph Klein told the truth. He told Albertans and Canadians across the country what they needed to hear, not what they wanted to hear. In the process of being a “drunk” and a “loud mouth”, Ralph Klein balanced the province's budget and eliminated the debt. When Klein resigned in 2007, Alberta fell apart – not by coincidence. To this day, he is either revered or reviled. The NDP and Brian Mason do most of the reviling while most of the revering is done by Alberta's real conservatives – the ones who defected to the Wildrose. When Ralph Klein vowed to serve one last term, the Progressive Conservative establishment wanted an exact resignation date, so they could know when to swoop in and take the party in the direction they wanted. That direction turned out to be less conservative and more progressive. Those who know best know what progressive really means. It means moving away from Ralph Klein's laissez-fair policies and progressing toward a government that is large and in charge.

You can believe Alison Redford when she tells you what you want to hear. That's fine and it's your choice, but you'll be hanging your head when you find out that Alberta's PC government is implementing a provincial sales tax. The fact is that it will happen, whether you like it or not. It just won't happen tomorrow. When a government passes a budget with few meaningful cuts and continues to spend beyond reason using borrowed money, there will be a tax hike of some kind. Possibly even a brand new tax.

The most troubling part of this PST idea is the amount of support it has gotten from “experts”, economists, and politicians. The very fact that so much support is coming from high ranks is enough evidence to suggest that Alberta will have a PST by the end of 2015. Election or not, by 2016, the new tax will be a part of Alberta's future vision. If Alison Redford gets her way, she'll have Albertans convinced that it's the right thing to do, long before they go to the polls. The full campaign to get Albertans on board will probably begin in early 2014. Who needs spending cuts and a reduced government when you can convince taxpayers to pay more.

With soaring deficits and debt, spending cuts and a reduction in government are essential. However, according to The Conference Board Of Canada, a provincial sales tax in Alberta would wipe away the deficit, thus, making any cuts unnecessary. This board of somebodies claims to be a group of “specialists in economic trends, as well as organizational performance and public policy issues”. Their solution appears to be an increase in taxes rather than a decrease in spending. For a club of specialists, The Conference Board Of Canada seems to have a lopsided approach to management, despite their claim that they are “objective and non-partisan” and “do not lobby for specific interests”.

The Conference Board Of Canada is an apparent non-profit organization that is “funded exclusively through the fees [they] charge for services to the private and public sectors”. Basically, they get paid to give insight, opinions, and to do a little bit of research for governments and businesses. Somehow, their ingenious insight falls in line perfectly with the ideas of every progressive policymaker in Alberta.

Former Alberta Finance Minister, Ted Morton, also supports the idea of a PST, but has called it a “suicide tax” for any ruling party. University of Calgary economist, Ron Kneebone, also supports a PST and is on record saying, “I think it is in government's interest to raise revenue in the most efficient way possible and in a way that does the least amount of damage to the economy.”

It would be fair to assume that most economists who support a PST subscribe to the mythical idea that cutting wasteful spending and social programs is harmful to the economy. The truth for anyone looking to purchase a home, appliances, or a vehicle is that they will have to pay more. Not only is that truth discouraging for consumers, it's harmful to the economy. Letting people keep their own money might just be more helpful than harmful. Cutting public salaries, wasteful programs, and unaffordable expenses seems like a much better idea, albeit an unpopular one. Of course, such an idea is mostly unpopular amongst those who enjoy getting more for doing less.

At a time when our own government has been caught squandering public funds on trips, meals, and private functions, Albertans should be far more angry than they have been. Even the mere mention of a provincial sales tax should be met with fury. Anyone who suggests such an outrageous solution should be greeted with pure indignation. Albertans should be more eager to impose a salary freeze on every one of their elected officials before accepting a new tax. No more luxury hotels and meals overseas. No more self determined salary increases. No more bullshit. From now on, Alberta's leaders do exactly what they're told. From now on, their salaries reflect what they're really worth.

If Albertans want to keep the values that have made their province the most wealthy and attractive place in Canada for over four decades, they'd better start acting like it. There is a squad of publicly funded looters quietly waiting to take whatever they can. The more we let them have, the more they'll take. Let's take a bit of time out of our lives to remind them who they're working for.