Lacombe-Ponoka Wildrose MLA Ron Orr took the opportunity to make some hay with some area business leaders in a speech during a forum on the Alberta economy hosted by Servus Credit Union at the Calnash Ag Event Centre on Wednesday, June 8.
Orr didn’t go into much detail about either the present economic climate or the Wildrose’s plans to build up the provincial economy and improve the lot of those that live here, though he did reference all of their plans are outlined in documents available on their website (www.wildrose.ca).
His focus stayed mostly on how things have changed in the past year and how a difficult situation has been compounded by the political risk taken by the current NDP government.
“There has been a change in realities and it may be more serious now than back in the 1980s with the tax changes and government policy. It’s our position that this makes Alberta worse off than better right now,” he said.
“Our plan is to build a stronger Alberta. We share the feeling that a strong Alberta means a strong Canada and that what happens locally affects the province and the country.”
He added that these economic times are having a serious effect on small business and that instituting the carbon tax is a huge risk for the province.
“What it does is really offsets the small business tax reduction that was introduced. One can’t argue with the positive intent of the legislation – clean air, a healthy place to live and the need to take action,” Orr stated.
“But we need to be careful to mitigate the impacts on our economy. By not addressing it effectively, we add negative effects and unintended consequences that place a burden on business and residents at a bad time. It also damages our competitiveness.”
As an example, Orr cited a baker than makes a loaf of bread that currently costs $2 will see that same loaf cost $3.60 to produce as the ripple effect of the carbon tax adding to the expenses of natural gas along with the increased fuel and resulting transportation costs to ship ingredients and other products.
“The government really should have assessed all of that, because it’s all going to be passed along down the line and these business costs are just tip of the iceberg,” Orr added.
Toss in the movement toward full implementation of the $15 per hour minimum wage and Orr believes businesses who are worried now are really going to feel it, just as many in the general public will also.
“What we needed is evidence-based policy, not just an idea.”
Orr also referenced the latest NDP budget, which the Wildrose feels has too much spending.
“A big deficit or huge cuts – those were not the only options the NDP had. We felt there was a plausible middle ground that can ensure sustainability and maintain our front line services through better government and priority spending along with attrition and a hiring freeze,” he said.
“That kind of a budget would bring more investment into the province and that puts more money in everyone’s pockets and is better for all,” he stated.
Orr also said the federal government is to blame as well for the situation as the delays in approving the three pipelines from Alberta plus the regulations tied to the industry have made it harder to do business in and with Alberta.