This year potentially two elections are on the horizon, provincially and nationally. At both levels, the economy has taken a significant down turn because of the drop in oil prices. Expected revenues at the provincial level have been lost. Because Canada is a big exporter of oil, the Canadian economy has also taken a downturn. This is old news. We’ve heard about this for several months now.
Where do we go from here?
Premier Prentice has signaled a claw back of wages by announcing cuts to his and his cabinet’s wages. He has suggested in addition that sacrifices are expected from Albertans, perhaps preparing the public for government cutbacks in staffing of government departments.
By any other name this could be seen as the beginning of an austerity regime in Alberta. At this point he has not mentioned the impact of these changes. I suggest that the impact on the government cuts would potentially affect the vulnerable more than most, though the premier has said that he would not cut core services in governmental departments.
Alberta has had a flat tax for years, where everyone has been taxed at the same rate. This has often been seen as fair. Yet it is easy to see that a 10 per cent of tax on a low-income earner has significantly more impact on their spending power than a 10 per cent tax on a high-income earner. This is a crucial ethical issue that Albertans and Canadians will have to confront in the upcoming elections.
Statistics suggest that during periods of austerity, it is the very high-income earners that not only survive, but thrive because they are able to shift the financial resources to more profitable and sheltered financial products.
Ultimately it is about opportunities for as many in our communities, who want to not merely to survive but to thrive.