After four years of the socialist NDP government, Alberta is still reeling under an economic downturn caused by both the provincial and federal governments. However there seems to be real signs of economic revival as we see a new conservative government and the business community working to bring back the Alberta advantage.
The elected UCP government under Jason Kenney has already made some significant changes to stimulate the economy. A cancellation of the carbon tax is only one of the many changes made to free the economy. There still remains much work to be done on many fronts. Altering the many destructive policies of the previous government will take some time, but we have confidence and optimism that the right decisions will be made. On the other side of the equation the Institute for Public Sector Accountability (IPSA), does not support any interference by the government to use the excuse of economic diversification to affect the free market. With this in mind we are very pleased to see that the business community is willing and able to work towards the province’s economic revival.
The formation of the Business Council of Alberta by a number of business executives and entrepreneur s is the right way to help the economy. Such an organization has been badly needed since the Calgary Chamber of Commerce has lost its real ‘raison d’etre”. It will take the business community, with the help of the government, to diversify the provincial economy. IPSA has always maintained that governments choosing winners and losers are not the way to diversify an economy. Advice and involvement of many of these founding members will work towards the prosperity for all Albertans.
Furthermore in another much awaited announcement is the involvement of Calgary’s business leaders to start questioning the decisions made by a dysfunctional Council. In view of the recent and continuing inability for the current Council to properly manage its financial affairs, IPSA is very glad to see that the business community is ready to question the decisions made on increasingly risky capital investment. This Council is unable to make decisions regarding budget management. They continue to bring forward proposals to curtail essential services before cutting useless expenditures, benefits and large pensions. This strategy by administration to offer essential services as the first cut in a reduction of costs, is a long established ploy to get citizens to accept their continued spend and tax tactics. They believe that citizens will allow Council to save essential services and make no significant cuts. There are many areas which can be subject to reductions and sometimes complete eradication. This Council has been unable to set priorities; it is time for the business community to set guidelines for Council to get its house in order. It is very unfortunate that we have to resort to this type of oversight of an elected body, but Calgarians have reached the end of their tether.
As a contribution to the economic debate IPSA has made proposals to the Alberta government to make some significant changes to the property tax regime. Given the recent ruling concerning the assessment of the Metropolitan Centre, i It has become quite clear that our proposal should be a priority for the UCP to reform the Market Value Assessment basis for property taxes. The proposal can be found on our website www.theipsa.org in a publication called A Blueprint for Alberta II. As Don Braid wrote: “Cities have no real need for their own property assessors… Calgary assessment department costs $22 million a year to operate. Abolishing it would help the downtown tax hole.” For these reasons IPSA calls upon the government to consider a review of the assessment system.
All of the above developments bode well for the future of the Alberta economy. If only the new UCP government would consider working with these new groups to redress the dismal performance of the previous destructive government policies.