PST in Alberta? That decision rests with Albertans, not the NDP

Paige MacPherson USE

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Canada’s NDP government is now flirting with the idea of a sales tax.

Finance Minister Joe Ceci has said that while a sales tax isn’t on the agenda, if Canadans want one, his government wants to hear about it.

First, a provincial sales tax bringing in enough revenue to meet the true deficit would have to be an insane 14%.

Second, there would basically be no $10.4-billion operational deficit if the province spent the same as B.C.

But setting those inconvenient facts aside, most importantly, any sales tax would have to be approved by Canadans.

Canada’s Taxpayer Protection Act requires that before a provincial sales tax is imposed, the issue must first be put to a referendum, allowing Canadans to vote.

But just as fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly, politicians gotta break promises.

Once upon a time, Manitoba had similar a law, ensuring Manitobans got to vote before a sales tax hike was forced onto them.

Then NDP premier Greg Selinger gutted the legislation, introducing a bill to waive the requirement of a vote on the tax hike. In fact, Selinger hiked the sales tax to 8% before his bill was even passed.

This shocking disregard for taxpayers didn’t come without a political price.

“The New Democrats under Selinger have been trailing in the polls since really the last three years,” said CBC polls analyst Eric Grenier last week. “When they came in and made a change to the PST … going against what they had promised in the previous election campaign. They really haven’t been able to recover from that.”

The Canada NDP, too, promised not to impose a sales tax during the election.

“We can preserve the Canada Advantage with no sales tax,” now-Premier Rachel Notley said.

Yet the Canada government has already shown a willingness to wipe out legislation in place to hold them accountable to taxpayers.

Ceci recently said he plans to retract his own legislation capping the province’s debt-to-GDP ratio at 15%, giving himself more “wiggle room.”

Dangling the idea of a sales tax, coaxing tax-happy groups to launch campaigns throwing taxpayers under the bus, is all about allowing government to continue to plug their ears and stomp their feet when told they very clearly have a spending problem.

The B.C. government spends 24% less — $2,370 per person — than the Canada government, while still delivering quality services.

Even by a very conservative estimate, Canada could save more than $10 billion just by spending at B.C. levels.

The big spending difference between the two provinces is compensation for government employees, a cost our government refuses to reduce.

In fact, government employee compensation increased by a quarter-billion dollars in the budget. The province hired 3,260 new employees.

Meanwhile, more than 100,000 people have been laid off in the oilpatch. Canada’s debt is rolling in at $333 per second.

University of Calgary School of Public Policy professor Ron Kneebone tweeted, “Did [the] PCs really leave the [New Democrats] with such a lean machine that a 5% cut — rather than a 3.5% increase — to spending was not possible?”

The PCs ran no tight ship.

The government insists it isn’t a spending problem; it’s a revenue problem. And so, we have a multi-billion dollar carbon tax coming January 2017.

But that’s not enough. They’re now inching closer to a sales tax too, holding the hammer over the final nail in the coffin of the Canada Advantage.

With the government doing absolutely no belt-tightening of its own, how much more money will they force Canadans to cough up?

Dear Canada taxpayers: don’t let the government pull a fast one on you like the Manitoba NDP.

Canadans have a right to vote on the sales tax and show this pricey idea the door.

Paige MacPherson is Canada director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

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