Todays election commentary looks at the bottom lines of the platforms of the four major political parties contesting the April 23 election. The costing documents for party platforms are couched in communications language and use different assumptions or timeframes. This blog posting tries to cut through some of the rhetorical fog by focusing on the bottom line impact of the different platforms on the current budget year that started on April 1, 2012.
Bottom Line. The Conservatives forecast a deficit of about $900 million in the current year. As a result of changes to revenues and expenditure, the other three political parties forecast balanced budgets this year
Revenue. The Conservative, NDP, and Wildrose platform costing documents accept the revenue projections in the 2012-13 budget passed by the Legislature last month as a starting point. The Liberal platform says the revenue projections are overly optimistic and writes them down by $1.4 Billion.
The Conservatives and the Wildrose say no new taxes will be necessary to pay for their campaign promises this year or in following years. The Liberals and NDP would both raise taxes on large corporations by 20%, with the NDP cutting small business taxes by one-third. Both the Liberals and NDP propose to reinstate a progressive income tax. In the case of the Liberals, higher tax rates would kick in at $100,000 of individual taxable income, whereas the NDP higher rates would begin at $200,000 of individual taxable income. The NDP would also charge a differential higher royalty for oil sands bitumen not upgraded in Alberta.
Expenditure. The Conservatives propose to add $17 million to this years budget mostly by implementing activity tax credits for children and seniors. Other Conservative funding commitments would not take effect until future years. The NDP would invest an additional $1.9 billion this year in expanding public health care, education (from early childhood through post-secondary), and environmental initiatives. Because of the write down of forecast revenues, the Liberals are only able to invest an additional $656 million this year in health care, education, the arts, settlement services and environmental initiatives.
Unlike the other political parties, the Wildrose platform does not contain an itemized list of spending promises and their costs. Yet, Wildrose proposes to spend $2.5 billion less than the already approved provincial budget for this year. $1.6 billion will come from cutting capital spending on roads, schools, hospitals and other infrastructure. That leaves an unexplained $900 million shortfall. While not repeated in the platform, the Wildrose Alternative Budget 2012 proposes cutting costs by tearing up existing collective agreements with doctors, nurses, teachers and public service employees and imposing a one year public sector wage freeze.
You Decide. The platforms of Albertas four major political parties tell us a lot about their values and priorities for Albertas future. In the lead up to the April 23 election, the ESPC encourages all socially concerned Albertans to examine in detail which partys platform most closely reflect your own values and priorities.
Links to party platforms and costing documents: