Our Greedy Government Hordes Winfall Surplus

July 6, 2003

In June, the Alberta government proudly released a long list of special interest groups which received $30 million of taxpayers' money.

This list includes the Ballroom Dance Club of Edmonton, the Edmonton Chapter of the Chinese Freemasons Society, Azimuth Theater Society, Edmonton Springboard and Platform Diving Club, Glenora Parent Teacher Association, Pakistan Canada Association of Edmonton, Sierra Club of Canada, Somalia Stars Soccer Club, Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Alberta Ballet Company, Alberta Clown Theater Society, Bowness Senior Citizens' Club, Calgary Birth Control Association, Calgary Chinese Culture Society, Calgary Jewish Centre, Calgary Status of Women Action Committee, Crowfoot Minor Hockey Association, Decidedly Jazz Danceworks, Green Fools Theater Society, Irish Cultural Society of Calgary, Planned Parenthood of Alberta, Southern Alberta Curling Association, Alberta Amateur Hockey Association, Metis Nation of Alberta Red Deer Council, Red Deer Tennis Club, SALTA Gymnastics Club, Lethbridge Soccer Centre Association, Lethbridge Softball Association, Canadian Gohaku-Kai Karate-Do Association, Fort McMurray Swim Club, and Vista Ridge Recreational Association.

No, this isn't the federal Liberals using your money to buy votes. These are provincial Tories taking your money and giving it to groups of their choice.

These groups should get their money from their own supporters, not from taxpayers. Robbing Peter to pay Paul violates the dignity of Peter, who should be allowed to make his own choice about which charities and causes he wishes to support. But Klein's Tories believe politicians and bureaucrats have more wisdom in spending other people's money.

The day after announcing this $30 million give-away to special interest groups, the Alberta government released its annual report for the 2002-03 fiscal year. It collected $2.8 billion in extra revenues which if had not counted on. That works out to $875 for every man, woman and child in Alberta! Most of this $2.8 billion winfall comes from the sale of oil and natural gas, which belongs to the people of Alberta.

The remainder of the $2.8 billion is higher-than-expected revenue from personal income tax, corporate income tax, school property tax, insurance taxes, fuel tax, and the hotel room tax, not to mention a record $914 million in health care premium taxes.

This extra $2.8 billion flowed into general revenues in addition to $641 million in tax increases imposed on Albertans by Premier Klein in March of 2002. Fees, licenses, permits, the health-care premium tax, and sin taxes on liquor and tobacco all went up. The health-care premium tax - which flows into general revenues and doesn't pay for heath care any more than the hotel room tax - was raised to $528 per person, or $1056 for families.

How much of the $2.8 billion in unanticipated tax revenues went back to the taxpayers who earned it and own it? What portion of this $875-per-person in over taxation was returned to Albertans?

Three quarters? One half? One quarter? One tenth, perhaps?

The health-care premium tax could be abolished completely by using less than one-third of this extra $2.8 billion. Two-thirds of this $2.8 billion would enable the government to eliminate both the heath-care premium tax and the provincial school property tax. If all of this $2.8 billion was put towards a cut to personal income taxes, Alberta could reduce its rate from 10% down to 4%.

The old Premier Klein would have found a way to give most - or at least some - of this money back to Albertans. Not so the new Premier Klein. Not one penny of this $2.8 billion will be returned to taxpayers.

After 10 years in office, Premier Klein and his loyalists think the money is theirs, to be spent according to their discretion. And they think they can spend it with greater wisdom than the "severely normal" Albertans they once proudly claimed to represent. That's why Alberta's spending on government programs grew 58% from 1996 to 2002, while Alberta's population grew only 12%.

If Martha and Henry could keep an extra $88 per month by not paying the health-care premium tax, they might waste it on holidays and renovations to their house, and saving for the education of their children or grandchildren. If a single mother had her income tax cut in half, she might waste that money on nicer clothes and more books for her children. If Bill and Betty no longer had to pay provincial property tax, they might waste this money by giving more of it to charity, or by paying off their mortgage earlier. But Alberta's politicians are here to save us from wasting our money on things like charitable giving, debt repayment, holidays, recreation, saving for hate future, etc.

If Premier Klein let Albertans keep even a fraction of the $2.8 billion (or the $641 million in tax increases), we Albertans would have more money to contribute to the charities and causes of our choice, not to mention improving our own lives and economies futures.

The government's annual report proves there was no excuse for the $641 million tax increase in 2002. And there is no excuse for not abolishing Alberta's deceitful and regressive heath-care premium tax.