Alberta’s United Conservative Party released its first policy document after the merger of Alberta’s two right wing parties. It reads very much like a re-run of the 1993 Klein Revolution / Miracle on the Prairies. The policy paper is open for discussion and online comments by party members, until February 16th. Regional conferences, followed by an AGM and policy conference, will complete building a platform for the next election.
The draft document would see Alberta taking a hard right turn. Key aspects of the document are:
- Role of Government – The focus of the policy is that government should be limited, so that personal freedoms are not impinged. The idea of government as an important service provider is downplayed as its central purpose.
- Fiscal Approach – The UPC document proposed the return of the flat tax, repeal of the carbon tax and de-facto zero based budgeting. On the expenditure side, it proposed to balance the government budget. The Alberta budget this year will expend $50+ billion. The deficit is 10 billion, roughly 20%.
- Economic Policy – The UCP sees the return of the Alberta Advantage as a low tax environment driven by the energy sector. Some program spending is proposed along with streamlining regulations.
- Health Care – The UCP sees expanding private health care services (within the Canada Health Act) as a main theme. They also support preventive health services and home-based care. They focus on continuing care and EMS in rural Alberta. .
- Advanced Education -The UCP policy for Advanced Education would see a shift towards technical training, targeted funding towards the low-income students and reduced costs through online delivery.
So if you want to relive the 1990s this is the policy for you. It reads very much like a re-run of the 1993 Klein Revolution / Miracle on the Prairies.
In the main, Albertans might see the role of government as a positive, not malevolent force out to curtail personal freedom and choice. Economists have calculated that a flat tax will benefit about 15% of the population. The NDP are sharpening their arguments about the impact of tax cuts.
Last time, the Alberta Advantage economic strategy, focused on resources and low taxes, resulted in oilsands growth but a ‘boom bust’ economy. The energy economy stifled growth in other sectors that were competing for people, resources and government attention.
Health care will be an ‘Achilles Heel’ for any government; because cutting into Health’s $20 billion dollar budget and promising improved health care outcomes is a tough needle to thread.
The policy doesn’t see an educated workforce as a strategic advantage. Alberta is already first in Canada. If we consider that our skilled workforce is at the core of the Alberta Advantage 2.0, Alberta could have the most highly trained workforce in North America, rivalling the best in Europe.