When apologists for the provincial government's new borrowing binge defend it on the grounds that private sector companies borrow money for capital expenses so why not have the Alberta government do the same? their defence invariably contains a significant and faulty assumption: that political behaviour is the same as that of private companies.
One item sorely missing from Finance Minister Mike de Jongs recent provincial budget was a plan to make BCs business taxes more competitive and attractive for investment.
As Albertans approach another provincial budget, the usual fables about Alberta's finances often crop up. To inoculate ourselves in advance, let's ponder two myths.
Myth Number One: Alberta's wealth is a result of luck.
This tall tale assumes that the existence of natural resources automatically results in wealth creation, jobs, and a higher standard of living. That's hardly the case. Plenty of jurisdictions have little in the way of natural resources but prosper, while others have plentiful natural resources yet flounder.
Tuesdays BC budget, which Finance Minister Michael de Jong called boring, balanced, should have set out an ambitious agenda for the next four years.
On February 18th British Columbians will be watching to see if finance minister Mike de Jongs budget sets out a plan to deliver on his governments ambitious goals with respect to economic growth and job creation. And the truth is, the province needs it. The past year was a disappointing one for BC in terms of economic and employment growth compared to other provinces.
On Wednesday, the day after delivering the 2014 federal budget, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty set off a firestorm by offering his view on income-splitting, a platform commitment the Conservatives made for when the government returns to a balanced budget (likely next year). I'm not sure that, overall, it [income-splitting] benefits our society, Minister Flaherty stated, preferring instead to, reduce taxes more.
While readers of this page will know we haven't always agreed with Minister Flaherty over the years, he is right on the money with respect to income-splitting.
Until recently, there was a consensus in favour of competitive business taxes. But whenever governments are strapped for cash - which is most of the time for most of them, given their voracious appetite for spending - eyes quickly turn to corporate income taxes as an expedient and presumed painless way to extract more revenue. Two provinces raised corporate tax rates in 2013.
While Premier Christy Clark aims to create an environment where growth and investment can flourish, little has been achieved since last years electoral victory. If Premier Clark is to help British Columbians obtain the desired prosperity and jobs, her top economic priority should be to make BC the most investment-friendly jurisdiction in Canada.
Heres whats needed.
About five years ago, I became acquainted with a retired fellow by the name of Jim Tocher. Then in his eighties, Mr. Tocher was a classic Canadian success story. Born in Golden, B.C., he spent his early years in Yoho National Park where his father worked as a park warden. As a teenager, Jim worked as a park guide, for the Canadian Pacific Railway as a fireman and for Brewster bus lines, ferrying people into the national parks.