Guest Opinion: Alberta’s multiple crises include waning economic freedom
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In most years, spending continued to soar and deficit warnings were flashing before the mid-2014 decline in energy prices.
From 2008-09 to 2013-2014, every year rang up a deficit.
By 2018-2019, Alberta government spending rose to $56.4 billion.
Revenues grew, too, but not nearly as much, from $35.9 billion in 2005-06 to $49.6 billion in 2018-2019, leading to a 2018-19 deficit of $6.7 billion (though that was down from $10.8 billion in 2016-17 and $8 billion in 2017-18).
On the taxation side, Albertans endured years of tax increases in corporate tax, income tax, capital gains tax and taxes on fuel, health care, insurance and liquor among others.
The Kenney government has pledged to get spending under control and restore tax competitiveness, which would increase Alberta’s economic freedom.
Although this will be difficult in a time of COVID.
For the current fiscal year, Alberta projects a historic budget deficit of $24.2 billion with revenue of $38.4 billion and spending of $62.6 billion.
Alberta faces three crises — COVID (like everyone), challenges to the oil and gas industry, and its decline in economic freedom.
Of the three, only economic freedom is fully in the hands of Albertans to control.
Fred McMahon is co-author of the Economic Freedom of North America report published by the Fraser Institute.