Friday, January 22, 2010

OK I take that back

This morning the Wildrose Alliance issued the exactly the press release that I didn't think the party would issue because, as I ranted yesterday evening, I didn't think the party would appreciate what it picked up as much as the PCs appreciated what they lost.

Note to Edmonton Journal editorial board and Paula Simons in particular: this person graduated not once but twice from the U of Alberta. That's in Edmonton! He resided in Clareview. An Edmonton neighbourhood, just to jog memories. He currently resides in Vegreville, you know, in the riding of Edmonton's supposed native son Ed Stelmach? Is Vegreville in downtown Calgary? Perhaps the meme that Wildrose can't see outside the sandbox of Calgary office towers could be dialed down a bit?

Note to Wildrose Alliance members: I understand the concern about senior people in the PC party moving over to Wildrose. But this particular individual was interested in volunteering to help with ordinary literature drops, etc before it was ever cool to be Wildrose because of a thorough-going commitment to smaller government. As for being a lawyer, I wouldn't be too concerned that influential Wildrosers hailing from northern Alberta towns are going to be all lawyers or people with multiple university degrees. While the Liberal party is branded as too elitist, something supported by polling crosstabs, the same data suggests that Wildrose's appeal skews too far the other way. Fact is, having someone with a distinguished background in tax legislation means having someone who can provide valuable technical advice. You, as a member, still reserve the right to "take it or leave it" with respect to that advice.

To confess my own interest in this, I've been very keen on Jack Mintz's proposal to halve both the provincial corporate and personal income tax rates, but I have favoured a bigger cut to the corporate rate than the personal rate based primarily on research I saw while at Finance Canada. Exactly how to handle the two rates, however, is a matter that has to be sensitive to the danger that people who receive income through the corporate form are unduly favoured such that corporate forms are created just for tax purposes (like income trusts were prior to the 2006 federal fix). Ordinary people should not be disadvantaged just because they are not tax law experts who can readily exploit a tax break. Shayne would be in a position to provide authoritative advice on this matter such that a recommendation I hope to propose to the membership in 2011 for a 3 or 4% corporate rate and a 7 or 8% personal rate (down from 10 and 10) would take account of everything that needs to be taken account of.


Jarrett Leinweber said...

What are your thoughts on taxing consumption more and income less?

I also liked the report Jack Mintz prepared for the PCs, which challenged the government to save and grow the heritage fund to $100 Billion.

Sadly, that report is collecting cobwebs!

Chris said...

Well Brian a lower corporate and personal tax rate would be strongly advisable in my mind for Alberta. We'd certainly need to roll back spending but it is feasible.

Everyone talks about 'diversifying the economy' but you never really see much come of it. Generally the Liberals and the NDP mean you should build mindmills and give some corporate welfare to some quasi private company.

In truth creating a definitive tax haven in North America would be the most sure fire way to diversify the economy. We're also in a better position to do it than most places. You can look at Ireland's example of rapid growth that was spurred on by effective tax cuts. Given the actual backbone of the oil industry in this province we're better placed to put that policy into action over the long term than Ireland ever was.

Having a long term low tax plan would allow the gradual accumulation of other industries, which is turn could continue to allow Alberta to achieve prosperty long after the oil itself is gone. Everyone talks about how one day there will be no more oil the challenge is to do something about it.

As for the Heritage fund, there is something to be said for saving for later. On the other hand the idea of the Heritage Fun is to prepare the province for when it cannot depend on oil. There isn't only one way to skin a cat, so whether or not we save or we allocate the money through tax cuts to prepare us for that eventuality isn't so important as the fact that preparations are made.

Jarrett Leinweber said...

Mintz says alberta should consider exporting electricity, like Quebec, to the USA as an alternative source of income and job creation. Critics say this will increase our electricity bills, to which Mintz says this may not be a bad thing since it will cause people to use electricity more efficiently.

At the moment I'm interested in the idea of lowering personal and corporate income tax, in favor of taxing consumption more aggressively. I think this could be a good way to stimulate business investment by letting both corporations and people keep more of their income and give incentive to be less wasteful and purchase more efficient consumer goods that we consume.

Something that I need to learn more about and think thru.

Jarrett Leinweber said...

I would love to see the WRA use tax policy for environmental benefits via economic incentives for energy efficiency and disincentives for wasteful consumerism.

Brian Dell said...

lowering personal and corporate income tax, in favor of taxing consumption more aggressively

That's been my theme for some time now. As usual, the lowering part will be easy, but the raising of taxes on something else will be the hard part, and it is something I reckon will be more popular in 2011 than this year, just given the trends.

Environmentally friendly tax policy is also something I advocate, although getting the Wildrose Alliance to adopt any kind of tax on consumption that has an environmental angle is going to be so difficult to sell I haven't been calling for it. If just a broad-based tax on consumption can be adopted, that would be victory enough, such that going further could be considered then.

Jarrett Leinweber said...

hi brian

you may have a point with resistance on some levels. especially, a technical unsexy topic like tax reform.

a more realistic approach would be a proposal to measure and report on sustainability indicators relevant to alberta.

You can only manage what you measure. And that which you do not measure is normally forgotten or ignored. A stated goal of the wildrose is energy efficiency, govt. buildings and fleets would be a good place to start. Post secondary funding for innovation in energy technology and environmental management systems is also a wise place to invest. Unlike the CCS give away

My main problem with the PCs on the enviro card, is that they have failed to adequately address serious issues, like watershed management and the tailings ponds, and have let the Green Peaces of the world misrepresent and overstate the C02 emission problem in McMurray.

In both my studies and time in industry I can confidently say that the management of the upstream industry, between the Board and AENV, is a world class model for enviro. stewardship.

If the wildrose is successful in growing support they will be successful in drawing more support from the youth, moderates and progressives. I'm starting the U of C campus club and I've been somewhat surprised and encouraged by the smart and progressive minded people I've met so far.

Jarrett Leinweber said...

I'm also going to a Jack Mintz talk this week. "Is Alberta losing it's tax advantage".

On the public policy school site he has released his slides.

So should be interesting to hear what he has to say