Alberta Votes

Alberta election: Fiscal plans of the PCs, Wildrose, NDP and Liberals compared

Alberta's economy is currently taking a hit after a dramatic drop in oil prices since last summer. We take a look at the fiscal plans of the PCs, Wildrose and NDP and how each party will deal with the downturn if they get elected May 5.

Which fiscal plan is best for province's struggling economy? Albertans to decide May 5

Jim Prentice, David Swann, Rachel Notley and Brian Jean have all been out on the campaign trail touting why their party's fiscal plan is the best for Alberta. (CBC/Canadian Press)

​Alberta's economy is currently taking a hit after a dramatic drop in oil prices since last summer.

It's top of mind during the election campaign underway in the province. Three parties have released fiscal plans that promise to lead Alberta through its economic woes and bring the province back to balanced budgets. Here is how they break down.

PC fiscal plan

For the first time in years, the Alberta government introduced new taxes when it tabled its budget March 26. It plans to use that revenue to fund infrastructure. It was touted as a 10-year fiscal plan that would balance the budget in 2017 — even if oil prices don't rebound.

"Not everything in it will be popular — but the actions are necessary for a strong economy and a lasting legacy for our children and grandchildren," said the party on its website.

Alberta will remain the only province without a sales tax, but the Progressive Conservatives abandoned the 10 per cent flat tax in favour of a more progressive tax regime and brought in a health-care levy — although the latter will only apply to people who make more than $50,000 a year.

Many other taxes and fees were also increased for everything from alcohol and fuel to speeding tickets and campground fees. There would also be fee increases for mortgages, land transfers and land title registry searches.

The PCs did not raise corporate taxes — a decision criticized by the opposition but also by Edmonton-Castle Downs PC candidate Thomas Lukaszuk. He broke ranks with the party to call for a modest increase.

Roughly 2,000 full-time equivalent positions are expected to be eliminated in Alberta's public sector, although many are to come through attrition.

Faced with mounting criticism, Premier Jim Prentice cancelled the plan to reduce the charitable donation tax credit. The cut announced in the budget would have saved the government about $90 million per year. Prentice says the change was a mistake, even though experts often debate the effectiveness of a tax credit.

Wildrose fiscal plan

The Wildrose Party is promising to return Alberta to balanced budgets by 2017 without raising taxes. They released their five-point plan in early April.

The party has ferociously criticized the PC budget over its tax hikes, which it has promised to reverse.

"The PC budget has 59 tax and fee increases that will hit Alberta families hard," said the party in its plan. 

The party also plans to cut spending by $2.2 billion this year, releasing several promises in their fiscal plan:

  • Reduce number of ministers and size of premier's office, as well as MLA pay raises and expenses.
  • Limit public sector executive pay and severance packages, and cut the number of managers in civil service.
  • Prohibit all government grants and loan guarantees to corporations and eliminate sole-source contracts.
  • Implement broad-based tax incentives to stimulate research, investment, and economic activity across all sectors.
  • Negotiate a fairer equalization program in order to keep more of the billions in Albertans' tax dollars in the province. 
  • Extend the province's current capital plan by a year.

The Wildrose Party says if it forms the government it will ensure all hospitals offer two free hours of parking for visitors as part of its investment into "patient-centred" health care.

The PCs say that proposal would result in a $29-billion shortfall. But Jack Mintz, the director of the University of Calgary's school of public policy, said overall spending and revenue numbers contained in the Wildrose proposal did "add up."

NDP fiscal plan

Alberta's NDP promised to reverse spending cuts to health care and education while balancing the province's budget by 2017, but one day later the party said an accounting error meant it would take an extra year.

​NDP Leader Rachel Notley said her party would do away with proposed Tory fee hikes to mortgages, land transfers and land title registry searches. The party would also cancel Prentice's health-care levy.

Funding new school enrolment — what the NDP calls the premier's "decision to leave 12,000 new students without teachers this coming year" — would also be part of the party's fiscal plan.

The party would also introduce "fairer corporate taxes" in Alberta with a 12 per cent corporate tax, but with an exemption for small businesses.

They would also like to reintroduce progressive income taxes to make up for the revenue loss, and review Alberta's resource royalties and tax incentives.

The party also promises to create a job-creation tax credit that would rebate 10 per cent of wages paid to new hires up to a salary of $50,000, which the NDP predicts would create 27,000 new jobs.

The NDP's plan would also invest in 2,000 new long-term-care beds over four years and child care for families.

Liberal fiscal plan

The Alberta Liberal Party says it would look to eliminate wasteful spending and fix the broken revenue structure. 

"The Alberta Liberal Fair Tax Plan will quickly return us to balanced budgets," said the party's platform, although a specific date is not given.

​The party unveiled its four-point plan last week.

It includes introducing a progressive personal income tax system, increase corporate taxes (with an exemption for small businesses), return the responsibility for corporate tax collection to the Canada Revenue Agency to make sure Alberta gets the revenues it's owed, and re-invest the $2 billion in total funding for carbon capture and storage for front-line government services.

All four parties will get a chance to pick apart each other's fiscal plan when the leaders meet for a debate tonight. CBC will provide live analysis online during the televised event.

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