January 17th, 2021

Strong plan going forward needed

By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on June 12, 2020.

I know that many of us would like a “do over” on the way that 2020 has unfolded. Our community, like all of Alberta, has faced the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the war on the price of oil, and a global recession. First the impacts and concerns about health, safety, transmission and the curve of the pandemic and now, the economic relaunch. Nearly every Albertan has felt the financial tidal wave that hit our province over the past few months and we weren’t on solid ground when it started, so where do we go from here? I believe that a strong plan going forward will include at least three elements.

First, let’s talk about stimulus. In order to rebuild the confidence of every worker in the stability of the job market, strategic infrastructure projects need to be chosen as the backbone of economic growth. Strategic in the sense that they create construction and manufacturing jobs now and lead to additional private-sector jobs tomorrow. This foundation, combined with measures that set Alberta apart to be the most economically attractive jurisdiction to do business in, such as the Job Creation Tax Cut, are vitally important to overcoming these challenging economic times. Added to these will be the sobering reality of thoughtful, balanced cost controls. If you are going to build a new house, it isn’t wise to also rack up additional credit card bills. This means hard realities and hard choices during tough times.

We must understand that all of our public-sector programs from health to education and children’s services to seniors and housing are largely funded by private enterprise and personal taxation. While it is true that the 95,000 public-sector workers also pay taxes, this is essentially a return of the dollars first paid by private businesses and privately employed citizens. It is also important to note that public institutions pay no tax whereas private businesses and buildings do; on revenue, employees, land and buildings.

I only say this to emphasize that the people working and earning in the private sector are an essential resource that a government has. And therefore, the balancing of services rendered and the burden of taxation; to economic freedom, political freedom and indeed every personal freedom, must be carefully and seriously considered.

Second, despite how we may have hoped 2020 would unfold, there are opportunities to address red tape reduction and reduce our regulatory burden. Regulations must serve the purpose of meaningful protections of human health and safety as well as the prevention of negative, lasting environmental impact. Unfortunately, over-regulations can add layer upon layer and precept upon precept until, in some cases, a virtual cocoon surrounds a subject into complete immobility. This tendency also relates to the government, as an institution, as it also tends to increase in size, adding not only to the necessary functions of the executive, legislative and judicial duties but to bureaucracy as well. The caution must be that large government leads to large spending which in turn leads to large taxation.

Therefore, now is the time for precise action to limit government, embrace free enterprise, ignite the entrepreneurial and pioneering spirit of Albertans and kickstart the economic engine of Canada that we can be and must be again. Albertans are a resilient, entrepreneurial people and it is this spirit that we need to foster as we begin our economic recovery.

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