The long anticipated Fair Deal Panel report was finally released to the public Wednesday, and though there is a lot of back-slapping going on, the government isn’t talking about the hundreds of millions of dollars obtaining the “fair deal” will cost Alberta.
Contracting the R.C.M.P. comes with federal funding. According to the report, the cost is $242 million per year, almost half of which, $112 million, is paid by the federal government. In October, the United Conservative government promised 300 additional officers for rural Alberta while at the same time reducing provincial funding for the current policing efforts.
Smaller counties in the province will see local tax increases of $1-2 million over the next three years to cover the current costs, not including the additional members promised by the Alberta government. Moving to a provincial police force will see all Albertans (even those who have a municipal force) footing the bill for a provincial police force – because that’s how taxes work.
Alberta will also have the opportunity to pay for a non-binding referendum that will allow Alberta politicians to tell Ottawa, once and for all, what Albertans *really* think about equalization. If you can’t think of a better way to spend a couple million dollars, in this economy, I’m not about to rain on your parade.
During a Facebook live event on Wednesday night, when asked about why the equalization program was not changed under the previous federal government that Jason Kenney, transplanted Albertan, and Stephen Harper, Albertan, were running, Alberta’s premier said that “no Alberta politician ever approached our government” – even during the 2008-09 recession – in case anyone was under the mistaken impression that Alberta MPs were supposed to represent their constituents or wait for marching order from provincial officials.
Albertans will also see a referendum question about handing over their CPP to AIMCo – Alberta Investment Management Company – the same one that saw around 10 per cent of its wealth evaporate – more than any other fund of similar size in the first quarter of 2020. AIMCo also backs a number of loans, and has multiple investments in, Alberta’s oil and gas sector. Kenney said the decision will also be put to Albertans through a referendum but no word yet if that question will also coincide with 2021 municipal elections.
Another costly measure is the collection of provincial taxes. Currently, the federal government collects tax on behalf of the Alberta government and pays the province in installments. This allows most provinces to file one return – except Quebec.
Quebec collects its provincial tax which requires two sets of forms to be filed each year and staff to audit returns. Alberta will pay for the staff and taxpayers would likely see an increase in costs to file taxes due to a requirement to file two sets of forms that are currently handled as one.
And all of these measures, which are a bare introduction to the 23 panel recommendations the government has said they will look into, will require more money from Albertans and not a solitary item listed above will see Alberta receiving any more money from the federal government to pay for them.
“Freedom” has a price tag, too – is Alberta ready to start paying up?
This post contains opinion.
Deirdre is a freelance writer and podcaster physically distancing in southern Alberta.
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