We don’t have to live in toborrowland

Commentary by Jeff Burgar

Hard times call for hard measures.
A Provincial Sales Tax? Oh the humanity of it all!
But, with our Alberta government swimming in an ocean of red ink, the PST idea is once again floating in many circles.
Experts say the PST is a great way to raise money. It’s a consumption tax. The more you spend, the more tax you pay.
With a four percent PST, as an example, the tax on a new $25,000 car would be $1,000. The lady buying a $60,000 loaded luxowagon would pay $2,400. Presumably, she can afford it!
There can be exemptions, like groceries. Or rebates to low income families. Stuff like that to ease the pain for we humbler folk.
Best of all, the tax raises money to run hospitals, pave roads, keep schools open and more. The same experts who like the tax figure each one percentage point will raise about a billion dollars. That will go a long ways to filling the $10 billion or so hole our province will find itself in this year. And before you start screaming about the tax, consider, we are all going to be paying for teachers and nurses and potholes one way or the other. A “sort of optional” tax is not a bad way of having to make these payments.
But, politicians have to stir the pot. Jim Prentice, the premier who got whupped by Notley, says Albertans have no stomach for the tax. In fact, he could help sell the idea to Albertans. Or he could lobby hard to close some schools and hospitals and maybe cut public service salaries to save money. Nope. Let another party hang themselves. In the meantime, let’s just borrow and borrow and borrow until something breaks, hopefully way, way down the road.

Some politicians don’t like photo radar. You can usually find a small town or county councillor here and there, just blown in from Geezerville, dead against photo radar. Just like the PST, photo radar is an “optional tax.” Don’t want to pay? Don’t speed. Slave Lake raises maybe $60,000 per year from its photo radar. Speeders, it seems, don’t mind paying at all. So why should some politician try to make points by running it down? But they do.
Just as they run down the PST. The argument shouldn’t be is it good or bad. The real argument should be the rate. Frankly, in these very, very difficult times in Alberta, zero is not really an option.

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