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Candidate Q and A: carbon tax/climate change and balancing the budget

This is the final week the Cochrane Eagle will run Q & A with the five candidates for the Airdrie-Cochrane riding.

This is the final week the Cochrane Eagle will run Q & A with the five candidates for the Airdrie-Cochrane riding.

The questions we have run for the three weeks leading up to the election span a range of hot-button issues and this week we chose to focus on carbon tax/climate change and balancing the budget.

Each of these candidates took part in the political forum held by the Cochrane Eagle and Cochrane and District Chamber of Commerce on April 9. The event drew a strong turnout and the organizers wish to thank each of the candidates for the hard work, as it is a tireless job to blaze the campaign trail.

The first question is a suggestion from one of our readers.

Question 1: What is your position on the carbon tax and climate change? If you believe the tax should be scrapped, what would be a better environmental policy to replace it?

Danielle Cameron, Alberta Independence Party

Alberta has some of the smartest people in the world working on technologies that increase efficiency and reduce emissions. This is due to some of the most stringent environmental regulations in the world. While Alberta does very well, we need to continue to do better for the environment and to further develop exportable technology. Alberta is and will continue to be a world leader in environmental technologies.

We believe the carbon tax is simply another revenue stream to offset runaway government spending. There are far better ways to tackle this issue without the use of a punitive tax on consumers. For example, the state of California has its own emission standards for automobiles. Making the energy consuming products we use more efficient is a much better strategy.

Albertans are already on the right path with our municipal recycling programs, environmental regulations and the incredible brain power that resides here.

Steve Durrell, NDP

Climate change is real, man made and we must address it. This isn't up for debate. The science is settled. The economy-wide carbon levy is the most effective way to reduce emissions. We’ve invested the revenue from the levy into rebates for 60 per cent of households across Alberta and created an energy efficiency program to help Albertans reduce their utility costs. For every dollar we have put into the program, the economy has seen $3 of benefit. That's a pretty solid investment.

Cancelling the levy, as the UCP would do, means returning Alberta to be the last jurisdiction in North America without an energy efficiency program, and the loss of 3,600 jobs.

Pete Guthrie, UCP

First let’s be clear, climate change is real and a challenge for society. There is no debate around that. The debate is about how to deal with this challenge. The NDP believe a tax is the right way to go. The UCP believes technological innovation is the right way to go and we believe the tax should be scrapped on everyday, hardworking Albertans. To combat climate change the UCP will develop the Technology Innovation and Emissions Reductions (TIER) regime for large industrial emitters.

This will be an improved system to manage emissions from Alberta large industries which are responsible for about 60 per cent of Alberta’s greenhouse gasses. Large emitters will pay a carbon price on their carbon emissions. The first $100 million in revenues will be paid in the TIER and used for technological innovation to reduce GHGs. This is technology that can be sent worldwide to help other countries reduce their emissions. Revenues from the large emitter carbon price will also go to pay down the deficit.

Matthew Morrisey, Freedom Conservative Party

The FCP will scrap the carbon tax in its entirety. We will not levy a carbon tax on Albertans, nor the businesses they work for. Albertans understand the need for environmental stewardship and the need to preserve our air, land and water. Larger businesses in Alberta are also conscious of this, which is why their remediation process is the envy of the world. We already have many regulations surrounding protection of our environment, adding an additional tax to Albertans when they need their bottom lines to be growing is the more important issue

Vern Raincock, Alberta Party

Alberta Party proposes to exempt homes, businesses, farms and non-profits from the carbon tax. Revenues would be offset by cuts to personal and corporate income taxes. Finally, any excess revenues would be applied directly to the provincial debt, instead of being directed to general revenues.

Getting this right means involving  all Albertans in the conversation. We don’t have to choose between our province’s natural beauty and a strong economy. We can conserve the environment while making sure that Alberta’s economic engines are firing on all cylinders. Albertan families can enjoy the parks that fill our cities and towns, without worrying about their food on the table or how to pay rent this month.

Question 2: The deficit forecast is around $7B this year and the current debt is around $57B. If the NDP are elected for a second term, the projection is that the debt will climb to around $96B, with the governing party maintaining the budget will be balanced by 2023. If elected, how will you balance the budget?

Danielle Cameron, Alberta Independence Party

This province generates almost $100B in federal and provincial taxes. Our provincial budget is roughly $50B, indicating that Alberta does not have a revenue problem.

Half of the taxes generated in this province goes to the federal government with about $10B being returned to Alberta – resulting in an annual net loss of $40B. This continues even though our provincial economy is hurting, Quebec, the largest recipient of the federal transfer program, runs surplus budgets. A fair deal for Alberta is next to impossible within confederation.

An independent Alberta would see immediate benefit of retaining ALL of the tax revenue.

Our projections see a balanced/surplus budget within four years. This is done without cutting services to Albertans while cutting taxes:

- Individual tax rate – First $45,000 tax free, remaining income at a flat rate of 20 per cent.

- Corporate tax rate of 8 per cent, foreign business tax at 9 per cent.

Steve Durrell, NDP

When the price of oil dropped in 2016 we had a choice. We could have made deep cuts to programs and services like healthcare and education. Or we could invest and build schools, hospitals, roads and bridges. That meant running a deficit. We built or renovated over 200 schools, got the Calgary Cancer Centre underway and committed to the Highway 1A/22 interchange. That kept services running, and people working.

This year alone we’ve cut the deficit by nearly $2 billion and when we balance in 2023 we will still have the best balance sheet in the country with the lowest net debt to GDP ratio

Pete Guthrie, UCP

The primary way to fix our debt and deficit problem is to get our economy back on track. The UCP has a plan to maintain spending and grow the economy as quickly as possible to ensure the budget will be balanced by 2023. To get this balance we must take significant steps to grow this economy.

First, by removing the carbon tax which is a strain on small business and job creators. Next, cut the corporate tax to encourage businesses to grow quicker. Third, have a red tape reduction minister whose prime goal is to reduce the hindrance on job creators so they can get people back to work. Once you have these in place the economy will grow again – and fast. This, in turn, will increase revenues to the government and slowly but surely remove our deficit. Once we have our yearly spending under control we can begin focusing on the debt.

Matthew Morrisey, Freedom Conservative Party (FCP)

There is no point in lying to Albertans. We will need to have disciplined cuts to bring the budget back in to balance. Our budget is short-term pain for long-term gain. We will target wasteful spending programs first and implement a 5 per cent reduction in core government staff costs; 5 per cent budget cut to all ministerial budgets and a 3 per cent reduction in non-core government staff costs. Tough decisions will need to be made by the next government and the FCP believes we cannot continue to mortgage our kids futures away.

Vern Raincock, Alberta Party

We must return the province to balanced budgets by redressing the imbalance of federal transfers. The Alberta Party government would immediately move to keep more of Albertans’ money within the province, to help fund schools, hospitals and other provincial services, and to reduce the power imbalance between Alberta and Ottawa. An Alberta Party government commits to fighting to ensure Albertans receive the same treatment from the federal government as Quebec.

The Alberta Party will partner with municipalities to improve the communities we live in. By the end of 2019, the Alberta Party will provide a sustainable per capita funding formula that local and regional governments can count on.

Our Welcome to Alberta Program will aggressively work to bring corporate head offices to Alberta.

An Alberta Party government would bring Alberta’s portion of the Canada Pension Plan under provincial control, creating an Alberta Pension Plan.

The Alberta Party government would immediately give notice under Section 3 of the Canada Pension Plan that Alberta intends to be a “province providing a comprehensive pension plan.”  This would bring billions of dollars of Albertans’ pension contributions under direct Alberta control.These additional funds will create an estimated 300 high quality jobs here in Alberta and further establish Alberta as a leader in investment management.Alberta would essentially follow the approach of Quebec in taking provincial control. Instead of participating in the Canada Pension Plan, Quebecers contribute to the Quebec Pension Plan.

We announced that any surplus carbon tax revenue from large emitters will be directed at paying down the deficit.

Lindsay  Seewalt

About the Author: Lindsay Seewalt

Lindsay is a senior Eagle reporter who has transformed her penchant for storytelling into the craft of writing.
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