CALGARY — A new poll suggests that Alberta’s opposition NDP now leads Jason Kenney’s UCP government by the slightest of margins in vote intention.
According to the latest study from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute, 41 per cent of Albertans are inclined to vote for the NDP, while 38 per cent say they support the UCP. Another 10 per cent would vote for the Alberta Party and other parties make up the remaining 11 per cent.
The study polled 536 Albertans from Feb. 26 to March 3 and comes with a margin of error of +/- 1.4 per cent.
LOSING THE ‘ALBERTA ADVANTAGE?’
The urgency to revive Alberta’s ailing economy has once again raised debate over the possibility of implementing a provincial sales tax (PST).
Currently, three-in-five (62 per cent) say the province should not introduce any form of PST and continue to hold onto its ‘Alberta Advantage’ as the only province in Canada with such a tax.
However, about 38 per cent of Albertans are now on board with a tax at various levels anywhere from one to five per cent.
Kenney has previously stated that PST would not be implemented without a referendum.
However, the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation (CTF) is calling on the Alberta government to shut the door completely on the idea of a sales tax entirely in wake of the recent Angus Reid poll.
“The UCP were sent to Edmonton to fix the spending problem. They weren’t sent to the legislature so they could have their turn reaching into our pockets and that’s why it’s time for Kenney to outright reject a PST,” said CTF Alberta Director, Franco Terrazzano.
“The people don’t want a sales tax and it’s time for all MLAs to stand up for taxpayers and put the sales tax talk to bed.”
Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Calgary, Trevor Tombe, agrees that sales taxes have never been popular. He says Albertans shouldn’t be under the impression that a sales tax would benefit the economy, but rather only a way to raise revenue with distortionary effects that could lower economic growth.
“Thinking about ways of funding our provincial government and actually paying for the services that we demand does require we think about introducing revenue sources that are more stable and predictable than hoping resource royalties rise to the levels twe need to them at,” Tombe said.
“But that doesn’t mean PST would boost the economy, that’s just accepting that funds to pay for public services do need to come from somewhere.”
Tombe suggests Alberta should be able to balance its books by 2025 if oil prices stay in the $60 per barrel range, but admits relying solely on resource revenue is a risky strategy.
“We could think about bringing the carbon tax back from Ottawa for example, that’s not trivial, changes in gas taxes, health-care levies like we saw Jim Prentice introduce in 2015, although that failed after he lost the election, so there are options available but not necessarily a sales tax.”
The Angus Reid poll also found that younger Albertans aged 18 to 34 are more supportive of a sales tax (52 per cent). A majority of those aged 35 to 54 (63 per cent) and 55 and older (76 per cent) are opposed to PST.
NEGATIVE UCP PERFORMANCE
The latest Angus Reid poll shows that Alberta’s UCP government scores negatively on all 13 areas of government performance canvassed in the survey.
The message is clear that economic growth is a top priority followed by jobs and unemployment, while COVID response ranks in fifth place for importance.
Low oil prices and reduced economic activity remain a key issue as Alberta currently deals with an $18 billion deficit and debt that is projected to well to more than $115 billion.
Here is a look at how the government scores in all categories according to the study:
(Supplied/Angus Reid Institute)
According to the Angus Reid Institute’s Government Performance Index, the Alberta government falls below the national average on satisfaction with government. Only Ontario’s government fares worse on he aggregating scale.