Alberta wants public input on budget as oil-price woes continue

Alberta Finance Minister Robin Campbell claims Albertans are open to fuel tax, sin tax and income tax changes as the government prepares to deal with a $7 billion budgetary shortfall in March.

The provincial government launched an online survey on Budget 2015 to ask Albertans which cost-containment and revenue-generating ideas they most favour. Campbell said he has been travelling the province since January 13 and has received over 1,500 calls, emails and letters on the budget.

“The fact is, we’re going to make decisions that will be tough on all Albertans and as we discuss the options, we want Albertans to join the conversation,” said Campbell. “Approximately 75 to 80 per cent of the comments received said no to the sales tax but are much more open to changes to the fuel tax, sin tax and income tax.”

The online survey will remain posted at budget.alberta.ca until the end of February. The budget is expected to be presented in the legislature in late March.

Economists are predicting layoffs and production claw-backs in Alberta’s oilsands as oil prices plunge.

A barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude oil sat at US$48.45 Thursday morning. It was US$97.40 a barrel Feb. 5, 2014.

The price for West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil for February delivery fell 4.7 per cent to $46.07 per barrel on Monday — its lowest price since April 2009 — after Goldman Sachs revised down their three-month WTI forecast to $41 per barrel, predicting prices at $39 per barrel for the first six months of 2015 and $65 per barrel for the year.

Low oil prices mean a hit to royalty revenue and economic activity, notes the province, and will result in a shortfall of approximately $7 billion in Budget 2015 if changes are not made.

Campbell added the province will protect oil interests, by not touching royalty rates or corporate taxes.

Alberta NDP MLA Brian Mason says the survey is just smoke and mirrors, claiming decisions on the March budget have already been made and saying the Campbell is simply putting on a “brave face.”

A couple of the surveymatt questions:

To what extent do you think low oil prices impact the Alberta government’s ability to budget?

  1. A great deal
  2. Somewhat
  3. Not very much
  4. Not at all  

 How acceptable do you think it is for the government to:

  1. Cut spending on programs and  services, including healthcare and education, in order to balance the budget.
  2. Raise taxes and user fees to reduce reliance on oil revenues in order to balance the budget.
  3. Borrow money to cover the current shortfall in revenues while we wait for oil prices to rebound.

 

 

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