In what is being sold as the “alternative” to the government-commissioned MacKinnon Report, Parkland Institute is giving its own outlook on Alberta’s finances.
The MacKinnon Report, released last Tuesday, said the province has a spending problem and needs to make changes to healthcare and education funding.
In contrast, the Parkland Institute found Alberta’s revenues are “woefully insufficient.”
The authors of the report said revenue was something the UCP government did not look at with the MacKinnon Report.
“It seemed intentionally designed from the outset to fall short of providing the government and Albertans with the information necessary to make sound financial decisions,” the Parkland study said.
According to the research centre based in the University of Alberta, the solution is a provincial sales tax.
“We site a variety of studies that show raising a dollar from a sales tax is less expensive than raising a dollar of personal income tax or corporate tax,” said co-author Bob Ascah.
Both the minister of finance and political scientists have said a harmonized tax is not going to happen in the next four years.
The Parkland Institute launched its study in the spring after the UCP announced it would create a panel to look at Alberta’s finances.
Overall, it says Alberta is in good shape compared to other Canadian provinces, with a decent GDP, unemployment rate and wage.
“We felt it was important to get a message through… Is the situation as serious as the government makes it out to be?” Ascah told Global News.
One economist cautions against putting too much weight into either report.
“The MacKinnon Report is going to set up a worst-case scenario, the Parkland Report sets up maybe a best-case scenario and we have to acknowledge that the reality is somewhere in the middle,” said Moshe Lander, a professor of economics at Concordia University.
Critics expect the government may use the MacKinnon Report to justify steep cuts in the upcoming budget, that could include lifting the current post-secondary tuition freeze and introducing more private healthcare clinics.
“Overall, the Alberta economy is resilient, it always has been,” Lander said. “It will bounce back just the way any other economy will.”