Will deficit hysteria finally pave the way for a sensible Alberta sales tax? Ummm … don’t count on it

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PHOTOS: Never mind the political stuff, this is the Heidelberg-Königstuhl State Observatory, where astronomer Max Wolf discovered the Minor Planet Climenhaga in 1917. Below, not in the order in which they appear: Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci, British Columbia Lieutenant-Governor Judith Guichon, B.C. New Democratic Party Leader John Horgan, and Professor Wolf himself.

Judging from the debt and deficit hysteria among the conservative contingent on social media and their mainstream media auxiliary yesterday afternoon in the aftermath of publication Alberta’s final audited figures for last year’s provincial budget, it almost feels as if they’re finally setting the stage for a provincial sales tax.

They focused on the report’s recording of a $10.8-billion deficit and $33.3-billion in debt, with the general tenor of the commentary emphasizing Finance Minister Joe Ceci’s grim mien at yesterday’s news conference and suggesting the numbers herald the end of civilization as we know it.

Of course, encouraging a sales tax is likely not the right’s intention, but if this keeps up, many of us would be happy to pay 5 per cent more for our goods and services just as Saskatchewan does if only to make that constant screeching go away.

Actually, some of us have concluded a sales tax is the only thing that will save Alberta if resource prices stay low, but apparently there’s an elite legislative consensus at the moment that it must not, cannot happen.

Still – who knows? – if the right’s electoral strategy continues unabated, Albertans may at last be persuaded the only way to save the place is to adopt a sales tax like pretty well every other jurisdiction on the planet.

Never mind that when the dust settles, even at present rates of spending with no bending of the cost curve, we’ll still have a lower debt-to-GDP ratio by far of any province in Canada, the economy is growing faster than anywhere else in the country, population continues to grow at a healthy pace, and oil prices throughout the year were a little higher than estimated. The Opposition, obviously, assumes economic literacy is not a strong suit among its core supporters.

But the big question is, with the Canada Day weekend looming tomorrow, will anyone other than the most politically engaged Twitterati even notice the brouhaha?

Perhaps not. That may be why back in 2011 the then-ruling Progressive Conservatives decided that right before the Canada Day weekend would be a fine time to release the final accounting of how the year’s budget actually turned out.

So it’s possible, just as Alberta’s Tory God intended, that all this weeping and gnashing of teeth may be for naught, with everybody concentrating on beer, burgers and sunshine.

Civilization also ends in British Columbia – sorry about that, Christy Clark

Meanwhile, over the Rockies, despite the earnest machinations of Premier Christy Clark, the NDP-Green (non) coalition voted non-confidence in the province’s “Liberal” government yesterday, so Lieutenant-Governor Judith Guichon had the unusual experience for a Canadian vice-regal personage of actually having to do her job.

An L-G’s job – other than parading around in an archaic looking uniform on occasions of state – is mainly to decide what happens on those exceedingly rare occasions when a minority government loses the confidence of its Legislature.

Ms. Guichon had the choice of doing the right thing and asking Opposition Leader John Horgan, a New Democrat, to form a government – seeing as in the circumstances that prevail in B.C. there’s a reasonable chance Mr. Horgan’s agreement with the provincial Green Party could hold together.

Or she could have done the wrong thing and abused B.C. taxpayers to give Ms. Clark one more kick at the electoral can by calling another election.

In the event, late yesterday, she did the right thing, and Mr. Horgan will get the chance to be premier of British Columbia

It’s International Asteroid Day, a personal favourite of your blogger

Finally, thanks to the good officers of the United Nations, today is International Asteroid Day, which exists to promote awareness of asteroids and the possibility a big one may one of these days smack into the earth.

Not much we can do about that, it seems to me, but it’s something to think about if you find the size of Alberta’s debt not to be apocalyptic enough for your tastes.

Personally, I am very pleased about the world’s recognition of the band of rocky debris orbiting the sun, mostly way out there between Mars and Jupiter, because I am one of the few people you will ever meet who shares a name with a large asteroid.

I refer, of course, to Minor Planet 3034, Climenhaga, discovered 100 years ago this Sept. 24 by Maximilian Franz Joseph Cornelius Wolf at the Heidelberg-Königstuhl State Observatory in what at the time did not seem like a particularly auspicious year for German-Canadian relations. I am not making this up.

Categories Alberta Politics