Boyle McCauley News

Since 1979 • February-March 2024 • Circulation 5000

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How Our Government is Failing Seniors

On the weekend of April 13, Public Interest Alberta (PIA) held its annual conference entitled “Fighting for our Future: People Power versus Corporate Power.”

I think the really important discussion at the PIA conference was about taxes. Over and over speakers noted that Alberta (and Canada) doesn’t have a spending problem – it has a revenue problem. It has a revenue problem because corporations and wealthy Albertans are not paying their share of taxes. The estimate is that if the personal flat tax was removed, Alberta would have $3 to $6 billion in additional income. The flat tax means that if someone earns $200,000 per year they pay the same percentage of income as someone who earns $40,000 per year. No other Canadian jurisdiction has this kind of tax. An analysis shows that middle income earners in Alberta (those earning between $40,000 to $70,000) actually pay more in taxes than in other provinces while higher earners pay a lot less.

And finally, it isn’t Albertans who are profiting from the tar sands extraction, it is the oil companies. For sure, the wages in Fort McMurray and other oil communities are high, higher perhaps than in other parts of Canada. But once that oil and bitumen is gone, what will be left besides a spoiled environment, a water shortage, and ghost towns?

Alberta continues to charge the lowest royalties in the world for our oil. In other locations, including the Middle East, many oil companies are actually government companies and where they aren’t they must pay much higher taxes. Norway has managed to accumulate a $700 billion savings fund from its oil so that future citizens will also benefit from the use of this one time resource. Alberta has saved $7 billion.

ver and over speakers noted that Alberta (and Canada) doesn’t have a spending problem – it has a revenue problem. It has a revenue problem because corporations and wealthy Albertans are not paying their share of taxes.

No, Alberta doesn’t have a spending problem. It has a revenue problem. Our government is not a government who actually governs for the benefit of its citizens. Our government is a government that governs for the benefit of the corporations. Let us remember this government is elected by approximately 25% of the population of Alberta. That is by about half of the people who vote.

So what does this mean for seniors? It means there is inadequate housing for seniors. It means that more long term care facilities for seniors aren’t being built exactly at a time when the population is aging and there will be greater need for more spaces not less. And where they are being built, it is by the private, for profit sector. It means the government is going to change the drug plan for seniors so that there will be fewer supports for medications for seniors. It means seniors who built this province aren’t going to be supported. It means their family members are going to have to assume more responsibility for their care. Never mind that services to seniors are already difficult to access, so many don’t actually receive what they are entitled to receive.

I could as easily write this same column about the federal government and its failure to act on the looming CPP pension crisis, or its failure to raise Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement. The federal government also doesn’t govern on behalf of its citizens, but for the wealthy and the corporations who are not paying their share of taxes. We all suffer because of our governments’ failure to care for its citizens.

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