The historic results of the Alberta election on Tuesday represent a resounding win for progressives. After more than four decades of conservative rule, here’s a primer on the top eight progressive policies Albertans embraced with the election of a majority NDP government under Rachel Notley.
1. Boost to minimum wage for the working poor
Fair wages are a key buffer against inequality, and boosting minimum wages can help alleviate the challenges that plague so many of the working poor. Albertans backed a platform to increase the minimum wage to $15 hour by 2018. That would make it the highest in the country.
They have also chosen a government that will enhance the Alberta Family Employment Tax Credit and the Alberta Working Family Supplement so that “low income families do not have to wait more than a year to benefit.”
2. Corporate tax hike
Alberta is facing a budget deficit (the PC government under Jim Prentice tabled a budget in March with a $5 billion deficit), and Albertans voted to ask corporations to do their part. Alberta's corporate tax rate of 10% is the lowest in the country, and Notley plans to hike the rate to 12%.
3. End of the regressive flat tax
Alberta is the only province that has a flat tax on income, meaning the same income tax rate of 10% applies no matter one’s income range, from minimum wage workers to corporate executives. Prentice's government recently tabled budget to end the flat tax and make it more progressive.
Notley proposed additional changes; new rates will be 12% on taxable income over $125,000 to $150,000; 13% on taxable income over $150,000 to $200,000; 14% on taxable income over $200,000 to $300,000; and 15% on taxable income over $300,000.
4. Resource royalties review
Albertans voted for a review of the royalties the province receives to get a fairer deal from their massive resource wealth and guard against the inevitable boom and bust of commodity markets. Current royalty rates in Alberta are some of the lowest in the world, including lower than in Norway and Saudi Arabia.
Research from the Parkland Institute shows at least 40% of Alberta’s projected deficit for 2015/16 could be eliminated by returning to pre-2009 royalty formulas. Between 2009 and 2013, the Institute reports that the Alberta treasury missed out on an estimated $8.4 billion.
Looking beyond current budgetary pressures, the NDP has promised that “100% of incremental royalty revenue, above the sums earned by Alberta under the current regime, will be invested into Alberta’s Heritage Fund.”
5. Goodbye coal, hello renewable energy
Good news for human health and the climate. Albertans have chosen a plan to phase out coal-fired electricity generation and expand renewable energy. Over 60% of Alberta’s electricity generation now comes from burning greenhouse gas and toxic emission intensive conventional coal.
According to the Pembina Institute, within 20 years Alberta could “supply the province’s electricity mostly from clean and renewable energy,” helping to meet its emission reduction targets.
6. Public investment in key priorities
Albertans voted for investments in a number of key areas.
Health: The redirection of funding from privatized healthcare to the public, universal health care system; a promise to create 2000 long-term care beds to improve seniors care; implementation of a mental health strategy
Education: The restoration of the Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP) job creation program for Alberta youth and a tuition freeze for post-secondary students to make it accessible and affordable for more Albertans.
Transit: An end to the funding of the ineffective Carbon Capture and Storage programs and reinvestment of the 2015/16 component into construction of public transit
7. Respect for employers and workers
The PC government brought in a controversial labour law that puts a blanket ban on strikes by many public employees.
Albertans have chosen a government that respects the interests of both employers and workers. Albertans can expect a government that expressly supports the right of workers to unionize and bargain collectively while respecting the contributions of the province’s “job creators”in the private sector, as Notley explained in her victory speech.
8. Respect, recognition and action for indigenous peoples
In her acceptance speech, Notley directly addressed indigenous Albertans, saying building respectful relationships and ensuring respectful consultation was a top priority.
Albertans voted for a government that has committed to implementing the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; supports a National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women; will work with federal and Indigenous governments to resolve land claims; and will repeal the unfair Bill 22, “which was passed without consulting First Nation groups and imposes requirements on First Nations Bands not required of other business arrangements.”
Albertans chose a government that will work to ensure Indigenous communities have reliable access to clean and safe drinking water and will improve the representation of Indigenous culture and history in Alberta’s school curriculum and improve availability of First Nations language programs.
Photo: kurt-b. Used under a Creative Commons license.