Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Dave Hancock's Response to the CTF's 16 Questions

This morning I just received Dave Hancock's response to the 16 questions posed to Alberta's PC Leadership candidates. His responses will be added to the final document over the next few days (and of course graded).

In the meantime, here they are for your reading pleasure:

1. Will you commit to eliminate the health care premium tax?

Yes, in my platform I commit to discontinuing Alberta Health Care Premiums. I would transfer it to the personal income tax and offer tax incentives to encourage people to take charge of their own health.

2. Will you commit to eliminate the hidden sales tax on insurance premiums?

Reforms to the insurance system in Alberta will need to be done with consultations with all stakeholders, and part of a plan to improve the system rather than solely focused on reducing cost.

3. Will you commit to reduce or eliminate the education property tax?

Property tax is an anachronism. Property tax cannot be effectively utilized on a province wide basis. In short – we should get out of the property tax business, we should work with municipalities so that they can also move away from property taxes as their base funding and find appropriate taxing mechanisms to raise and share the necessary funds.

4. Will you commit to enact legislation implementing a municipal property tax cap to ensure municipal property taxes don’t increase by more than the rate of inflation without a referendum?

We need to look at the tools cities and provinces have to raise revenue and we need to talk about whether to change the way those revenue-raising powers are split between them. For example, should a resort community like Banff or Canmore have the power to tax consumption, so that it can raise revenue from people who visit, instead of only from people who live there? We a framework where solutions can be worked out locally – not a provincial formula slapped on every region of the province, but local solutions that work for the community.

5. Will you commit to an 8 per cent general business tax rate as promised in the 2001 provincial budget?

Alberta should commit to the policy of being the lowest taxed jurisdiction in Canada and aim to be the lowest in North America. To that end, I have suggested an increase to the small business limit to $1,000,000 as a first step to ensuring our business tax rate reflects that goal. Reductions in the overall business rate at this time give the biggest benefit to large oil & gas not small business.

6. Will you commit to amend the Taxpayer Protection Act such that any new provincial tax or an increase to an existing tax could only be approved through a successful provincial referendum?

I have put forward the idea of a Citizens’ Agenda Council, which would put forward three issues for referendum in each provincial ballot – certainly I believe that referenda are a key way to increase participation in our democracy, and should include a wide variety of issues. However, the ability to review and refine our tax policy must be part of larger plan that is a part of the mandate a government wins from its citizens during a general election.

7. Will you commit to introduce legislation capping annual provincial spending increases at a rate of the combined growth in the inflation and population rate?

Inflation and simple population growth are not the only factors that effect the provision of government services – Alberta needs to take a more future-focused approach to planning and governing. To that end I am suggesting thoughtful investment in areas like innovation and education while using the tax system to encourage diversifying our economy and decreasing demand in areas like health care.

8. Will you commit to introduce legislation that restricts the government from increasing spending during the fiscal year (other than declared emergencies)?

Alberta needs to plan better, and stick to that plan when it comes to areas like spending. The plan also needs to take the long view – well beyond a single year, or a single cycle. As the author of the government’s 20 year strategic plan, I know we can plan – we just need the political leadership to follow it. We also need to budget better, especially when it comes to our non-renewable natural resources. This will provide an immediate effect on spending outside of the budget with government acting according to a plan, and with our future in mind rather than immediate political gain.

9. Will you commit to roll back the Fiscal Responsibility Act such that only the first $3.5-billion of non-renewable resource revenues could be used for budgeting and program spending?

The non-renewable natural resource revenue belongs to not just the current generation of Albertans, but future ones as well. With our debt paid off, I am suggesting committing those revenues in their entirety to smart investments – 50% to the Heritage Fund, 30% to capital projects and 20% to the Sustainability Fund to protect against market fluctuations.

10. Will you commit to legislating a minimum of 50 per cent of resource revenues be saved each year?

Yes. Our non-renewable resource revenue represents an opportunity to build an asset base for Alberta’s dreams and future – we need to save and invest rather than spend on operating expenses. My platform has put forward a plan to save 50% of our non-renewable resource revenue in the Heritage Fund.

11. Will you commit to introduce fixed election dates for Alberta’s general elections?

I support fixed election dates, but that is not the complete answer. There are many great ideas surrounding the need for democratic reform – and I want to develop the tools to implement the best of those ideas. A Citizens’ Agenda Council would be responsible for putting forward three issues to Albertans through referenda each provincial election.

12. Will you commit to introduce legislation giving citizens the right to recall their MLA?

On the balance, I feel our electoral system is strong and produces a government and individual MLA’s that reflect Albertans’ views and values. Recall mechanisms employed in other jurisdictions have faced a myriad of problems, and any process developed would have to ensure that our MLA's are able to be legislators and representatives as well as politicians, and that recall is reserved for extreme circumstances.

13. Will you commit to introduce citizens’ initiative legislation giving citizens the right to initiate and vote in a referendum on issues of importance?

Yes – the establishment of a Citizens’ Agenda Council is an important part of my platform and crucial to advancing a democratic reform agenda. After taking in proposals put forward by Albertans and MLA’s, this group would then choose three issues to be put forward as binding referenda each provincial election.

14. Will you commit to disclose a complete list and dollar amount of all campaign contributions you have received during this PC leadership campaign prior to the first ballot vote?

I have committed to releasing names and amounts of donations to my Leadership Campaign. In the event any donor expressly requests so the donation will be noted but not identified. .I will release prior to the end of the year but not before the first ballot. Unfortunately budget amount is a strategic issue within the campaign itself and early disclosure of names and amounts can refocus from the policy debate.

15. Will you commit to introduce legislation requiring pre-election campaign contribution disclosure for all future elections (general provincial, municipal and party leadership elections) in Alberta?

Albertans should expect an open and transparent government, and that should apply to our elections as well. I would support raising the bar for the disclosure of campaign contributions in all races governed by provincial legislation to the same degree that governs provincial parties and campaigns.

16. Will you commit to give Albertans the ability to purchase private health insurance to cover costs incurred by those who pay for timely access to medically necessary procedures?

When looking at private health care we need to focus on what the private system is good at – innovation, new drugs and new techniques. Ultimately if everyone who wanted to buy private services could do so it would not make a dent in the cost of our public health care system.

Mr. Hancock's responses have been graded and the final full document (70 pages!) is complete. It should be available for download on the main CTF website on Wednesday morning.

He got a "C" by the way.

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