Former Vermilion-Lloydminster MLA Lloyd Snelgrove, who resigned from the PC caucus in 2011, said that the government of Alberta has to earn the trust back of Albertans in order to move forward.
“I would suggest one thing,” Snelgrove said in an phone interview. “The Alberta government is going to have to earn back the trust of the Alberta people on many fronts, one of them being financial.”
Snelgrove was president of the Treasury Board, during former premier Ed Stelmach’s tenure.
Asked if he is in favour of a potential provincial sales tax (PST), Snelgrove said that the people of Alberta should hold off on condemning one before asking themselves two simple questions.
“One, if not a PST, then what? It’s generally agreed across most lines that a sales tax is the most fair tax way to the people of a province,” he said.
“So, if you don’t want a sales tax, and you can’t think of another way of giving the government money, then you will have to come up with the answer to the question, what will you do without?”
Snelgrove said that the people of Alberta can’t always have it both ways.
“You can’t say that someone else should pay for the things that we all want. Unless you can come up another way to pay for things,” he said.
What is currently happening in the province, is similar to what transpired about 10 years ago, before Snelgrove became Treasury Board chair.
“I brought up the discussion, about 10 years ago, and said that we should agree to spend from royalties that we get from oil and natural gas,” he said. “If we agree upon that, that would give a certain amount of comfort to the people of Alberta.”
Snelgrove says that he, like most Albertans agree, that you shouldn’t just spend it because you have it.
“You spend what you you have too, and the excess should to saved away,” Snelgrove said.
“After a few decades, you would have enough money generating from those savings and endowments, that if you had a dip in oil revenues, you could top them up with those funds.”
Snelgrove said that most Albertans don’t want to have to deep think about the finances of the province, and would like to trust the government on the finances instead.
Snelgrove said that a short-term fix for the province right now would be to introduce a small PST until the oil prices rebounded, but he knows that people aren’t in favour of one.
“I have heard from people that if the province did introduce one then they would never take it away after oil prices rebounded,” he said.
“But this goes back to earning back the trust of the people,” Snelgrove said. “The people need to see that trust earned back, and once the oil prices rebounded the government would take it away.”
Snelgrove said that it comes back to one simple thing. “It’s not how much you have to spend, but what you are spending it on.”
Having a PST could help with inter-provincial relations as well, Snelgrove said.
“When you are sitting with provincial counterparts, they are not always looking at you as the rich uncle from Alberta who has more money than they have sense,” he said.