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'Remarkably similar': NDP, UCP policies on economy not as different as you'd think

Alberta's two main political parties are working hard to sway undecided voters, and the election issue that many of those votes may depend on is the provincial economy.

Both parties claim they're better than the other at managing your money, but experts say there's little difference between them.  

"Both parties have differences in policies that, at the margin, deviate from each other, but do not represent large fundamental changes to the way that Alberta is going to operate," said Trevor Tombe, professor of economics at University of Calgary.

Notably, both parties are looking at significant spending promises, but with some guardrails for the future.

"They (both UCP and NDP) are intending to at least try to keep the lid on growing spending," said Jack Mintz, president’s fellow at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy.

"The NDP have in their fiscal role, promised that any resource revenues that are not needed to balance the budget [. . .] will be put towards savings, which I think is a good rule," Mintz says.

"The UCP in their last budget have adopted a fairly strict rule on spending, that it won't rise by more than prices and population, and budgets will have to balance."

The common stump speech claim that NDP raised taxes (a claim later amended to more accurately say fees as well) is also misleading, Tombe says, adding that the same methodology applied to the UCP's record produces a similarly inflated (and actually higher) number of hikes.

"UCP has a tax reduction on the personal income tax side of things, the NDP has a tax increase on the corporate side of things," Tombe said. "Each of those has pros and cons that are important to consider, but I would still characterize the fiscal policy of both parties as being really remarkably similar."

Mintz is more critical of the plans to raise the corporate tax rate from eight per cent to 11, although it would still be slightly lower than any other province.

"We found that raising the corporate rate three points will have an impact on jobs of around 33,000," Mintz said, adding that federal corporate tax rates are also set to rise in the coming years.

Both parties are basing their rosy election period projections on a WTI oil price of $79 a barrel. It closed at $72.28 Tuesday. That will affect government revenue and spending and add to the challenges facing the next government.

And for those heading into the May 29 election filled with economic dread, Tombe offers some words of comfort.

"In polling and in lots of jurisdictions, when your favorite party is in power, you feel better about the economy than when a party you oppose is in power," he says. "Even if the economic fundamentals are no different." Top Stories

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