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    An unfair system

    A new report from Queen’s University law professor Kathleen Lahey shows women in Alberta have been disproportionately impacted by the 2001 shift to a flat tax in the province. As a result, women in the western province face higher income gaps, unpaid work gaps and after-tax income gaps than other women in Canada.

     “From the perspective of both fiscal stability and equity, the changes made 15 years ago to how the Alberta government collects revenues have proven disastrous,” says Professor Lahey. “In moving to a single corporate and personal income tax regime, the government has walked away from at least $6 billion in annual revenues - roughly the size of the forecasted deficit for next year – and actually increased the tax burden for those income-earners at the bottom end of the scale, who are predominantly women.”

    Professor Lahey argues that these tax changes, when combined with a lack of affordable childcare spaces, a series of tax and transfer measures that essentially encourage women’s unpaid work, and the lack of effective mechanisms at the provincial level to implement gender equity commitments, have resulted in a troubling slide in women’s economic equality in Alberta since its peak in the mid-1990s.

    The report concludes with a series of 14 recommendations that Professor Lahey says the government could implement in the upcoming budget to reverse the decades-long slide in gender equality in Alberta. Those recommendations include:

    • Replacing the current flat tax system with graduated corporate and personal income taxes.
    • Rejecting the introduction of new sales taxes or provincial consumption taxes.
    • Restructuring all joint tax and benefit measures that discourage women’s participation in the paid workforce.

    “Alberta’s latest fiscal crisis is actually the perfect opportunity to correct the ill-advised policies of the past that have created the situation Alberta now finds itself in,” says Professor Lahey. “Fortunately, many of the same policies that can finally get the province off of its overdependence on unstable resource revenues can also begin to reverse the shameful lack of economic equality between men and women in Alberta.”

    Professor Lahey is presenting the report, The Alberta Disadvantage: Gender, Taxation and Income Inequality, on Wednesday, March 4 at the University of Alberta’s Parkland Institute. For more information, view the report here.