Misleading numbers undermine Tory credibility

Edmonton –The Progressive Conservatives are building their budget arguments on a foundation of deception.

The Tories have put out numbers claiming that Alberta’s per-capita spending is above the national average – but inflated Alberta’s figures by including $3.55 billion in flood relief funding, and drove down the national average by ignoring standard methods of comparison.

“This goes beyond spin, which we expect from politicians. They have deliberately and deceptively overstated how much Alberta spends on a per-capita basis, and deliberately and deceptively understated how much other provinces spend on a per-capita basis,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “And they’re using these distortions to justify cuts on important public services like health care and education.”

When comparing on a province-to-province level, one should find the provincial per-capita spending levels, add them together, and divide by the number of provinces. The government didn't do that. Instead, it took all provincial spending divided by the population. This method drives down the average because some larger provinces, benefitting from what economists call ‘economies of scale, have lower numbers than Alberta.

“They’re playing games with numbers because to them winning is more important than the truth. But this isn’t a game. Public services, and the quality of life for Albertans, are at stake,” McGowan said. “In any other province, a government that engaged in this kind of blatant and deliberate deception – on top of years of arrogance and incompetence – would fall.”

Up-to-date and accurate figures from RBC Economics show that – when the government isn’t paying for flood recovery – Alberta’s per-capita spending is below the national average. Figures from the 2014-15 budget year show Alberta’s spending is $9,786 per person -- $434 less than the national average.

“They use old data, inflated by flood spending, to support their argument that Alberta overspends. The reality is quite different,” McGowan said. “How to deal with Alberta’s budget crunch is a crucial debate for the province. The public deserves to have that debate informed by accurate, fair, and reliable numbers. Albertans deserve better than Tory distortions.”

AFL Backgrounder: How the Government Fudged Per-Capita Spending Figures



Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.4351 (cell)
or via e-mail
[email protected]

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