Edmonton Social Planning Council News

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Edmonton, AB, Canada / 630 CHED Edmonton News

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March 28, 2015 12:38 am

Albertans are going to have to get used to paying a health-care levy, again, but not everyone.

John Kolkman, the Research Coordinator for the Edmonton Social Planning Council which focuses on topics related to low-income and poverty, says he wasn’t really expecting to see that low and modest income earners will not have to pay the new levy in Alberta’s latest budget.

“I was a bit surprised, in so far as the old health care premiums tax that they had previously was a very regressive tax where you paid exactly the same amount of money regardless of the amount of income that you made,” explained Kolkman. “So it was a pleasant surprise to see that Premier Prentice, when he said that it was going to be based on an ability to pay, that he was correct in that assessment.”

You’ll only be paying the new health-care levy if your yearly taxable income is above the $50,000 mark.

Personal income tax is suddenly more progressive as well, with modestly higher rates of tax for high income Albertans.

Kolkman says the tax change was one of the more positive features of the budget.

“That being said, certainly high income Albertans are still paying, by far, the lowest personal income taxes in the country. So he could have gone a bit further in that area, but restoring some progressivity to the personal income tax system was a positive move.”

Individual taxable incomes above $100,000 per year will be taxed at 11.5 percent, compared to the existing 10 percent flat rate. Income above $250,000 will be taxed at 12 percent.

The new budget also includes a couple of measures that will provide a refundable tax benefit to low income, working Albertans with children.

Kolkman feels it’s a positive move, but says they’re concerned the measures are not expected to be implemented for another 15 months.

“We’re also disappointed that families on income support, such as Alberta Works — who are not able to work — are not going to be receiving any of the benefit. We would of preferred a benefit that did not discriminate based on your source of income. That’s more likely the federal child tax benefits.”

Kolkman points out that during the 2012 election campaign, the PCs promised to end child poverty within five years, but he says not much has been done to keep the promise.

And the funding for the rent supplement program is being reduced from $64.8 million this year to $63.3 million next year.

Kolkman says with rents as high as they are, and a continued low vacancy rate, the news is a bit disappointing.

“Assisting people in paying their rents is actually a more cost effective way of keeping people housed then trying to re-house them after they become homeless because they can’t afford their accommodation.”

Kolkman says six years in, it’s becoming increasingly unlikely that the goal of ending chronic homelessness will be achieved by 2019.

Some of the progress made during the first four years has been undone, with both Edmonton and Calgary seeing increases in homeless numbers in the past two years. (td)