Parkland blog

Welcome the Parkland Institute's blog. Here, we feature writers and researchers associated with the Parkland Institute writing about topics of interest to Albertans.

July 17, 2012

Is liquor store privatization worth toasting?

posted by David Campanella

This letter to the editor was submitted to the Calgary Herald on July 17, 2012.


One wonders if Mark Milke was still suffering the after-effects of a Stampede-filled weekend when he wrote his terribly one-sided review of Premier Klein's ad-hoc and short-sighted decision to sell-off Alberta's liquor stores, a decision which continues to be a major headache for Albertans.


Incredibly, Milke denies privatization has meant lost revenue. This assertion ignores the fact that today Alberta earns nearly 25% less revenue per litre of alcohol sold than prior to privatization. In fact, Albertans would have enjoyed the benefit of an extra $1.3 billion if government revenue from liquor sales had continued to be generated at pre-privatization levels.

This revenue loss is largely due to the gradual erosion of  Alberta's real, inflation-adjusted liquor tax rate. So lower taxes means cheaper booze, right? Wrong. Despite Milke's claim to the contrary, recent research indicates that Albertans pay among the highest liquor prices in the West – prices higher than those on offer in the publicly-owned stores of BC and Saskatchewan.

Alcohol consumption is inextricably linked to health and crime-related problems, primarily involving the occasional heavy-drinker. As a result, rational liquor policy promotes limits on consumption and  generates sufficient revenue to address alcohol's consequences. Privatization has meant the opposite in Alberta: higher consumption and diminished public revenue. Is this really worth toasting?

In reality, the real kudos belong to Saskatchewan, where the (primarily) public liquor stores earned the province an extra $9.4 million last year despite selling 135,000 less litres of pure alcohol. More revenue from less consumption? That's a feat worth celebrating.

David Campanella,
Public Policy Research Manager at the Parkland Institute

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Tagged with: liquor stores, privatization
July 13, 2012

What price do Norwegians pay?

posted by David Campanella

On Tuesday, July 10th, the Calgary Herald published a column by Matthew Fisher entitled “Norwegians pay a price for saving oil revenues,” found here. Below is my response.

I believe Herald readers can be forgiven if they were confused after reading Matthew Fisher's Tuesday column, for the title promised one thing and the column delivered something quite different.

The headline reads that Norway's determination to sock away vast sums of its oil wealth is less than ideal -- that such a policy comes with a “price.” 

The column, however, is largely a description of how the country boasts both a $600 billion savings account and the world's highest living standards. 

It would appear that, in Fisher’s view, the hitch with such a remarkable achievement is that Norwegians choose to collectively fund it through taxes. But it's hard to see such a decision as anything other than wise financial planning, since in addition to preventing their economy from overheating and protecting themselves from “dutch disease,” Norwegians have established an inheritance capable of ensuring that the benefits of their finite, fossil-fuelled fortune continues for generations to come. Robust savings, high living standards, and an assured future? Surely this is a “price” most Albertans would be happy to “pay.”

Perhaps Fisher should have mentioned that Norway has a state-owned oil company that returns all oil profits to its citizens, whereas the royalties for Alberta's privately-developed oil, gas, and bitumen resources last year delivered only 9% of the revenue back to Albertans. As this province rapidly burns through its natural wealth, Albertans can only look on with envy as Norwegians enjoy the benefits of wise financial planning.

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Tagged with: economics, energy policy, Norway, oil royalties, royalties, taxes
January 13, 2012

Homo economicus, meet Homo sapiens

posted by David Thompson

...The vast majority of people are, well... people.  Their motivations are much more complex.  Recent research has refuted the lopsided and naive picture of humanity represented by Homo economicus.  Interestingly, a lot of this research is taking place within the field of economics...

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Tagged with: economics, fee for service, health care
January 11, 2012

Are we working too much?

posted by Diana Gibson

As a province that works amongst the highest number of hours in a nation that works amongst the highest number of hours in the OECD, Alberta needs to take stock. A new report from the New Economics Foundation lays out a very bold and ambitious vision.

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Tagged with: labour, work hours
September 23, 2011

Sprawl means debt

posted by Diana Gibson

Edmonton's figures show that new neighbourhoods in the outskirts are going to cost the City money - a lot of money.  More than they bring in - by billions of dollars.

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Tagged with: development, Edmonton, sprawl

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