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Opinion: NDP and CTF right to criticize UCP wage subsidy application

The Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation (CTF) may be an organization that some of us roll our eyes at from time to time with their many calls for accountability and low taxes. Still, they’re often correct, and their thoughts about the UCP taking the federal wage subsidy is entirely right.

The NDP has been utterly useless as an opposition party during this pandemic, throwing endless plates of spaghetti on the UCP wall hoping something would stick. Still, they’re correct in their thoughts about the UCP taking the federal wage subsidy.

That the NDP and CTF would agree on something related to tax dollars is a sure sign hell has frozen over, and the end is near.

At issue is the UCP being one of only three provincial parties in Canada to apply for the Federal Wage Subsidy to help keep their employees working.

The CTF argues political parties in Alberta can already benefit donors to the tune of 75%, something considerably higher than non-profits can.

NDP leader Rachel Notley finds the idea “a little rich” that the UCP would apply for a wage subsidy for the party’s workers while laying off tens of thousands of public sector workers.

The federal wage subsidy pays employers 75% of an employee’s wage up to a maximum of $847 per week. That subsidy requires that the business’ revenue has dropped 30% from the previous year.

Elections Alberta does not have financial contribution data for April, but a comparison of first-quarter contributions is interesting.

In the first quarter of 2019, the UCP took in $2,862,177.10. In the first quarter of this year, that was only $1,039,413.54, a decrease of 63%. My God, how are they even keeping the lights on?

This year’s 63% drop in revenue, if it follows through in April and May qualifies the UCP for the wage subsidy, but the first quarter take from this year is a 250% increase from the first quarter of 2018 when contributions were only $408,414,63. The 2019 first quarter is a 700% increase from 2018’s first quarter.

So why was the first quarter of 2019 such a big quarter for the UCP? Because the election took place 16 days after the quarter ended, and as anyone who knows politics knows: campaign contributions are high when the game is on.

But Mr. Trudeau is only asking for a year over year comparison, not a three-year average or a trend comparison. And so, the UCP certainly qualify.

Many Alberta businesses are trying to keep staff on the payroll while keeping their heads above water in a pandemic.

Many of us, and this business is one, are not eligible for the wage subsidy due to being just under Mr. Trudeau’s 30% drop requirement. It is enough of a prolonged drop to sink a business, but not enough to qualify for the program.

How lucky for the UCP to have been able to compare revenues in an election year to an after-the-election year. Because had this pandemic compared 2019 with 2018 or 2020 with 2018, the UCP revenues would not have qualified.

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Yes, donations would be understandably down during the COVID months, for all Canadian provincial parties. and yes political parties are non-profits and therefore are eligible for the program.

But only three are applying.

NDP finance critic Shannon Phillips mockingly said during Thursday’s Question Period, applying for the wage subsidy makes Prime Minister Trudeau the UCP’s sugar daddy.

It’s a bit of a crass statement from a party that would jump all over such a comment had it been made by a UCP MLA about the NDP.

But here is something just as crass.

Alberta retail and service workers are walking around in masks and carrying signs asking customers to stay six feet apart.

They’re paying taxes to the feds every payday.

Some of that hard-earned tax money will come back to pay UCP’s eight staff salaries because UCP contributions are down more than 30% in a non-election year.

And that, Mr. Kenney is some Alberta Grade A Bullshit.

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