EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says she won’t bring in a sales tax, a health premium or a payroll tax and will wait until closer to the provincial election to outline further details.
“Stay tuned for the rest of it,” Notley said Friday.
She wouldn’t say whether she will propose changes to the progressive income tax her NDP brought in to replace the former government’s flat tax.
“What I will say now is that we are committed to maintaining the tax advantage that low- and middle-income, middle-class Albertans currently enjoy.”
Notley’s government axed Alberta’s 10 per cent income flat tax and increased the levy on high-income earners shortly after the New Democrats won the 2015 election.
Her government also increased the corporate tax to 12 per cent from 10 per cent and reduced the small business tax to two per cent from three.
The NDP also brought in a carbon tax on gasoline and home and business heating tied to fossil fuels. Rebates are made to low- and middle-income families.
Tax policy, the economy, and how best to boost the oil and gas industry are expected to dominate the election, which must by law be held sometime in March, April or May.
Both Notley and Jason Kenney’s Opposition United Conservatives are focusing on tax policies as economic issues, but also as broader symbols of what they call their opponent’s fundamental failings.
Kenney has promised to abolish the carbon tax as his first order of business should his party form government. He says it is a punitive tax on workers and families with no demonstrable benefit in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Kenney has assailed the carbon tax as a symbol of an interventionist, misguided NDP that decided to increase fees on Albertans during an economic downturn.
Kenney has not revealed specifics of his party’s tax platform. The rank and file voted last year to bring back the flat tax on income, but Kenney has said he has not decided if he will go along with that.
He wants to see this year’s budget to get a better handle on the province’s money situation, but has said the overall goal needs to be reducing taxes on employers and families.
Notley said returning to the flat tax would only benefit high-income earners and the suggestion is symbolic of a UCP she says is run by and for well-heeled insiders.
“I’m not interested in giving a $700-million tax cut to the top one per cent of Albertans,” she said.
Notley said Alberta already has an estimated $11-billion year tax advantage or better compared with other provinces.
Alberta also has multibillion-dollar deficits that both the UCP and the NDP say will take about four years to bring back to balance.
“Everyone wants us to get to a balanced budget so that what we’re doing is sustainable,” Notley said.
“So when you make tax cuts (as Kenney suggests), what you have to do then is … pull back from services in order to maintain that path to balance.”
Notley is also accusing the UCP of pushing back-door taxes by having Kenney discuss user-pay infrastructure. She said that can only mean road tolls, which would punish businesses and families.
The United Conservatives have responded by saying the NDP has left the province in a deep financial hole and it’s imperative to look at other revenue options to fund “needed industrial infrastructure.”
The party says it has never suggested putting tolls on “existing public infrastructure.”
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press