Alberta Opposition Leader Jason Kenney says tax changes under the NDP government have been a disaster and he’s hinting that his party would immediately cut corporate income taxes if elected.
“The NDP promised change, but instead what they gave us is a record of economic failure — the worst economic record of any government in the history of Alberta since the Great Depression,” Kenney said Friday in a speech at the Metropolitan Conference Centre in Calgary.
The leader of the United Conservative Party, with charts and graphs flashing on screens beside him, said by any economic metric — employment statistics, corporate vacancy rates, earnings or housing prices — Alberta is worse off than when the NDP took office in 2015, even after taking into account a drop in oil prices.
Kenney said the New Democrats inherited a difficult situation, but made it worse by increasing personal income taxes on the wealthy, boosting corporate income tax, introducing a carbon levy on fossil-fuel heating and gasoline, and bringing in more rules and regulations for employers.
Those decisions were not economic, he said, but born of blinkered ideology.
“They wanted to soak the rich. Good old-fashioned socialist politics of resentment,” said Kenney.
“And what has happened? People have moved their income out of this province. Capital has fled. And revenues from these tax sources have gone down.”
The NDP increased the corporate tax to 12 per cent from 10 soon after taking office in 2015 and boosted personal income tax rates on high earners. They later cut the small business tax to two per cent from three.
WATCH BELOW: We’ve heard the Alberta NDP say on several occasions that the UCP, if elected, would bring in a “$700-million tax break for the top one per cent.” Where do those numbers come from? Is the claim accurate?
Kenney said the NDP promised greater tax revenues would accrue.
“They told us (the changes) would increase tax revenues by $6 billion over three years. Instead of $6 billion more in revenues, including personal and corporate income taxes, we are down nearly $8.5 billion than the NDP projections over this period.”
In Edmonton, Economic Development Minister Deron Bilous said Kenney’s “grim reaper” analysis of the economy does not match reality, especially given that the province has no sales tax.
“Albertans pay the lowest taxes in the country, and by a mile,” Bilous said at the legislature.
“Even with the price on carbon, Albertans pay $11 billion less than the second-lowest taxed jurisdiction in Canada, which is Saskatchewan.
“We have no payroll tax, we have no PST, and we have no health-care premiums.”
Rebuilding Alberta’s economy starts with cutting taxes on employers, said Kenney, who added details of his tax plan will be rolled out Monday.
He suggested they will include a corporate income tax rate cut, because the current rate no longer gives the province any advantage over competitors such as B.C. and Saskatchewan or most of the U.S. states.
WATCH BELOW (Feb. 17): While in Edmonton for an “election readiness conference,” United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney took aim at the carbon tax, the NDP’s school curriculum. and talked about economic subsidies.
He previously has said that if his United Conservatives were to win the spring election, they would hold a summer sitting and introduce bills and changes to roll back many NDP economic policies, including the carbon tax.
Jobs and economic policy are expected to be the focus when Notley calls an election, which must by law be held before the end of May.
The NDP, as evidenced by a third-quarter budget update by Finance Minister Joe Ceci this week, are expected to brandish statistics to show the economy is off the mat, back on its feet and getting stronger.
The United Conservatives are likely to present numbers to suggest the economy is still down for the count.