Tone deaf CEOs think Albertans need to pay higher taxes

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More than 90 big-wig business executives think you don’t pay enough taxes.

It’s all laid out in a report released by the Business Council of Alberta that thinks the government should consider a provincial sales tax and carbon tax.

The BCA’s website refers to itself as “a group of over 90 chief executives from across Alberta.” The group includes Tracy Robinson of TC Energy, Tim McKay of Canadian Natural Resources Limited, Al Monaco of Enbridge, Navin Arora of Telus and Dave Filipchuk of PCL Constructors, among others.

These CEOs are so worried about the government’s debt problems they felt compelled to write a report about how Albertans need to pay higher taxes to help pull the province out of a sea of red ink.

Aren’t they good Samaritans?

Oddly enough, these high-rollers didn’t recommend cutting the billions of dollars of corporate welfare the province has announced. If these executives were so worried about the debt, why not call for TC Energy to return the $1.5 billion taxpayers spent on the company’s pipeline?

Maybe we need to give these executives the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps it’s hard to grasp the cost of a carbon tax when you’re filling up a Ferrari. Maybe they don’t know how bad it is on the ground? Here’s a little refresher for the CEOs whose corner-office views have become a little foggy.

Over the past year, about 90,000 Albertans working in the private sector lost their job. There’s nearly 35,000 Alberta businesses that are still at risk of closing their doors for good, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent business.

While this all sounds like bad news, the BCA report assures us there’s some “good news on the revenue side.” That silver lining is that “we have room” to increase taxes on Alberta families.

The report even pontificates about an eight per cent sales tax, which would cost $7.2 billion annually, or $1,600 per Albertan. The report acknowledges the government could help offset some costs through rebates or other tax reductions, but the specifics on relief are scant.

The report also discusses how Alberta could take over from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and reinstate the provincial carbon tax. A $50/tonne provincial carbon tax would soak Alberta taxpayers for $1.5 billion.

Then there’s this bombshell:

“A consumer carbon tax could be structured in the same way as a value-added tax (like the GST),” reads the report. “This would allow producers to pass the cost down and preserve business competitiveness.”

Isn’t that something? A group of CEOs seem to want higher taxes, but they want to make sure their businesses can “pass the cost down.” That’s code for sticking Alberta families with the bills.

The BCA does acknowledge that a pandemic and this economic catastrophe is no time to hike taxes. Better to wait for the pandemic to end before the government makes it harder for families to put food on the table. Do these CEOs seriously think that Albertans will have cash left on our money trees to pay for tax hikes after more than five years of economic hardships?

Fortunately, Premier Jason Kenney smacked down the idea of tax hikes.

“This would be the worst possible time to sink government’s hand deeper into the pockets of taxpayers who are already coping with huge financial stress,” Kenney responded.

The New Democrats have also come out against a PST.

So, what’s the solution to our deficit problem? Ironically, it’s found using data in the BCA’s report. The BCA acknowledged the government needs to reduce spending. And if Alberta brought its per person spending down to levels in Ontario, we would have a nearly $900-million surplus.

 

by Franco Terrazzano, Alberta Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

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