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Sales tax talk premature: Finance Minister

Finance Minister and Grande Prairie—Wapiti MLA Travis Toews says starting a conversation about a potential provincial sales tax is not nesscecarily a bad thing, however, it’s not something he is looking to discuss ahead of the tabling of the 2021 Alberta Budget. While the province faces a deficit of approximately $24 billion in 2021 and debt levels close to $100 billion by March of next year, Toews says they must look within before adding more tax burden on Albertans.

“Right now we think it would just be the wrong time to introduce a sales tax, down the road, is a conversation Albertan’s may want to have? I think they may.”

“Down the road, it would be useful to have a conversation structure as a whole and the efficiency of our tax structure as a whole.”

Toews says the Taxpayer Protection Act which was introduced by former Premier Ralph Klein in 1995, puts the onus of deciding on a sales tax squarely on those who it would affect the most.

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“Prior to Alberta implementing a sales tax, that would have to go to a referendum, so Albertans would ultimately answer that question themselves, and I think that’s a very appropriate protection.”

He adds that while it may not be the time to talk new tax in 2021, he admits that it is something that shouldn’t be shelved indefinitely.

“I sincerely believe that periodically it makes sense for a jurisdiction to review its revenue and tax structure, to ensure it’s appropriate and it’s the most efficient structure possible.”

Toews says in the meantime, work included in the UCP’s Economic Recovery Plan, including the implementation of a reduced corporate tax rate from 10 to eight percent will help signal the start of a larger corporate footprint in the province.

“We’re continuing to build that plan out, and that plan involves broadly ensuring we have the most competitive business environment possible, it includes cutting red tape, [and] regulatory reform.”

Minister Toews will be taking part in an upcoming series of public budget consultation sessions on November 30th-December 3rd. Albertans can also have their say in an online budget survey prior to the planned telephone town halls.

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