Finance Minister Robin Campbell spent a lot of time on the defensive Monday afternoon, as he delivered his first major address since delivering the budget.
Speaking to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, Campbell told business leaders these are challenging times and they need to do everything they can to protect families and jobs.
Front-line services will continue to be a priority for the government, he insisted, but the Minister also has faced some criticism in recent days for not raising the corporate tax or instituting a P.S.T.
There has been grumbling, many questioning why not raise the corporate income tax if the province is in this all together.
“We had people look into it, a 1 per cent increase in corporate tax would mean 9,000 jobs, mean losing investment in the province, we lost 14,000 jobs last month and we’re losing more every week, the winter drilling program is coming in and we’re going to see some people lose their jobs then,” he said. “Also as we look at diversifying the economy, our competition with our neighbouring provinces Saskatchewan and B.C., are bringing value added to their provinces and we’re competing with the United States.”
“When I travel the province talking to people, the number one priority for people is getting spending under control. So I felt, I take very seriously any increase we bring in on taxes, I felt that we have an obligation to get our spending under control which we’re doing, also a 1 per cent PST is 1.1 billion dollars, so a 3 per cent tax, that’s almost 3-4 billion dollars you’re taking out of the economy in discretionary spending.”
Campbell used the phrase “Albertans weren’t quite there yet” when it came to instituting a P.S.T, when asked if this is something they’d consider down the road, he replied that’s up to Albertans.
He did reveal though a 5 per cent levy would have solved the province’s fiscal problems.
The Finance Minister adds he will look at continuing to ensure Alberta has one of the lowest tax regimes.
“I come from the coal industry, I’ve seen lots of up and downs with the industry, it’s not fun when someone has to go home and tell their family they’ve lost their job so my sense is we’ll do everything we can to keep Albertans moving forward.”