By Trevor Busch
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter singled out Bill 1, or the Alberta Taxpayer Protection Amendment Act, as one of the key pieces of legislation to be debated and passed in the fall session of the legislature.
“Bill 1 really is kind of adding to what Ralph Klein did when he was in office. Basically they said, ‘look, we’ve done some great things financially, but we’re going to make sure that we don’t ever have a PST come in’ so they passed a bill that says if you want to bring in a PST (provincial sales tax) in Alberta, then you have to go to the people, you have to have a referendum,” said Hunter.
Bill 1, which passed third reading on Nov. 7, prohibits the government from increasing personal or corporate income tax rates without Albertans’ approval through a referendum. It also prohibits reducing personal income tax bracket thresholds and basic personal, spousal and equivalent-to-spouse credit amounts without a referendum.
Hunter believes the legislation would be effective in tying the hands of subsequent governments that might be eyeing the idea of a PST in Alberta.
“When the NDP got in, I know they would have loved to have brought in something like that. But they didn’t, because you’d have to go to the people through a referendum. And so they didn’t. Instead, they brought in a carbon tax, which is almost a PST, because the tax is on everything. So in this situation, I was very happy to see this, because what this says is that future governments, whoever they are, if you want to increase income tax, the corporate tax, you’re going to have to go to the people to convince them that there’s a value in that proposition for them.”
Albertans and Alberta businesses already pay the lowest overall taxes in the country. At eight per cent, Alberta’s general corporate income tax rate is 30 per cent lower than the next lowest province. The province’s combined federal-provincial general corporate tax rate is lower than the combined federal-state rate of 44 U.S. jurisdictions.
While acknowledging that sometimes change is necessary, Hunter wants Albertans to be front and centre in making decisions that ultimately affect their bottom line.
“Sometimes, you know, if there’s a real crisis, or something’s happening, or a big paradigm shift within society, and you have to do that, then make sure that the people accept it, agree with it, and are on board. And this is the nice thing about Bill 1, it gives the people back control whether or not those taxes are going to go up. And it also provides certainty to businesses, because businesses are always thinking, ‘Well, should I invest in Alberta, or Saskatchewan or Ontario or Quebec or down in the States?’ And then the question is, are they going to raise taxes so that it makes our businesses unprofitable? And so this provides that certainty for businesses as well.”
Alberta’s corporate income tax revenue in 2022-23 was $8.2 billion, the most the province has ever recorded in a single fiscal year. Business incorporations in the province have increased three years in a row, further evidence, Hunter argues, that Alberta remains a strong place to start and grow a business.
“We’ve got a lot of businesses that are coming into Alberta, we’ve got a lot of people that are moving to Alberta, some of the highest growth in terms of net migration that we’ve ever seen in this province. And our economy is on fire right now. We’re doing very well. And it’s because of some of these policies that are in these bills that we are passing, that we’re seeing this happen with growing the pie within Alberta.”