EDMONTON — Premier Jim Prentice says all Albertans are responsible for getting the province into a financial mess and everyone has to help clean it up.
Prentice, speaking on CBC Radio Wednesday, said all Albertans must shoulder the burden for billions of dollars in lost oil revenue — but he reiterated that he will not raise taxes on corporations.
“In terms of who is responsible we all need only look in the mirror,” said Prentice. “All of us have had the best of everything and have not had to pay for what it costs.
“Collectively, we got into this as Albertans and collectively we’re going to get out of it, and everybody is going to have to shoulder some share of the responsibility.”
Prentice has promised to deliver this month a budget and 10-year plan to fundamentally reshape the foundations of how the province raises and spends money.
It was prompted by the steep slide in oil that has cut the price per barrel in half from a high of US$108 last summer, siphoning billions of dollars from the treasury.
In the last two months, Prentice and Finance Minister Robin Campbell have floated numerous suggestions on how to fix it, including hiking or changing Alberta’s current 10 per cent flat tax on personal income tax.
They have also said they are looking at bringing back health care premiums, removing or raising caps on tuition and running a budget deficit.
However, Prentice has ruled out introducing a provincial sales tax, hiking oil royalties, or raising the current 10 per cent tax on corporations.
At 10 per cent, Alberta has the lowest corporate tax in Canada. British Columbia is next at 11 per cent, with Nova Scotia and P.E.I. on the other end at 16 per cent.
Hiking the rate to 12 per cent would bring in an estimated $1 billion, but Prentice said it would be self-defeating.
“It would simply result in corporations deciding to relocate head offices to other provinces, to book their income in other provinces, and to reduce jobs in Alberta,” he said.
Prentice was asked if he was being driven solely by conservative ideology.
“I don’t think it’s wise economic policy,” he replied. “I’ve got no issue with it in an ideological sense.”
NDP Leader Rachel Notley said even with corporate taxes at 12 per cent it would be more than balanced out given that Alberta has no sales tax.
“We, of course, are an attractive place to investors and we will continue to be based on those (higher) numbers,” she said.
Last month, Campbell said the government is looking at five per cent departmental spending cuts across the board in the next budget, a figure that could effectively rise to nine per cent when inflation and population growth is factored in.
Prentice has also stressed that the province is on the hook for an “unsustainable” $2.6 billion in compensation hikes for government workers — unionized and non-unionized — and managers over the next three years.
Of that amount, $1 billion will go to Alberta Health Services, which handles front-line care.