Business-Friendly Alberta? I Think Not

Doug Ford at UCP Anti Carbon Tax Rally, Calgary, October 2018

In general, you are your own worst enemy.  The same is true for Albertans even though they like to blame government instead.  But I have proof. 

Albertans have been crying for investment.  They want oil investment because it pays the bills but they’ll accept other forms of investment if it will pay the bills as well.  The problem is that businesses aren’t playing along anymore; and it’s not the government’s fault. 

Calgary, the city of my birth, and my mother’s, and my grandmother’s (my great grandmother was born in Airdrie) hasn’t treated businesses that well. In a move to keep property taxes low, the City of Calgary has placed higher taxes on businesses.  Danielle Smith had an out of character experience back in November when she reviewed equivalent property taxes for Calgarians and found that there was perhaps a little too much entitlement behind the complaining.  Calgary doesn’t have the highest property taxes, or the second highest or third.  Calgary is fourth; behind Edmonton, Lethbridge, and Grande Prairie respectively. 

Smith even commented that municipalities usually give businesses a break to encourage investment; after all, they provide jobs for the little people who live there.  In case you haven’t seen a pro-pipeline rally being covered in recent months, people need jobs.  Oh, and no carbon tax. 

Speaking of which, I don’t know about you but I completed the Alberta Government’s Climate Leadership Plan survey back in 2015.  You might recall that in addition to the NDP forming government, they increased personal taxes on individuals making over $128,000.  Every dollar an Albertan made over $128,000 in 2015 was subject to an additional 2 cents in taxes, or an additional 20% of the 10 cents per dollar they paid in 2014.  Those who made more than $303,000 had an additional 5 cents in taxes (or 50% of their previous tax rate) on every dollar above $303,000.  The pipe clutching was almost unbearable.

Businesses which made more than $500,000 in a year also saw a tax increase of 20% of what they had paid before bringing their yearly total to 12% (after expenses).  Businesses making less than $500,000 a year received a decrease of 33% of their 2014 tax rates; from 3% to 2% (after expenses). 

Albertans awarded the NDP a mandate to govern and the NDP had campaigned on increased corporate tax (from 10 to 12%) and increased tax for those making over $128,000 each year (from 10% to 12% up to $303,000 and 10% to 15% for over $303,000).  The NDP increased taxes when they formed government.   Then they tackled the Climate Leadership Plan. 

The survey asked whether or not businesses should be sole bearers of the tax on emissions.  I don’t know about anyone else, but after Alberta businesses were asked to pay higher corporate taxes, I didn’t see why they should be the only ones responsible for what is essentially an emissions tax.  I drive.  I emit.  Why shouldn’t I also be responsible for reducing emissions?  I answered no; businesses should not be solely responsible for an emissions tax. 

And then came the rallies.  Albertans didn’t like that they had to shore up for their emissions.  Perhaps they believe only large emitters should have to do more to reduce their pollutants.  After all, large emitters been paying an emissions tax since 2007 under the SGER and a $15/tonne carbon tax since 2013.  

A loud group of Albertans are fighting for the status quo to return – someone else pays.  Business-friendly Alberta?  No, I think not.

This post contains fact and what is likely a very unpopular opinion. 

Deirdre Mitchell-MacLean

[email protected]

@Mitchell_AB @thisweekinAB