Lloydminster could be in a for a bit of a wake-up call if the Alberta government decides to introduce a provincial sales tax, according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF).
In an interview with the Lloydminster Source, CTF acting Director for Alberta Scott Hennig said that the city of Lloydminster, which is straddling the border of Saskatchewan and Alberta has seen an economic bonus, particularly for the Saskatchewan side, for not having a sales tax in the entire city.
“(The introduction of a PST) means more for Lloydminster-ites than it does for most people in the province,” he said.
Hennig said that Saskatchewan residents in the outlying areas of the city cross the border or come to Lloydminster to shop, and will not have to do that if the province goes ahead with an introduction of a sales tax.
“If Alberta introduced the sales tax, the Saskatchewan side of the city would lose the tax free island status that it gets from the (Alberta side). It would loose its unique status,” he said.
“The Saskatchewan government would then introduce, if not bring in, the full PST that Saskatchewan adheres to on that side of the city.”
Currently, the PST in the province of Saskatchewan is set at five per cent, the lowest in Canada.
Alberta is the only province that does not have a sales tax, the three territories also do not have a sales tax.
The comments come days after Alberta Premier Jim Prentice told an Edmonton audience that everything is one the table when it comes to finding new revenue sources to replace the falling oil prices.
“I don’t think Albertans generally advocate a sales tax, but I’m prepared to be educated and to hear from people,” Prentice told the audience
Hennig said that he and the CTF will ensure that the people of Alberta speak up over this issue, and will begin emailing and phoning the provincial premier to ensure their voice is heard.
“If Jim Prentice is asking to hear from the people of Alberta on the issue of the Provincial Sales Tax than he will certainly hear from the people of the CTF,” Hennig said.
“We will be ensuring that everyone of our members has his e-mail address, and they will be certainly informing him about how we feel on this issue.”
Vermilion-Lloydminster MLA Richard Starke, who currently sits on the Treasury Board, said in an interview a day after the comments from the Premier were made, said that tough decisions have to be made in the province to offset the slumping oil prices.
“I have a great deal of confidence in our premier, to (make those decisions), than any other political leader across Canada right now.”
Starke, and the Treasury Board, met earlier this week and began looking at some of the hard choices that need to be made starting immediately.
“This Premier is prepared to examine everything,” Starke said. “He’s not going to pre-empt the discussion that we need to have by saying ‘that’s not on the table, thats not on the table,’ he has said the doors are all open, and he wants to hear from all Albertans.”
Starke said that he expects to hear from a wide range of people when it comes to the issue of a sales tax in the province, and he has begun to hear some comments on revenue sources.
“I have heard from a range of people on the issue of the sales tax, and I have heard a lot of opinions on a lot of other sources of revenues.”
Hennig said that one way to offset the large decrease in revenue is by slashing provincial expenditures. When asked where the government should start cutting, Hennig said the better question is where don’t you cut spending.
“Alberta spends the exact same amount in money, that British Columbia spends, and B.C has roughly 700,000 more people.
“We spend more on everything, that all the other provinces do on a per person basis,” Hennig said.
When asked if he was advocating cutting funding to education to healthcare, Hennig said that he wasn’t advocating for frontline cut, but salary cuts.
“You can reduce you labour costs, by reducing the labour costs of your government employees,” he added. “They are making more than their counterparts are making in other provinces.
Starke said that the question that people have to be having right now is how do we best position the province, so the fluctuations in the future are not so serious.
“I think that these are some of the tough decisions that albertans expects us to make.”
Hennig added that having no Sales Tax has been a badge of honour for the people of Alberta.
“No politician in their right mind would ever talk about a Sales Tax.”
If Prentice decides to introduce a sales tax, a provincial referendum would have to take place on the matter, after former Premier Ralph Klien introduced the Alberta Taxpayers Protection Act in 1995, which requires the government to hold a referendum on the issue of the imposition of a tax on the province.