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Alberta’s tax revolt tango

As of July 2019, Alberta had the lowest corporate tax rate in Canada for corporations other than manufacturing and processing.

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To pay, or not to pay, that is the question.

From the Value of Alberta conference in Calgary last weekend – where some were suggesting Albertans stop paying federal taxes – to today where former Liberal leader David Swann held a press conference saying he was refusing to pay his provincial taxes, this dance is just getting started.

The former is a protest for a “fair deal” for Alberta and the latter is a protest against the $173 million that oil and gas companies owe Alberta municipalities.  

Swann said in a statement that he was “outraged.

“Our government shouldn’t have one set of rules for their corporate friends and another for the rest of us Albertans.”

He also accused the Kenney government of condoning “tax evasion in the oil patch.”

Focusing on “roads they use, schools that train their workers and, services that support their operations,” Swann accused oil and gas companies of “brazenly flouting provincial laws and cheating hardworking families.”

Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) released a statement on Monday saying that a member survey had identified unpaid property tax, owed to municipalities by oil and gas companies, had now reached approximately $173 million.

“Non-payment of taxes by oil and gas companies on property that they own and operate has been an ongoing issue for rural municipalities,” said the RMA release.

“[M]unicipalities require property taxes to provide the infrastructure and services that industry relies on to access natural resources. If Alberta’s property tax system is not amended to prevent oil and gas companies from refusing to pay property taxes, many rural municipalities will struggle to remain viable,” RMA President Al Kemmere said.

During an interview with Ryan Jespersen on Wednesday, Kemmere was asked whether there was a separate conversation to be had between bankruptcy and just not paying.

Kemmere said they were separate but linked because municipalities do not have the same tools to collect unpaid tax from oil and gas companies as they do from residents and other businesses.

“Municipalities being faced with these oil and gas companies not paying their taxes on an ongoing basis, if we can deal with it immediately, we can stop the accumulation that sometimes (goes on) for two or three years and then a bankruptcy takes place and (municipalities) are left with nothing (due to the Redwater decision),” Kemmere said.

The Redwater decision put environmental responsibilities above creditors for repayment and municipalities as creditors specifically are a lesser priority on the list for collection claims.

Municipalities are facing increased pressure to reduce services or raise residential property taxes already as a result of the October budget which saw municipalities lose up to 50 per cent of their capital expense funding.

Smaller municipalities are also on the hook for increased policing costs which will begin at 10 per cent this coming April, move to 15 per cent in 2021, 20 per cent in 2022 and 30 per cent by 2023.

Jason Wilson, a county councillor in Wheatland noted that his county, which has just under 9,000 residents, will have to come up with an additional million dollars to cover policing by 2023.

“RMA members have been impacted by provincial decisions to attract industry through reduced red tape and government spending in the form of reduced municipal grants, increased expectations for municipalities to contribute to policing costs, and an ongoing review (of) Alberta’s assessment model which is likely to result in reduced tax revenue in many municipalities,” said Kemmere.

Qualifying shallow oil and gas wells in rural Alberta were given a 35 per cent tax cut for 2019 – equivalent to the education tax portion of property taxes – and Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu announced in December the program will be extended through 2020. The Alberta government said approximately “70,000 wells and their associated pipelines will receive about $20 million in total support” from the additional tax cut for the 2019 tax year.

Corporations in Alberta received a one per cent tax decrease last July and a further one per cent decrease January 1, 2020. They will receive another one per cent overall tax reduction in 2021 and an additional one per cent in 2022.

Alberta was tied with Saskatchewan and Ontario for the lowest corporate tax rate of all provinces as of January for manufacturing and processing taxes. In Canada, only the Yukon boasts a lower rate at 2.5 per cent.

As of July 2019, Alberta had the lowest corporate tax rate in Canada for corporations other than manufacturing and processing.

Premier Jason Kenney responded to RMA’s release by saying “you can’t wring money from a stone.”

“They simply don’t have the cash, in some cases, to pay these property taxes, and if these businesses go under there’s no revenue stream from taxation going to these municipalities,” Kenney said on Tuesday.

Some municipalities are relying on diversity instead.

Foothills County’s Chief Administrative Officer, Harry Riva Cambrin, told Okotoks Online they’re doing better now than they were a few years ago.

“How this all took place for us was mostly in natural gas. As the price became lower and lower, the operations… wells and pipelines became money losers,” Riva Cambrin said.

“So naturally, the companies started to walk away from their facilities and stopped paying their municipal taxes and lease payments to land owners.”

Riva Cambrin says the municipality will continue to diversify and work to attract industrial businesses and green energy to the region to continue to replace the loss of revenue from oil and gas.

story ideas? dmaclean@westernstandardonline.com Twitter: @Mitchell_AB

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. John Clark

    January 23, 2020 at 4:07 pm

    Notably, he has eliminated most jobs having to do with environmental protection while announcing a new heavy oil mine and tailings pond north of McMurray. Also gone are the people who supervised the conduct of oil companies when they abandon wells.

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WATCH: Alberta Oil drives Guilbeault to meeting with Nixon

Federal Environment Minister Stephen Guilbeault’s tour of Alberta has already kicked off with a whiff of hypocrisy.

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Attended by a sizable entourage, Guilbeault exited his black gasoline-powered SUV and hustled into the McDougall Centre in Calgary for a meeting with Alberta Environment Minister Jason Nixon.  

Guilbeault has dedicated most of his career to telling Canadians they need to transition from petrochemically fueled transportation. During this meeting though, Guilbeault chose not to find an utilize an electric-powered SUV in order to demonstrate his environmental virtue. With the resources of the entire federal government behind him, one would have thought that Guilbeault could have arranged appropriate transportation for his cross-Canada tour.  

It’s almost as if electric vehicles are still not ready for mainstream use yet. 

At least Guilbeault contributed to the Western economy with his conspicuous consumption of local petrochemical products.  

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Officials urge booster injections to tackle lingering Delta variant amid Omicron craze

The WHO classified Omicron as a “variant of concern,” however, the South African doctor who discovered Omicron in her patient says she is “stunned” by the response.

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The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is now strongly urging COVID-19 booster injections for those over the age of 50.

In addition, the committee is now recommending boosters of an authorized mRNA vaccine to those 18-49 years of age at least six months after completion of a “primary COVID-19 vaccine series with consideration of jurisdictional and individual risks.”

The announcement comes amid global discussion of the Omicron variant. The federal government requested on Tuesday that NACI swiftly review its booster guidance in response to Omicron.

The NACI’s new booster recommendation, however, focuses on the lingering Delta variant while more details are gathered on Omicron.

On Nov. 26, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified Omicron as a “variant of concern,” although the South African doctor who discovered Omicron in her patient says she is “stunned” by the response.

“As chair of the South African Medical Association and a GP of 33 years standing, I have seen a lot over my medical career,” writes Dr. Angelique Coetzee, in an op-ed for the Daily Mail.

“But nothing has prepared me for the extraordinary global reaction that met my announcement this week that I had seen a young man in my surgery who had a case of COVID that turned out to be the Omicron variant.”

The young man was unaware he had contracted the virus.

Coetzee says she has seen nothing about the variant that warrants panic.

“No one here in South Africa is known to have been hospitalized with the Omicron variant, nor is anyone here believed to have fallen seriously ill with it,” writes Coetzee.

She also says the variant has been circulating South Africa for “some time.”

Viruses — such as COVID-19 — have their own DNA or RNA, therefore allowing them to mutate into new forms.

“This virus is going exactly how you’d expect,” Dr. Steven Pelech, chair of the Scientific and Medical Advisory Committee at the Canadian Covid Care Alliance, told the Western Standard.

“Strains are going to predominate which are more infectious and mild. That’s how it displaces other variants, it doesn’t kill the host. The host often doesn’t even know they are infected.”

Pelech — who is far from alone in his analysis — suggests the “variants of concern,” including Delta, are merely steps towards COVID-19 evolving into a common coronavirus. One that is highly infectious and exceedingly mild.

The Canadian government implemented additional travel restrictions in response to Omicron on November 30 — built upon previous measures.

“We know that these concerning mutations can arise and, where vaccinations are low in parts of the world, they can spread rapidly,” said BC Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Tuesday.

BC officials say the province will have more information on Omicron and its implications — such as vaccine efficacy — in the coming weeks.

“Isn’t this the same playbook we heard a year ago with the Delta variant?” said Pelech.

Reid Small is a BC-based reporter for the Western Standard
rsmall@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter.com/reidsmall

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Surrey RCMP investigating rocks thrown from overpass

Multiple vehicles, including a transit bus, were damaged by rocks hurled from the pedestrian overpass. Fortunately, no one was injured.

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Several incidents involving rocks thrown onto Highway 99 in South Surrey have prompted an investigation from Surrey RCMP.

Multiple vehicles, including a transit bus, were damaged by rocks hurled from the pedestrian overpass. Fortunately, no one was injured.

The first incident took place on November 26, at 7:44 p.m. when a semi-truck and bus were struck with rocks. The following incident, involving another two semi-trucks occurred three days later on November 29 at 10:49 p.m., and most recently, November 30 at 10:20 p.m. when yet another two semi-trucks were damaged.

“These incidents are very concerning. Throwing objects off of the overpass has the potential to cause serious or even fatal injuries to the occupants of vehicles,” said Cpl. Vanessa Munn, Surrey RCMP.

“We are asking anyone with information to contact police. If you reside in the area please check your residential cameras and be sure to report all suspicious activity to police.”

The overpass where these incidents took place is between the 32 Avenue and King George Boulevard exits of Highway 99.

Reid Small is a BC-based reporter for the Western Standard
rsmall@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter.com/reidsmall

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