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Business expert says PST is in Kenney’s toolbox

Premier Jason Kenney confirmed his government would not implement a provincial sales tax in Alberta without a referendum

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Discussions surrounding a possible provincial sales and carbon tax for Alberta have re-emerged in light of rising deficit spending throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Melissa Caouette, Vice-President, Government Relations & Business Development to Canadian Strategy Group, states: “A sales tax is one of many fiscal tools available to the UCP government to stabilize its revenues.”

However, she acknowledged such a request would have to come from the grassroots and not be imposed top-down.

In September, Finance Minister Travis Toews said a discussion about the PST would occur later in the UCP’s mandate.

“In terms of the discussion around revenue structure, income tax structure, that will be an important discussion for Albertans in the future,” said Toews.

“This is not a time to talk about raising taxes.”

Alberta is the only province in the country without a PST.

Recently, Premier Jason Kenney confirmed his government would not implement a provincial sales tax in Alberta without a referendum and had no intention to ask Albertans at this time.

During a zoom webinar with UCP members, Kenney emphasized a provincial sales tax was out of the question, stating: “The worst thing we could do amid this [COVID-19] crisis is to force people to pay more when they’re already going through incredible financial stress.”

“With high unemployment, with incomes down, and financial uncertainty, now is the worst time to be digging deeper into people’s pockets. I think we have no right as a government to ask people to pay more until we can demonstrate that the Alberta government is operating efficiently,” he said.

However, during his time with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation in the early 1990s, Kenney didn’t rule out a consumption tax as long as there were cuts in personal income taxes.

“Any talk of increasing Albertans’ tax burden should be offset by an appropriate adjustment in personal income tax and should ensure Albertans will not be not worse-off than before,” said Caouette.

“The tax dollars collected through a sales tax should be put towards supporting critical public goods, including education, healthcare, and infrastructure. The benefit of a sales tax is that Alberta can ensure those who do business here but pay personal or corporate tax elsewhere are supporting the fiscal stability of the province and paying their fair share,” she said.

“We’ve been spending about 20 per cent more per person than the average Canadian province,” said Kenney, who acknowledged his government’s first challenge was to get its fiscal house in order.

“You’ll see that in next week’s budget, where the focus will be on protecting lives and livelihoods, namely health care and jobs. We will continue to drive towards efficiency by gradually reducing expenditures, including a public sector compensation that has become higher than any other province and higher than the private sector.

“Frankly, it’s not sustainable.”

Caouette praised the government for making promising strides in supporting and investing in startups and small businesses and acknowledging the need to diversify our economy while continuing to champion the oil and gas sector.

With declining oil and gas royalties and investment coming to a standstill, despite rebounding commodity prices, Alberta will need to be creative to offset reduced resource revenues.

Even if the province relies on other sectors to fill the fiscal hole, such as tech or film, Caouette suggests it will not offset the systemic need to stabilize revenues long-term.

Dhaliwal is the Western Standard’s Edmonton reporter

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New Sask law exempts employers from COVID-19 lawsuits

The release bragged that Saskatchewan was one of only five jurisdictions with such extensive sexual harassment protections, but after the legislation was passed, Morgan defended the COVID-19 provisions as being common.

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By Lee Harding

Employees’ quests for legal COVID-19 recourse has died with recently passed legislation that is “protecting vulnerable workers” according to Labour Minister Don Morgan.

Legislation recently passed by the Government of Saskatchewan prevents employers from being sued for implementing measures listed in the Public Employers’ COVID-19 Emergency Regulations or the Employers’ COVID-19 Emergency Regulations.

Amendments to the Saskatchewan Employment Act say “no action or proceeding lies or shall be commenced or maintained against an employer” if that employer acts in good faith.

“It’s broad general thing that would cover anything related to COVID-19 — signage, lack of signage, whatever else might reasonably arise from it. The threshold is that they must act in good faith,” said Morgan.

“We aren’t trying to target a specific lawsuit that’s been started or being threatened … But we know that COVID-19 vaccines, etc., are a worldwide issue right now and we want to be able to encourage our employers to have some comfort that they’re not going to be subject to lawsuits.”

The legislation applies regardless of when a perceived transgression may have occurred. The amendment received royal assent November 30. However, when the Saskatchewan Employment Amendment Act, 2021 was first announced in a press release November 18, nothing about COVID-19 was even mentioned.

Although the opening sentence mentioned “better and safer workplaces for employers and employees” the rest of the release concerned details about sexual harassment and union bargaining provisions.

Now the Labour Relations Board must exclude supervisors from the same bargaining unit as those they supervise, wherever possible. Sexual harassment at the workplace is now defined as any unwelcome action of a sexual nature, and provisions of the act extend beyond employees to include independent contractors, students, and volunteers.

“The legislation that governs our employers and employees needs to address the challenges of the modern work environment, including protecting vulnerable workers,” Morgan wrote in the release. “These amendments will help us build a stronger, safer and healthier Saskatchewan.”

fact sheet the release linked to concluded with a brief mention of COVID-19.

“We are introducing a provision that will provide protection for public and private sector employers that comply with the new COVID-19 vaccination regulations. These regulations give the employee the choice of showing evidence of being fully vaccinated or evidence of a negative COVID-19 test at least every seven days.”

The release bragged Saskatchewan was one of only five jurisdictions with such extensive sexual harassment protections, but after the legislation was passed, Morgan defended the COVID-19 provisions as being common.

“That’s being done generally across North America,” Morgan said.

The same day Morgan made his comments, a post on the Freedom Alliance Facebook page suggested a strong desire for legal recourse alongside skepticism, and an apparent unawareness of the new provincial law.

“Does anyone here know of any lawyers in Saskatoon that believe in the same rights and freedom as we do? I believe it’s time to really do something about losing my source of income 

“The couple lawyers I did speak with basically said the pandemic supersedes all our rights! Would be great if we found a lawyer that called out the BS! Might have to source out to other provinces,” replied Michielle Ross Noble.

“At the mine I work at they had a lawyer go to bat and it seems to be that the government is above the law and beyond the constitution. Money talks louder than laws these days,” replied Garrick Bernard.

“I also live near Saskatoon,” replied Ron Chappell. “Good luck finding a lawyer that will stand up for your rights and freedoms. Seems these evils are above the law including the Canadian charter of rights and freedoms. There should be lawsuits going on everywhere. Either we don’t hear about them or they are not happening. Justin Trudeau is [a] tyrant.”

To this Funk made what proved to be a moot reply.

“Then a group of us should band together and file lawsuits! Who’s with me?”

Harding is a reporter based in Saskatchewan

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Maverick leader describes his perfect successor

“I am aware of three or four people who are seriously considering running for leadership,” interim leader Jay Hill told the Western Standard.

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Jay Hill, interim leader of the federal Maverick Party, says he hopes for a candidate for his replacement is someone that can “move the provinces and premiers towards greater autonomy for the West.”

On Wednesday, the Maverick Party released the rules for its leadership race that will see a new leader elected May 14, 2022.

The party will officially be accepting leadership applications as early as January 3 with a deadline of April 30.

Hill says he hopes to see two to six candidates apply.

“I am aware of three or four people who are seriously considering running for leadership,” Hill told the Western Standard.

“We’re more so focused on the quality side of things rather than quantity.”

The Maverick Party, formerly known as Wexit Canada, advocates for greater autonomy for Western Canadian provinces including BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the three territories.

“I’d like to see someone with the right vision and oratory skills to communicate with passion for Western Canadians,” said Hill.

Hill pointed to Quebec’s position within Canada and said the Maverick Party supports moving the western provinces in that direction.

Included in the list of rules for those interested in throwing their hat into the leadership race is a registration fee set at $10,000.

“Our governing council really struggled with that fee,” said Hill, who indicated the registration fee is still “substantially less” than any of the other federal parties.  

“We were really aiming for the right balance — that sweet spot — where you want to be realistic and make it doable and not a deterrent.

“It’s efficient to get serious contenders with serious commitment to register and not those with frivolous reasons.”

Hill, the former House leader for the Conservative Party of Canada, said he’s “too old” to run the party moving forward.

“My roll in elected office is done,” said Hill, adding he was done with the “high stress and high drama” when he quit federal politics in the fall of 2010.

When a new leader is elected in May, Hill plans to stay on and assist the party “depending on the needs of the new leader and how he or she feels I can contribute the most.”

Hill said he is excited and is looking forward to “a good, credible and lively leadership race.”

Melanie Risdon is a reporter for the Western Standard
mrisdon@westernstandardonline.com

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Maverick Party petition calls for carbon tax break for Canadians

Canadians will soon have to choose between food on their tables or heat in their homes,” the petition reads.

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The Maverick Party, with a newly launched petition, is calling on the federal government to suspend the collection of carbon taxes from Canadians from January 1 to April 1, 2022.

Carbon tax is a levy imposed on human activity that results in carbon emissions being released into the atmosphere, usually by the burning of fossil fuels like gasoline, natural gas and coal.

The petition notes although carbon taxes are designed to “change behaviour,” the rising costs of living are an “added extra burden” on taxpayers.  

The petition also says the party “understands that the cost of living is increasing at a pace that families can’t keep up with,” pointing to “skyrocketing” inflation and the cost of essential items rising.

“Many Canadians will soon have to choose between food on their tables or heat in their homes,” the petition reads.

“The federal government can alleviate some of the burden by declaring a carbon tax moratorium on New Year’s Day 2022.”

The Maverick Party is demanding the government give Canadians who are “drowning financially” a break to get through what will likely be “the most expensive winter in memory,”

The Trudeau government implemented the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act in 2019 that was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada in March of this year.

“Putting a price on carbon pollution is widely recognized as the most efficient means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also driving innovation,” the Government of Canada states on its website.

Melanie Risdon is a reporter for the Western Standard
mrisdon@westernstandardonline.com

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