Albertans open to tax hikes: Redford

Premier Alison Redford



EDMONTON - Albertans are telling the Tory government taxes are on the table, Premier Alison Redford said Wednesday.

Speaking at a press conference, Redford said people out in the constituencies are talking tax increases.

"It's interesting, you know, because part of the discussions we're having this week is hearing from Albertans, of course, and Albertans and constituents who spoke to the members of caucus over Christmas, and there are some people who really do not want to see that increase, and I'm one of those people.

"But surprisingly, I have heard comments saying there are Albertans saying these are all the options that are on the table - but I've made my view known," Redford said.

The Tory premier, under fire for backing down from a campaign promise to balance the budget this year to balancing the operating budget due to "a sudden drop in oil revenue" said her "preference" is clear.

"I don't want to see new taxes. It's a commitment that I made and I want to keep my commitment. Where we're at right now, I think, is very preliminary discussions with people coming back from Christmas holidays saying, 'What are the ideas and options that we have?'

"You know, fundamentally, we're going to have to make some tough choices. We talked about that before Christmas and we'll continue to do that ... but my preferences have been very clear and I stand by it."

In the wake of reduced oil prices in the same year as provincial spending hit a record $43 billion, the Tories are looking at cuts and everything is on the table, Finance Minister Doug Horner said in December.

But not taxes this year, Redford said.

"Tax revenue will not be increased in this budget," she said.

Redford was more emphatic when asked if a reference to Alberta's good bond rating in a realtors' association meeting Wednesday meant the province would borrow for the operating budget.

"Absolutely not. Categorically not. We will not borrow for operating," she said.

While Redford's Tory MLAs pushed through a pay raise for legislators in the fall, public sector employees might not fare so well, according to Redford.

"We have incredibly well-compensated teachers and doctors relative to the rest of the country, and as we see drops in revenue, one of the things we need to do is take a look at where Albertans' priorities are ... so there's a lot of choices to be made."

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