Alberta holding weekend economic summit

Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith.

Credits: Ian Kucerak/Edmonton Sun/QMI Agency


CALGARY -- Saturday's economic summit is a ploy to lay the groundwork for provincial tax hikes, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith says.

The gathering of about 300 delegates at Mount Royal University is meant to craft a fiscal way forward, Premier Alison Redford says, but Smith said she suspects it has a more specific purpose.

"What they're really doing is paving the way for the premier to raise taxes," said Smith, who's attending the event as an observer.

"She's leaving the door wide open for taxes increases."
There's no need, she said, for any tax hikes if the government simply budgeted responsibly.

"It shouldn't be a horrendous budget -- we're still going to take in $7-$8 billion in oil and gas revenues next year," Smith said.

The opposition leader isn't a very good listener, said Stefan Baranski, spokesman for the premier's office.

"The premier's been very clear on the issue of taxes -- she's ruling out tax increases and a health-care premium," Baranski said.

"Danielle Smith's the only ones who's talking about taxes."

While Redford's political foes say the summit is little more than window dressing, Baranski said input from a top-notch group of experts will be taken seriously.

"You look at the calibre of people in the room and the number of people who'll participate in online, there'll be some pretty serious discussions," he said.

"It's an opportunity for big thinkers and average Albertans to discuss what the future economy will look like in 10, 15 or 20 years."

New Democrat MLA David Eggen called the summit an exercise in sweetening impending austerity measures.

"It's largely an optics exercise -- Redford's bringing in a slashing budget and wants to do some damage control -- both before and after," he said.

Eggen said his party will be touting at the summit a return to a progressive tax system after more than a decade of a flat tax approach.

"We've lost out on many billions of dollars on it...the summit won't be worth the paper it's printed on if they don't address royalties or flat taxes," he said.

The summit begins at 9 a.m. at Ross Glen Hall in MRU's Roderick Mah Centre for Continuous Learning.

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