Sales tax not answer to Alberta cash woes

Rod Love accepts the Canadian Taxpayers Federation's TaxFighter Award presented to Ralph Klein at the Palliser Hotel Monday April 18, 2011.



CALGARY -- The current Alberta government can learn a thing or two from the King, say those who served with Ralph Klein during his reign through hard financial times.

While the idea of a sales tax is being floated as a possible solution to the province's financial woes, Tories who served in the Klein era -- when a $3-billion deficit was slashed and $23 billion inherited provincial debt paid down -- say hard times can be overcome without one.

Premier Alison Redford says a sales tax is not on the agenda for now and she wants to hear from Albertans, even though several panellists at Saturday's economic summit recommended it as a way to cope with a looming resource revenue shortfall. But Rod Love, who served as chief of staff for Klein, said the former premier got through troubling times without introducing new taxes.

"Mr. Klein's attitude when he was faced with some financial problems in the 90s was not more taxes, it was less spending," he said."I am like many who believe the answer is not more money, it's to run the government differently, so I'm personally opposed to a sales tax, as too was Mr. Klein. It was brought up, but Mr. Klein made it very clear right from the start his answer was 'Never'."

Love said it wasn't just cuts that helped get through it."There was a lot of reorganization of the government to make it more efficient...," he said.

Former MLA Lloyd Snelgrove agrees with economists who say if a tax has to be introduced, a sales tax is one of the most fair.

"But before you get to that argument, they have to settle the argument ... do they need more revenue or do they have to just cut back their spending?" said the former Treasury Board president under Redford's predecessor, Ed Stelmach.

A sales tax was on the radar and whether there was an over dependence on resource revenue was discussed, Snelgrove said of his time in Klein's caucus.

"The generally agreed situation was, we are getting enough money, we have enough revenue, we don't need to have a sales tax," he said. "I think the consensus was we are spending too much money and in some case it's because we had too much as a province and it's far more difficult to say no when you have money in the bank."

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