Gary Mar has a $660-million question to answer if he wants to become Premier of Alberta, says the province's largest labour group.
"That's how much money Mar will be giving away to wealthy corporations if he follows through on his plan to cut corporate taxes again," says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, which represents 145,000 workers. "The question he should answer now is: How will he make up a shortfall in revenue of two-thirds of a billion dollars?"
Mar, the frontrunner in the race to become leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservatives and Premier of the province, yesterday revealed a policy that includes a further two-per-cent cut in corporate tax rates. In recent years, the province has cut the tax rate by one third to 10 per cent from 15 per cent.
"Albertans need to know how he will make up that shortfall - what cuts he would make to vital public services in order to make this overly generous gift to his corporate pals. Our health-care and education systems are already straining from the pressure of inadequate and unstable funding. Mar was a cabinet minister in the Klein era. Are we heading back to the hugely unpopular Klein-style cuts," asks McGowan.
"There is absolutely no reason to cut corporate taxes again. These tax cuts don't create new investment and they aren't needed - the evidence is undeniable," says McGowan.
Yesterday, the RBC Economics Provincial Outlook report said Alberta's economy is set to grow by 3.7 per cent in 2011 and 3.9 per cent in 2012, fuelled by investment in the energy sector. Oil and gas producers are set to spend more than $24 billion this year, an 18-per-cent increase over 2010. According to the Alberta government, per-capita investment in the province in 2010 was almost twice the national average at $18,930, with a total of $70 billion invested "due to the economic recovery and higher energy prices." Last month, it listed nearly $186 billion in major projects under way in the province.
"Alberta is awash in investments because the world wants our natural resources. Throwing money at corporations isn't going to make them invest any more. It's just going to lead to the province's cupboards being bare when it comes to paying for services."
MEDIA CONTACT: Gil McGowan, AFL president, 780-218-9888