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Alberta’s new NDP government made good Monday on campaign promises to raise corporate taxes and reform political donations, but showed no urgency to address the crisis at hand: a provincial economy suffering from low oil prices that is bleeding private sector jobs, investment and confidence.
The risk is that while Premier Rachel Notley did not create the oil shock — that was OPEC’s handy work — she will be blamed for making it worse by pressing ahead with policies hostile to the dominant oil and gas sector that are accelerating its downward spiral.
Indeed, tensions with the oilpatch are already frayed over her promises to review (and likely raise) oil and gas royalties, toughen up climate change regulations and push for more bitumen upgrading in the province, at a time the sector is broke and laying off staff.
In the first speech from the throne since the NDP replaced the long-governing Tories, Notley outlined her immediate priorities for a short session before the summer break: Corporate taxes are going up to 12 per cent from 10 per cent, and taxes are going up for Albertans earning more than $125,000 to restore the province to “a more typical Canadian tax system.”
“This bill will ask those who have benefitted the most from the boom times in Alberta to now contribute more, so that our schools and health care can be spared from chaos and reckless cutbacks,” the NDP said in the throne speech, delivered by the new lieutenant governor, Lois Mitchell.
The government will also introduce legislation to end corporate and union donations to political parties.
Notley said the moves are “foundational” to her government’s agenda.
Speaking to reporters, she said the royalty review, new climate change legislation and initiatives to encourage upgrading of bitumen in Alberta are also going ahead – but details will have to wait.
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