Friday, December 15, 2006

Harper's Wedge

Stephen Harper was quick to jump on Stephane Dion's pledge to review existing tax breaks for the oil companies:
"This government just tackled corporate tax fairness with the action we took on income trusts," the Prime Minister said. "That obviously had a significant impact on the energy sector. I think it would be asking a bit much to target the energy sector for tax hikes in that manner . . . ultimately we have to be fair. All industries have to play their part in regulating greenhouse gases. The energy sector will be a critical element of that, but this is a national plan that goes across all industries.

"You know it's easy for some of the other parties, for Mr. Dion or the NDP and the Bloc, who don't represent Albertans and westerners, to say Albertans should pay all the taxes in the country, but I think we have to be a little fairer than that," he said.

Harper's comments are ironic, given newly minted Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach's pledge on the same day:
He said that one of the most common concerns he heard during his campaign for the Tory leadership was that Albertans aren‘t getting enough money for their resources.

“Once cabinet is named, we will bring these issues to the first cabinet and we will put a structure in place,‘‘ said Stelmach, who was to be sworn in as premier on Thursday.

“To do this in the most open and transparent manner, these (panelists) will be people that are not members of government.‘‘

Stelmach suggested the panelists could include economists, oil and gas experts or people with knowledge on how Alberta can maximize value-added processing of oilsands resources.

“We want a cross-section of people that can bring us the best information, put it on the table in a very open and transparent manner so Albertans can trust that information. That‘s why it‘s removed from government.‘‘

The panel will report to Alberta‘s finance minister and will also consider what other taxes are paid by companies, he said.

“I just want to make sure that at the end of the day, Albertans, as owners of the resources, feel comfortable that they‘re getting the right return.‘‘

Many question whether the oil industry is paying its fair share of taxes and provincial royalties to help the province pay for higher social and infrastructure costs linked to the energy boom.

So, we have Albertans questioning oil company taxes and royalties, but the federal government isn't allowed the same reasoning? Harper speaks of fairness, yet the Premier of Alberta questions fairness, and wonders aloud if big oil isn't getting a free ride. Harper uses oil revenues as a wedge issue, but it would seem his base have a philosophical similarity to those dirty Liberals like Dion. Everyone is asking the same question, why are we subsidizing an industry that is raking in gross profits? Apparently, Harper is more interested in trying to play parts of the country off each other than using common sense.


Miles Lunn said...

This is no surprise here. Ted Morton also opposed more taxes on oil companies who is the Alberta PC leadership Harper is closest to in terms of ideology. Jim Dinning and Ed Stelmach are both your former Progressive Conservative types, not your ideological conservatives like Harper.

Hopefully once Dion becomes PM, he can sit down with Ed Stelmach and work out something that is good for Alberta, good for Canada, and good for the environment.

ottlib said...

Mr. Dion's ideas about tax breaks for companies that clean up their act is a good one.

As well, if he were really smart about it he would phase out the subsidies to the oil industry to allow the companies to ease into the new reality.

There are ways to do this that will be beneficial to Albertans, Canadians, the oil industry and the environment.

Mr. Dion should put such a proposal together and present it in Albertans soon. I may be wrong but most Albertans would probably appreciate it.

Miles Lunn said...

Ottlib - I don't think Albertans are driven by an irrational fear of Ottawa being out to take their resources. Just look at the Alberta PC race and how Ted Morton who played to those fears couldn't grow beyond the first ballot, which suggests the hard right holds this attitude, but not your average Albertan

I also favouring ending subsidies to oil and big ass (oops I meant big gas) companies. In fact I generally favour ending all subsidies to corporations in the long-run. There may be a few exceptions, but subsidies to business should be avoided wherever possible.