First question period for new Alberta government: Notley promises no sales tax

EDMONTON – Rachel Notley, in her first question period as premier of Alberta, promised Tuesday that her NDP government will not bring in a sales tax.

It was one of several finance questions Notley faced in the first full day of debate in the legislature under the new NDP government.

“We have no intention of bringing in a sales tax,” Notley told the house after being questioned by Wildrose Leader Brian Jean.

It is expected to be a short session.

Members will debate a bill to ban corporate and union donations to political parties along with a bill to hike taxes on large corporations and on the wealthy.

There will also be an interim supply bill to keep money flowing to government until the NDP brings in a budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year sometime in the fall.

The former Progressive Conservative government introduced a budget this spring, but it did not pass before the election.

Notley has said the budget will be tabled sometime in the fall, but has not been more specific.

Jean urged Notley to bring in a budget by Sept. 7, saying Albertans and businesses need cost certainty.

But Notley said the budget presented by former PC premier Jim Prentice was soundly rejected by voters in the election in favour of the NDP’s plan.

“We don’t want to introduce Prentice 2.0,” said Notley.

“We want to introduce NDP 1.0 because that’s what the people of this province voted for and that’s what we owe to them.”

Opposition Tory Leader Ric McIver tried, but failed, to get answers from Notley on how much total revenue her proposed hikes to corporate taxes and taxes on the wealthy will bring in.

McIver elicited peals of laughter from both sides of the house when he warned the NDP of the impact of higher taxes on the wealthy.

“I have friends that earn over $125,000 a year,” said McIver, trying to speak over the laughter.

“Some are in one-income homes with children and are currently just making ends meet.”

Much of the levity in the first question period came at the expense of the PCs and their fall from power after almost 44 years in control.

“The last time the legislature passed a budget here was over a year ago under premier Redford — and in fact that was three premiers ago,” Jean said to cross-aisle laughter and desk-thumping.

The nine PC members did not join in the mirth.

Environment Minister Shannon Phillips was heckled by all opposition members when she avoided answering specific questions on new flood mitigation measures for southern Alberta by instead slamming the PCs.

“The situation we inherited from the previous PC government on flood mitigation can only be described as a gong show,” said Phillips as opposition members shouted back at her: “What’s the plan?”