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Infrastructure boost, biz tax cut highlight Alberta’s post-COVID economic strategy

The province will reduce corporate taxes and spend $10 billion on infrastructure to spur on Alberta’s post-COVID economic recovery.

The announcement comes at the same time as a new survey showing Premier Jason Kenney’s popularity numbers are wavering with the economy on the minds of many Albertans.

Premier Kenney and Finance Minister Travis Toews outlined a plan they hope puts 50,000 Albertans to work. This includes the largest ever infrastructure spend, totalling $10 billion.

He said it’s a plan to address both short- and long-term economic challenges facing the province.

“Today, we take a big step forward in that journey with the launch of Alberta’s Recovery Plan, a bold, ambitious long-term strategy to build our province, to diversify our economy, and to create jobs,” he said.

The plan also calls for an acceleration of the Job Creation Tax Cut. Initially, the corporate tax cut was supposed drop from 12 per cent to eight per cent over three years. On July 1, this year the tax will be reduced to eight per cent.

“When Alberta’s corporate income tax rate hits eight per cent, British Columbia’s corporate income tax will be 50 per cent higher at 12 per cent,” said Minister Toews, in a prepared release.  

The Alberta relaunch plan includes an innovation grant, a cultural relaunch plan and further funding for municipal infrastructure. The full details of the plan can be viewed at Alberta.ca.

Response to the Alberta economic plan

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation was mixed in their response to the Alberta economic plan.

“Premier Jason Kenney’s economic recovery plan delivers tax relief that will help entrepreneurs get Alberta back on track, but there’s also a lot of spending so we’re concerned about the deficit,” said Franco Terrazzano, the CTF’s Alberta Director.

“Risking tax dollars so politicians and bureaucrats can play investment banker is the wrong way to grow the economy.”

Alberta’s Opposition NDP said this is just a continuation of previous policies that didn’t spur any economic growth. Opposition leader Rachel Notley said a similar tax cut policy led to the loss of 50,000 jobs before the pandemic.

“Albertans need to hear a bold vision and a real plan that gets everyday people back to work, and sets Alberta’s economy up for a recovery now, and a stronger economy tomorrow,” said Notley. 

 “We didn’t see that today. It is not bold, it is the bare minimum.”

Survey results show economy on Albertans’ minds

A new panel study from Calgary-based ThinkHQ shows that the economy and unemployment are top concerns for Albertans. Ninety-four per cent of respondents say they’re concerned with the economy (70 per cent “very” concerned. This number is down seven per cent from April.

On unemployment, 91 per cent are concerned, with 60 per cent of respondents “very concerned” (down 11 per cent from April.)

While 73 per cent of Albertans are concerned about COVID-19, only 35 per cent are very concerned. That’s down 23 per cent from April 2020, when those numbers peaked.

The study reached 1,204 online panel participants between June 17 and 20, and is weighted to reflect the age, gender and region, according to Statistics Canada. The margin of error on a comparable random sample of this size is 2.8 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Premier Jason Kenney’s personal approval rating has dropped into negative territory, according to ThinkHQ president, Marc Henry. Forty-eight per cent approved and 50 per cent disapproved. The intensity of the negatives is substantially higher. The panel results showed 36 per cent strongly disapproving of the Premier (18 per cent strongly approve).

Henry said it’s a slight drop after Premier Kenney saw an approval jump seven points earlier this year.

While Premier Kenney also saw a modest bump due to COVID-19 response, that support is sliding as well. He saw 55 per cent approval, dropping four points since April.

“He’s still getting majority support when it comes to managing COVID, but his personal popularity has slipped down into slightly negative territory,” said Henry.

“It’s not territory he’s unfamiliar with. Indeed, but for about a six month “honeymoon” post-election and the past two months, Kenney’s popularity has fluctuated in a fairly narrow band just slightly below where he is today since he became leader of the UCP.