Tax cuts non-negotiable, Tories sayBy SANDRA CORDON
Wednesday, January 25, 2006 Posted at 5:13 PM EST
Ottawa — Tax cuts and a new grant for families with kids will be non-negotiable items for Canada's new Conservative government — even in its minority position, says a leading contender for the high-profile post of finance minister.
Campaign pledges to cut the GST and distribute a new kind of family allowance are top priorities for the incoming Tory administration, Alberta MP Monte Solberg, the party's long-time finance critic, said Wednesday.
And that means those fiscal measures won't be sacrificed in any give and take that a minority government often faces in gaining support from other parties to pass its agenda.
“These are obviously very high priorities for our party and my leader is pretty committed to these things,” Mr. Solberg said in an interview Wednesday from Brooks, in his southern Alberta riding.
“I think that sort of speaks volumes on our views about how aggressively we'll push for them.”
Stephen Harper's Conservative party won power with a narrow minority in Monday's federal election, taking 124 seats to end the 12-year reign of the Liberal party, which came away with 103 seats in the 308 member House of Commons.
That means the Tories must find ways to co-operate at times with either the Liberals or the 51 MPs in the Bloc Quebecois caucus, the 29 NDP members or the one independent MP from Quebec City.
It's not yet clear whether any of those fiscal priorities will be introduced outside of a budget, said Mr. Solberg, who has also pledged to honour corporate tax cuts promised by the previous Liberal government.
And just how quickly that first Tory budget will be delivered is also unclear, although Ottawa's traditional budget period is late February to early March.
But Mr. Solberg said he doesn't believe there's any rush to lay out the full program which will put some flesh on the bones of the Conservative campaign platform.
“I think it would be a big mistake to rush anything out,” said Mr. Solberg.
“I think that would be imprudent and therefore, not good for the economy and not in the interests of business.”
But Canadian business leaders are already anxious to see the full Tory plan and how they intend to pay for their tax and spending plans.
Those will be pricey: the one per cent cut to the GST will cost about $5-billion per year; the $1,200 annual subsidy for each pre-school child to every family, regardless of income, will cost about $10-billion over five years.
Mr. Harper has said he'll help pay for those measures by rolling back some previous Liberal tax cuts aimed at low-income Canadians.
Still, it shouldn't be hard to pass the GST cut quickly since both the Liberals and NDP have in the past lobbied against the tax, Mr. Solberg argues.
As for the child subsidy — which is designed to replace the Liberals' formalized child-care plan — Solberg said the Tory proposal was so popular during the eight-week federal election campaign other parties now won't dare fight it.
“It may be the most popular thing that we proposed. and so one of the arguments we can muster on these things is ‘look, we did receive a limited mandate from the public but one of things that did seem to get a lot of support is this items',” he said.
“We won the election on our platform so why would we surrender this item to adopt the platforms of the parties that didn't win this election.”
Mr. Solberg maintained he doesn't know if he'll get a ministerial position in Mr. Harper's new cabinet, given that many Albertans were elected as Tory MPs and all can't be included in the senior levels of government.
Former Ontario finance minister Jim Flaherty is also rumoured to be a front runner for the federal finance portfolio which could mean Mr. Solberg moves into another related ministry such as Industry or even International Trade.
Mr. Solberg said he's very aware that the international financial community will be closely watching the fiscal policies of the new Tory administration because the world relies more and more on Canada's natural resource riches, particularly Alberta's energy products.
“I think there's a lot of interest in what we're going to do we're so rich in resources,” including Canada's lumber and minerals.
“I think they're paying a lot of attention to us — we're just so strategically important.”
well, the attitude has begun!
I particularily like how they say they will help fund their tax cuts by rolling back the Liberal tax cuts for the poor.
The true colours show through.