July 24th, 2024

Finance minister discusses economy at Chamber luncheon

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on November 18, 2023.

Herald photo by Al Beeber Provincial Minister of Finance and President of the Treasury Nate Horner speaks to an attentive crowd at a Friday luncheon hosted by the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce at the Sandman Signature Lethbridge Lodge.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

Provincial Minister of Finance and President of the Treasury Board Nate Horner discussed the state of the Alberta economy in a luncheon discussion hosted by the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce Friday.

Horner, who represents Drumheller-Stettler in the Alberta Legislature, was sworn into his current positions on June 9.

He’s well familiar with Lethbridge – the Minister earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture from the University of Lethbridge. He also has an agriculture business diploma from Olds College.

First elected to office in 2019, he was re-elected in the May provincial election. Before taking on his current roles, Horner served as Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development and Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation.

During his talk, the Minister addressed Alberta’s economic growth and its low taxation rates.

He said the province has seen an increase of 78,000 new jobs this year, more than 68,000 of them full-time. And he noted Alberta has the highest average weekly earnings of any province in Canada. Alberta has also experienced this year its highest population growth in 40 years, he said.

The energy sector continues to be a driver of jobs and growth in the economy but the province is also seeing growth in emerging sectors such as technology and aviation, he said.

Horner noted that is seen here in Lethbridge with projects such as the $600 million expansion of the McCain Food processing facility.

“There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the economy here in Lethbridge and across Alberta. The government is working to keep improving the business environment” and continue attracting investment, the Minister said to an attentive crowd of business people, politicians and others.

The first priority of the government is strong fiscal management that will help Alberta remain an economic driver in the country, he said.

He said the province is doing everything it can “to maintain Alberta’s pro-growth, low-tax, business friendly environment. We’ve removed thousands of burdensome, outdated and inefficient rules, processes and regulations. We got rid of the red tape that otherwise would have deterred businesses and potentially driven them elsewhere.

“Thanks to the job creation tax cut, we’re generating record corporate income tax revenue with the lowest corporate income tax rate in the country,” the Minister said, which is attracting investment and generating jobs while helping to drive what he called the nation’s leading economic performance.

He said the UCP just passed the Alberta Taxpayer Protection Amendment Act which locks in guarantees to Albertans that income taxes wont be raised unless Albertans tell government through a referendum.

“The Act applies to both personal and corporate income tax rates, giving certainty to Albertans and Alberta businesses alike in protecting them against future income tax hikes.”

In 2023-24 Alberta and Alberta businesses would pay at least $20 billion more in taxes if the province had the same tax system as any other province, he said.

“Alberta’s tax advantage over other jurisdictions is clear and it’s important we do everything to protect that advantage. Alberta’ best days are still ahead,” he said, noting the province is projected to lead Canada in economic growth this year.

“The rest of the world is taking notice of Alberta’s prosperity and momentum.”

Some things remain beyond the government’s control. It is aware of challenges presented by the community and is not immune to them but “we are in a strong position to weather those challenges,” Horner added.

The Minister said the UCP is cementing Alberta’s position as “one of the most business friendly jurisdictions in all of North America.”

“My job is always to advocate for Alberta and Albertans and to provide clear and accurate information about Alberta’s economy, risks we are facing and the opportunities to see.”

He said the next quarterly fiscal update will be released at the end of the month. He said the last update in August showed a projected $2.4 billion surplus for the current fiscal year.

He said the Heritage Savings Trust Fund is performing well.

He also addressed the potential for an Alberta Pension Plan.

With the future in mind, the UCP is consulting with Albertans, he said, talking about the release in September of a third-party report on a fund.

“The report suggests a provincial pension plan could save Albertans billions of dollars,” Horner said.

He said Ottawa is committed to obtaining an opinion from the chief actuary on the asset transfer value Alberta would be entitled to receive if the province withdraws from the Canada Pension Plan.

“With all benefits stemming from the asset transfer value, getting this opinion from the federal government is critical to the ongoing discussion of an Alberta Pension Plan,” the Minister added.

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