Ron McInnis, left, Pat McInnis, Carol Lee McInnis, and Lindsay Glasspoole, with George Glasspoole, chat with Rona Ambrose at he Kettle Black in Charlottetown Monday. Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose was on Prince Edward Island for a Super Bowl party being held at a pub in Charlottetown. This marked Ambrose's first visit to the Island since taking over as interim leader of the federal Conservative party after the October federal election.
©Heather Taweel/The Guardian
A united HST that makes Atlantic Canada the highest tax region in the country would be a big mistake, says interim federal Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose.
Ambrose was in Prince Edward Island Monday to meet with local municipal and business leaders as part of a tour of the Atlantic provinces.
She says she has been hearing loud and clear that businesses are looking for a more competitive tax regime, not higher taxes.
That's why she says she is baffled by Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil's call for a united Hamonized Sales Tax for the Atlantic provinces of 15 per cent, which is Nova Scotia's current tax rate.
Already New Brunswick has announced it will raise its HST by two percentage points to 15 per cent in July.
“It's the most unusual conversation. You would think that one region would lower their tax rates and put pressure on others regions to lower and become more competitive,” Ambrose said Monday.
She pointed to British Columbia, which has the lowest combined federal and provincial tax rate in the country.
Ambrose contends it is this competitive tax rate that has attracted capital and helped to diversify the British Columbia economy.
Meanwhile, New Brunswick announced last week it will reduce its tax rate on high-income earners to address the fact it had the highest combined federal/provincial tax rate in the country at 58 per cent.
“When people are giving that much money to the government and they're not seeing a direct benefit, you're driving people out of the province when you raise taxes like that, driving business and investment out,” Ambrose said.
“High tax rates are not a recipe for growth. They're just not.”
Prince Edward Island has been feeling the pressure from Nova Scotia's premier calling for the Island to raise its HST from 14 to 15 per cent.
P.E.I.'s Finance Minister has said no decision has yet been made as the province's pre-budget consultations have not concluded.
But it seems Ambrose is not holding out hope P.E.I.'s Liberal government nor the Liberal governments in the other three Atlantic provinces will follow her advice on taxes.
She does, after all, like to call them “tax and spend Liberals.”
“I would hope that a Conservative government gets elected at the provinicial level somewhere in Atlantic Canada, lowers taxes and pushes other provinces to meet that standard, because a competitive tax regime is key to growing the economy.”
While in P.E.I. Monday, Ambrose gave a speech at a fundraising breakfast for the provincial Progressive Conservative party and later met with the mayors of Charlottetown and Summerside as well as chamber and business representatives to hear their views on federal finances and issues of importance to P.E.I.