Livestock tax a ‘very dangerous precedent’

13 Apr 2016

Lethbridge Herald

Dave Mabell Follow @DMabellHerald on Twitter

[email protected]

Plan angers independent business group

A tax on livestock production is the wrong way to pay for maintenance on rural roads. That’s the view of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, after hearing from hundreds of members in Lethbridge County.

Herald photo by Tijana Martin Follow @TMartinHerald on Twitter. Amber Ruddy, the Alberta director of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, spoke to The Herald on Tuesday prior to attending a council meeting in Coalhurst.

They’re angry to hear Lethbridge County council plans to levy a $5 tax on every head of livestock, says CFIB spokesperson Amber Ruddy. Other counties and MDs have found other ways to keep their roads open, she says.

“This would be taxing one industry,” she said during an interview with The Herald Tuesday. “That would set a very dangerous precedent.”

The county says it’s planning the tax because it’s exhausted all other options, she noted. But it should look at contracting out more of its road work.

The livestock industry is already facing increased costs due to insurance and safety requirements in the province’s Bill 6, she said. Now Lethbridge-area producers are faced with additional costs.

“One sector can’t be hammered so hard,” she warned. “Everybody uses the roads, not just the farmers.”

If the tax is imposed despite their protests, Ruddy said, producers may decide to relocate to a lower-cost part of the province. Lethbridge County’s spending has grown far more rapidly than its population, she added.

The county may be getting some assistance from the provincial government, she predicted. If it follows through on its plans to increase spending on “core infrastructure,” the county should use those funds for road and bridge repair. “There’s nothing more core than that.” Looking to Thursday’s budget speech, Ruddy said CFIB members are hoping for a reduction in the province’s business tax — in light of this week’s announcement that it’s scrapping its proposed $178-million plan for tax credits to businesses which create new jobs.

Despite predictions of a provincial deficit of more than $10 billion this year, Ruddy said Alberta business owners are not in favour of a sales tax. That’s what other provinces use to help balance their books.

“That’s not popular among our members,” she said.

They don’t want to lose that “Alberta advantage” even though, she said, “That advantage is now razor thin.”