"There are some theoretical issues that Professor Mintz and others have identified, and we’re looking at those, and we take them seriously,” [Finance Minister Ted] Morton said [with respect to tax reform].
Frankly I am surprised to hear this. If Morton had said this prior to heading up the Finance department I would have even been downright shocked, since that would have been prior to his being briefed by his department about the "theoretical issues."
Danielle Smith's reaction? "It’s shocking that he wouldn’t rule [a consumption tax] out."
Smith goes on to declare that "[t]hey don’t have a revenue problem. They have a spending problem," which I could not agree with more, but the context of Morton's "musing", if one can call it that, appears to be "looking at all the options we have for smoothing out revenue volatility," i.e. exploring tax reform within a revenue-neutral constraint.
For what it's worth, I agree with U of C economist Frank Atkins that
It's a really tough sell now because we all know that the whole reason that sales tax talk is heating up now is because of the size of the deficit. This is the wrong time for sales tax talk. This is the time for cutting expenditure talk.
As such, it can be reasonably argued that Morton is, indeed, just looking to raise money, not least because he attacked a spending control bill introduced by a Wildrose MLA earlier this year as being too constraining. Furthermore, "we take [the argument for taxing consumption] seriously" is rather at odds with what Morton's government has actually legislated, since the preamble to the "Alberta Taxpayer Protection Act" states categorically that "a general provincial sales tax is not a desirable tax."
But be that as it may, Danielle's position seems to be that it will always be "the wrong time for sales tax talk." It appears to be an a priori rejection instead of a conditional one that allows for a consideration of the evidence.
According the Edmonton Journal's editorial board, I apparently should never be too concerned about what Danielle Smith says, because she is one of those "opposition politicians who can say anything an audience wants to hear without having to worry about having to deliver." But I am concerned on the policy front and frankly I don't get the politics either. A comment by LarryAlberta on the CBC News website, "[e]liminate provincial income tax and then put in a sales tax. User pay is the fairest of all tax systems" currently has more than half again as many thumbs up as thumbs down. I dare say that the party should not refuse to consider supporting a issue with even just 40-some percent support in Edmonton when almost any constituency in the capital city can be won with 40% of the votes cast and the party would be extremely competitive in any Edmonton riding in which its support was running at 30%.