FREDERICTON • New Democrat Leader Dominic Cardy says his party would eliminate the small business tax if elected to form government later this year.
In a speech laying out the broad strokes of the party’s platform, Cardy said his party would also create an independent environmental agency to enact a science-based approach to development policy, and move quickly to return the province to balanced budgets.
Cardy was the third in a series of five provincial party leaders to speak as part of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce political leadership series in the lead-up to September’s provincial election.
Premier David Alward and Liberal Leader Brian Gallant will all address the chamber membership in the weeks ahead.
People’s Alliance Leader Kris Austin and Green Party Leader David Coon addressed the chamber earlier this month.
“We would get rid of the small business tax altogether,” Cardy said. “A small business owner is just a private citizen trying to come up with a way to follow their dream, put some money, hopefully, into the economy.
“The first two years are always not particularly profitable and you also have this huge regulatory burden as well.”
He added: “The first thing we can do because it’s an easy, quick way of reducing that burden is to get rid of that tax.”
The governing Tories reduced the small business tax rate in 2011 from five per cent to 4.5 per cent. Cardy said the Manitoba NDP government eliminated it, resulting in a spike in the business confidence index in that province.
“The downside? Absolutely, there’s a loss in revenue,” Cardy said. “We have a huge debt and deficit and one of the things that the NDP is very clear on is a strong approach to getting the books balanced as soon as possible and then getting the debt under control.”
The move would result in an estimated loss of $20 million in government revenue, but Cardy said that would be offset by the roughly $200 million the party has announced it would find by cutting senior management in government, centralizing more services and eliminating government financial assistance for business.
Cardy added that the party will also announce hundreds of millions in addition savings in the lead-up to the election, now less than six months away.
The party has also pledged a “comprehensive review of government regulations” to remove unnecessary regulations that burden businesses.
Cardy added that the New Democrats do not intend to increase the HST or personal income taxes.
“We want to get in and figure how much money we can save first and see if we can balance the books,” he said. “At this point, we are reasonable confident based on a fairly extensive investigation we had that we are going to be able to achieve that task without increasing taxes.”
“We’re trying to show that the NDP has changed as a party,” he said. “Part of the reason why we have gone back and forth between Liberal and Tory (governments) is that we have had no viable third party option.
“The NDP in this election, we’re taking that responsibility seriously.
“That doesn’t mean we are becoming like the Tories or the Liberals. People do want a change, but that doesn’t mean being irresponsible, it doesn’t mean being bad fiscal managers. There’s nothing progressive or left wing about bankrupting your province.
“What is progressive is running government programs properly and showing that the public and private sector can work well together.”
Cardy also pledged an independent environmental agency that would scientifically review industry development plans, in an attempt to eliminate any political influence on analysis.
“It would still be part of government, but would operate more at arm’s length,” Cardy said. “Having some people who are able to provide an independent assessment based on environmental indicators means you’re much more likely to get a science-based approach to development policy.”
Cardy said the party also wants to highlight the ability of the province to remove itself from fiscal trouble and a dependence on equalization.
“New Brunswick can be a ‘have’ province again. We should be aiming to move away from ninth or 10th ranked province on all sorts of files,” he said.
“Let’s get together and take responsibility for how the province is run rather than constantly waiting for someone else to bail us out or new industry to come in and offer a magic bullet that is going to save all of our skins and solve all of our problems.”