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Alberta finance minister defends proposed tax hikes to wealthy as fair

EDMONTON - Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci is dismissing opposition accusations that hiking taxes on the wealthy will drive them away.Ceci told the house Wednesday that the changes will be fair and will affect only seven per cent of tax filers."I don't want to see one person leave this province," said Ceci."They get good value from all the programs and services, and they'll continue to stay here."Ceci also said it was a campaign promise that the NDP is determined to fulfil.Premier Rachel Notley's government has promised to bring in a bill this session to hike taxes on the wealthy on a sliding scale.On Wednesday, opposition Progressive Conservative finance critic Manmeet Bhullar told Ceci the changes will drive wealthy Albertans away or compel them to file their taxes in another jurisdiction."That other seven per cent (of tax filers) produces about 30 per cent of our personal income tax revenue," Bhullar told the house in question period."If those tax filers move to British Columbia or move to Ontario, who is going to make up the difference? Is it hard-working Alberta families that have to make up for your short-sightedness?"Tax changes are just one promise the NDP has said it will fulfil from the campaign, which saw the party topple the PCs after almost 44 years in power.The PCs were defeated before they passed their proposed budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year.Notley's team campaigned on a fundamentally different budget proposal, including more money for education and health care and changes to the tax structure.Notley confirmed in the house Wednesday that the budget will be tabled in October.Opposition Wildrose Leader Brian Jean said the plan needs to come in earlier to assure cost certainty for homeowners, businesses and others who rely on direction from the province to set their own budgets."By September 7, this government will be four months out from the election," Jean told the house."That is more than enough time to build a budget."Notley fired back that the budget timing is the result of a snap election call by the PCs that was in turn precipitated by former premier Jim Prentice thinking he had destroyed all opposition when the bulk of the old Wildrose caucus crossed the floor to join him last year."If they (the Wildrose) are worried about the timeline, I would suggest that perhaps ... if they had not en masse crossed over to those guys we wouldn't have had an election," Notley told Jean.Jean, in turn, extended his arms as if to say, "Who are you referring to?"Eleven members of the 17-member Wildrose caucus joined the PCs late last year.The move sparked a backlash against both the floor-crossers and the Tories.Under Jean, the Wildrose bounced back stronger in the May 5 election, winning 21 seats to remain official Opposition.All 11 floor-crossers, including former leader Danielle Smith, were defeated or didn't run again in the election.

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