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Finance Minister Joe Oliver said he wouldn’t comment on Alberta Premier Jim Prentice musing that he might have to consider a sales tax as the province struggles to deal with low oil prices

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver says Canadians are already taxed too much and his government is looking at ways to lower taxes, rather than raise them.

Despite that position, Mr. Oliver said he wouldn't comment on Alberta Premier Jim Prentice musing that he might have to consider a sales tax as the province struggles to deal with low oil prices.

"These are decisions that the provincial government will make. I don't have any comment on that directly," Mr. Oliver told reporters in Calgary on Thursday.

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Mr. Oliver did say if Alberta proceeded with a provincial sales tax, Ottawa would do what it has for other provinces who have harmonized their tax with the GST.

British Columbia, Ontario and most Atlantic provinces were each given one-time payments ranging from $4.3-billion in Ontario to $364-million in New Brunswick to hand over control of their sales tax programs to the federal government. The harmonized sales tax was contentious in B.C., however, and was rejected by voters in a referendum. The province now collects the provincial and federal portions separately again.

Mr. Oliver was adamant that despite the stress put on the economy by lower oil revenues, there won't be any tax increases from his government.

"We're not in favour of increased taxes. We've said that repeatedly. We think … it makes life more unaffordable for Canadians."

Oliver suggested that a dropoff in energy revenues due to low oil prices is only temporary and there is no reason to panic.

"These are tough times for the energy sector, but we do not need to be pessimistic. Knowledgeable observers generally agree that prices will move up at some point, given the long-term demand for energy," he said.

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