Skip to main content

Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper makes remarks during the The Globe and Mail Leaders' Debate 2015 being held in Calgary, Alberta on Thursday 17, 2015.John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

One of Stephen Harper's favourite targets at Thursday's federal leaders' debate wasn't even sharing the stage with him. But the Conservative Leader still took repeated aim at Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and her four-month old NDP government.

For full Globe coverage of the debate, click here.

Following a global crash in oil and gas prices, Alberta's economy is expected to be in recession this year. While tangling with federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, Mr. Harper echoed comments he made days earlier on the campaign trail, when he blamed tax increases brought in by Ms. Notley's government for worsening the province's economic contraction and fuelling layoffs.

In a financial plan unveiled Wednesday, the federal New Democrats committed to hiking corporate taxes from 15 per cent to 17 per cent. The party has also pledged to balance the budget. Mr. Harper drew a direct link between Mr. Mulcair and Ms. Notley.

"This is the same story we had in Alberta when the NDP came into office. We'd somehow fix our problems by raising taxes. Now what do we see? Now I know tradespeople who are now getting higher individual tax bills, we see people getting layoffs because their employers are paying higher taxes," Mr. Harper said in the first of four attacks on Ms. Notley.

After Alberta's New Democrats defeated a Progressive Conservative Party in May that had held power for more than four decades, the NDP tabled legislation that increased the province's corporate tax rate from 10 per cent to 12 per cent. The New Democrats also ended the province's flat 10-per-cent income tax, introducing four new brackets for those making over $125,000 that top out at 15 per cent, effective Oct. 1.

Speaking after the debate, Mr. Mulcair placed blame on the Tories that had run the province. "Mr. Harper seems to forget that the Conservatives were in power for over 40 years," he said of Alberta's provincial government, adding that Ms. Notley has "a plan to clean up the mess."

Speaking on Tuesday, Ms. Notley said that Mr. Harper's assertion that her government was to blame for the province's recession was "make-believe."

Ms. Notley's Tory predecessor, Jim Prentice, had also tabled a budget before the spring election that would have increased the province's income tax. Mr. Prentice once served as a senior cabinet minister for Mr. Harper.

Mr. Harper stood in front of a hometown crowd on Thursday that has faced some of the worst in the ongoing slowdown in Canada's economy. The unemployment rate in Calgary has shot up to 6.6 per cent, the highest in four years, as job losses have mounted in the city's oil and gas sector.

On Wednesday, responding to the Conservative Leader, Alberta's Finance Minister blamed the challenges facing the province on Mr. Harper's inability to finish a single pipeline to Canada's coasts during his time in office.

"Alberta has a significant tax advantage over all other provinces and our new tax rates are now comparable to those in all other Canadian provinces," Joe Ceci said. "Alberta would benefit from better policies from our federal government."