'Business cannot be an afterthought': Lethbridge Chamber hosts Alberta election forum featuring local candidates
With less than a week and a half to go until the election, supporting small businesses was the topic of a forum Tuesday evening in Lethbridge.
“Business cannot be an afterthought,” said Cyndi Bester, CEO of Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce. “Business needs to be a partner and a valued stakeholder.”
Hosted by the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce, more than 100 residents took part in the public forum.
“That is our role as the Chamber of Commerce, to have that voice of business,” Bester said. “We all live and work and raise our children in this community, so those community questions are important but we also want to continue to engage with our employees and keep our employees employed, so that has to be part of the conversation.”
She added that supporting small businesses needs to be among talking points in the upcoming election.
“We need labour,” Bester said. “But, we also need to recognize that we've heard in the last year that we've had over 130,000 people move to Alberta. That is a population larger than the size of Lethbridge so when we think of how we have these 130,000 people, we need to house them, we need to get them doctors and we need to get them jobs.”
NO SALES TAX: PHILLIPS
Lethbridge-west NDP incumbent Shannon Phillips said her party will not introduce a provincial sales tax and will continue to attract workers to Alberta.
“What we have committed to doing is eliminating the small business tax, making sure we are competitive across the country in terms of attracting and retaining new health care workers, we are investing in construction trades training,” Phillips said in an interview with CTV News following the public forum.
Small business owner and Lethbridge-west UCP candidate Cheryl Seaborn says her party plans to maintain the business tax at the level it is.
“Having the lowest corporate tax rate in Canada is very sufficient,” Seaborn said. “We are bringing investment into Alberta. We need to have that investment, we need to have that economy growing with people coming for jobs because that is the basis for all of our public supports.”
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) released the results of new survey Tuesday showing while 95 per cent of Alberta small business owners intend to vote, just 16 per cent are "confident their concerns and priorities will receive attention."Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce candidate forum, May 16, 2023
“The most recent budget is going to help people feel that they can be confident in the direction that we're going with the tax credits, with the holding of taxes for businesses,” Seaborn said.
As for Phillips, she said the NDP will support small business owners by addressing social supports in areas needed most.
“What I hear from business owners that I speak to on a very regular basis, almost on the daily because I live downtown, they want to see investment in housing, in mental health and addiction supports, but in particular in housing, that's where everything starts,” Phillips added.
Lethbridge-west Alberta Liberal candidate Pat Chizek took part in the Lethbridge-west forum, while Alberta Party candidate Braham Luddu was absent.
During the second portion of the forum, Lethbridge-east UCP incumbent Nathan Neudorf went head-to-head with NDP candidate Rob Miyashiro.