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Talk of sales tax at economic summit

Alberta Premier Alison Redford says a sales tax isn't on the agenda, even though many of the panellists at an economic summit that her government convened Saturday said it could be one solution to the province's fiscal woes.

"Oh, I don't think we're anywhere near that at all. I think the fact that people are beginning to talk about it as an idea is a really important thing," Redford told reporters after the day-long event.

"Ideas are important, but no need to jump the gun on that."

By law, Albertans would need to vote on a provincial sales tax through a referendum.

Alberta has prided itself for decades on being the only province not to have a sales tax and Albertans were amongst the most angry when the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney brought in a federal sales tax in the 1990's; two Tory MPs from Alberta left the Conservative caucus in protest.

Redford's government has said it faces a $6-billion oil and gas revenue shortfall, mainly due to the inability for Alberta crude to access markets that will pay the best price.

Among the business people, economists and academics in favour of bringing a sales tax to Alberta were George Gosbee, CEO of investment firm AltaCorp Capital, and University of Calgary tax expert Jack Mintz.

"It's my view that we don't have a cost problem, we have a revenue problem," Gosbee, who said spending cuts would be "draconian."

Gosbee said he's also in favour of bringing back health care premiums.

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