Co-authored by the Western Standard Editorial Board
Albertans are a generous and patriotic people, but the exploitative nature of Canadian fiscal federalism distracts many from an unconditional salvation of the maple leaf.
Since Canada’s centennial in 1967, Alberta has given the rest of Canada a net $ 600 billion more than it has received in transfers and expenditures, despite its relatively small size.
Albertans make a net contribution of $ 15 billion to $ 27 billion in an average year, of which over $ 3 billion goes to the $ 20 billion equalization program. Albertans pay an additional (net) $ 3 billion in the Canada Health Transfer and Canada Social Transfer, more than what goes back to the province.
In total, an average family of four in Alberta pays $ 20,000 per year in additional taxes that are sent directly to Quebec and other recipient provinces, after being laundered in Ottawa.
Many Albertans may not have thought of this kind of charity in the good times, but in the bad times Canada has not been there for Alberta beyond the token trinkets. When Alberta has to build pipelines to tidal waters in order to continue to produce the wealth that is sent to others, many of those others get in the way.
Quebec – which receives more than $ 12 billion a year – has rejected the construction of pipelines that would transport what its premier calls “dirty oil” through its territory. The federal government, supposed to be the guarantor of the free flow of goods, services and capital across Canada, has barely lifted a finger. In fact, the Liberal, Conservative, NDP and Bloc leaders all promised voters in Quebec that no pipeline would be built there without their support.
And what is support? In British Columbia, the vast majority of people support pipeline construction, but governments have bowed to a radical and vocal minority.
It’s because Alberta just doesn’t matter politically. Our economy is big enough to pay the bills, but our population is too small to decide elections.
Alberta is under-represented in the House of Commons and savagely discriminated against in the Senate, where we hold almost half the seats in little New Brunswick, but have twice the population of the four Atlantic provinces combined. When we try to elect our own senators, the federal government often ignores the democratic will of Albertans.
It is time to fight. The first big step forward is to vote “yes” to remove equalization from the Canadian constitution on October 18th. To be clear, this will not actually result in the removal of equalization from the constitution on October 19. What this will do, however, is to trigger a constitutional obligation on the part of the federal and other provincial governments to negotiate the issue, as the Supreme Court ruled in the 1998 Quebec Secession Reference case. .
In that case, the court ruled that if a clear majority of Quebeckers voted “yes” on a clear question of independence, then the rest of Canada would be constitutionally obliged to negotiate in good faith. However, tacitly was the threat that in the event that the rest of Canada did not negotiate in good faith, Quebec could make a unilateral declaration of independence; something that could only be circumvented by a military invasion of the province and the forced deposition of its government; a prospect laughable in its improbability.
Alberta does not vote on independence, however. He votes on the removal of a principle of confiscatory policy from the constitution. But what unspoken threat does Alberta have if the rest of Canada fails to negotiate in good faith? For the moment, there is none. The Government of Alberta has preemptively withdrawn more drastic options. It is a mistake.
Several organizations in Alberta have done excellent work in support of abolition, reform and alternatives, including Fairness Alberta, the Alberta Institute, Project Confederation, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, FightEqualisation.ca and others.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney was absent from the campaign. He wisely decided to keep a low profile, knowing that his unpopularity could jeopardize the success of a “yes”. While some Albertans may wish to send a message to the Premier by voting “no” to what they perceive to be his favorite project, that would be a serious mistake. It would be cutting off our noses to upset our faces.
The plan for an equalization referendum dates back long before Kenney even considered entering provincial politics, to a report by the Wildrose Party’s former Equalization Equity Panel in 2016.
There are positive signs that Albertans are placing the fight for a fair deal above partisan politics. A Mainstreet Research survey conducted for the Western standard found that a 66% majority of Albertans intended to vote “yes” on October 18. This poll found that a majority in every region of Alberta – Edmonton, Calgary, rural north and rural south – all intend to vote for change to the status quo. And while a majority of NDP voters intend to vote for the status quo, a significant minority intend to break ranks and vote with the rest of Alberta.
A big “yes” to eliminating equalization will not end these payments overnight, and frankly, they are unlikely to result in any reform without a clear “or else” option for Ottawa and Quebec. reflect; but without it, we support the status quo of a federal operating system that is unworthy of Canadian history.
On October 18, we encourage Albertans to send a message to Ottawa. On October 19, we encourage Albertans to make sure our provincial government does not let Ottawa forget it.
Co-authored by the Western Standard Editorial Board