Alberta’s legislature will debate a potential referendum question asking Albertans if they think the principle of equalization payments should be removed from Canada’s Constitution.
Premier Jason Kenney will introduce a motion on June 7 that, if passed, will put the following question on a provincewide referendum ballot on Oct. 18, in conjunction with municipal and Senate elections: “Should Section 36(2) of the Constitution Act, 1982 –Parliament and the Government of Canada’s commitment to the principle of making equalization payments – be removed from the Constitution?”
“Albertans elected this government to get a fair deal for them,” Jason Kenney, Premier said. “That’s exactly what this referendum is about. For too long, Albertans have been forced to subsidize public services in other parts of the country where politicians have been trying to block our pipelines and impair our vital economic interests, even during times of great economic hardship for us. This fall, Albertans will finally get a chance to tell the federal government that they’ve had enough of the unfair equalization program, and want reforms that recognize our province’s role in creating national prosperity.”
The principle of equalization is embedded into the Constitution and is the Government of Canada’s primary transfer program for addressing fiscal imbalances between provinces.
Albertans fund equalization through federal tax contributions, which are then transferred by the federal government to other provinces for their programs and services.
However, the current program does not take into account fundamental matters of fairness, including the ability of “have provinces” – like Alberta – to contribute transfers even when their provincial economies are down.
“Justin Trudeau’s equalization program is not fair for Albertans,” Kaycee Madu, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General said. “Their generosity is being taken for granted by leaders who are happy to receive the money but reject the jobs that produce it. Albertans will finally have the opportunity to be heard.”
Holding a referendum on equalization was a key recommendation of the Fair Deal Panel, which submitted a report to government last year recommending several ways Alberta could strengthen its position in Confederation.
“Alberta averages almost $20 billion annually in net contributions to Confederation. Almost 10,000 Canadians commute from across Canada to work in the oilsands alone,” Tany Yao, MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo and member of the Fair Deal Panel said. “Alberta certainly doesn’t appear to be getting treated fairly and I’m very happy that our government is listening to those that spoke at our Fair Deal consultations.”
Over the last 25 years, Albertans contributed more than $400 billion more to the nation in tax dollars than they have received in federal spending.
Alberta has not received an equalization payment since the 1964-65 fiscal year.