By Nathan Neudorf - MLA Lethbridge East on October 8, 2021.
If you were counting on election season being over, guess again – it’s still in full force.
The federal election just wrapped and municipal elections have taken center stage. On top of that we have school trustee elections, senate elections-it’s probably even your son or daughter’s class elections at school!
This year, you may notice something different on your ballots (besides some new names) as there will be two referendum questions for you to consider in addition to candidate choices. It is important to note that both referendum questions will allow for a ‘yes’ vote or a ‘no’ vote and are binding on the provincial government, based on the majority of votes cast.
This past spring, Alberta’s Legislature passed Motion 83, establishing the questions that Albertans will answer in the Equalization referendum this fall.
Our government will be the first in Alberta history to give the people a formal say on Canada’s broken Equalization system, an issue of utmost importance and something Albertans have long been waiting for. No one else is going to speak for us; so, we will speak for ourselves this October. I am not surprised to already hear rumblings of how this vote’s results could send shockwaves across the country and establish a clear record that Ottawa cannot ignore.
Historically, Canada’s Equalization system has been and continues to be fundamentally unfair to Alberta. It was developed and adjusted based on stable or growing economies, not for prolonged economic downturns as Alberta has seen over the past six or seven years.
The equalization process has been pulling billions of dollars out of our province – even during economic recession – and funneling that money into provinces with strong, even booming, economies. Some of these provinces are run by anti-oil politicians and governments who benefit from Alberta’s generosity, while at the same time attacking our economic interests and implementing policies that are harmful to our province and our people.
For example, since 2015, Alberta has not collected one cent from the Equalization system, despite struggling with low commodity prices and bad policies from the previous provincial government, such as the carbon tax. Quebec, meanwhile, has collected over $70 billion in equalization payments, despite running multiple surpluses and opposing critical energy infrastructure projects like the Energy East pipeline. Needless to say, this system is broken.
Additionally, between 2014 and 2019 alone, Albertans made a net contribution of more than $100 billion to the federal government through federal taxes that helped build critical infrastructure. However, Alberta has not received an equalization payment since the 1964-65 fiscal year.
As Albertans, we pride ourselves on our generosity, neighbourly demeanour, and willingness to help out those in need. These principles apply on the national and international level, and we are more than happy to help out our fellow Canadians. Still, when that help becomes a mandate or an obligation, it loses its helpful motive and begins to feel like we are being pressured to give up our lunch money. I don’t know about you, but I believe in a strong Alberta that stands up to these outside pressures.
On a lighter but still important note, the second question on this year’s ballots will ask you about Daylight Saving time in Alberta. I know that many Albertans would like to stop changing their clocks twice a year. However, this question has significant impacts worth considering. It affects everyone within our province and beyond our borders, such as travel plans and airline flights, calling friends and family in different time zones, and even watching professional sports.
In July, the Premier confirmed that a question about seasonal time changes would be put to a referendum this fall. Before Alberta officially adopted Daylight Saving Time, the question was asked in at least three different referendums at both the municipal and provincial levels. Most recently, Service Alberta’s 2019 survey received over 141,000 responses. Looking ahead to Oct. 18, it is essential that even more Albertans have the opportunity to weigh in on these issues, so we’ve chosen to hold referendum questions and municipal elections simultaneously for efficiency and assured access.
As I am sure you are sick of hearing, given this longer than usual election cycle, the choice is up to you; that is the beauty of living in this great province and country.
On Oct. 18, when you head off to your local polling station to vote for your municipal candidates, you also have a unique opportunity to voice your opinion on two critical issues here in Alberta. I hope to see you at the polls.