May 25th, 2024

Alberta needs to stand up pressures

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.

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Southern Albertan

Re: permanent DST, I voted “No” in our advance poll. I wrote Premier Kenney and asked that we be given the choice to vote for permanent Mountain Standard Time, but did not get a response, unsurprisingly. I voted “No” for changing equalization. Kenney was part and parcel of the Harper regime who did not change the equalization formula. Kenney, et al, well know, that the way for Alberta to pay less in equalization is to do more fair taxation in Alberta because equalization is based on individual income, which is still higher in Alberta than other parts of the country. Re: the senator useless part, I voted only for Duncan Kinney…to bug Kenney. Again, Kenney wasn’t happy when Trudeau appointed Alberta Senator Karen Sorensen, former mayor of Banff, and who was an excellent choice.

Southern Albertan

An interesting, and pertinent read:
“Vote NO to ‘useless equalization referendum’ to #Reject Kenney? Sounds like a plan to lots of Albertans!”

Elohssa Gib

Nathan, some background for you on Equalization Payments (EPs) and federal transfers.

First, Kenney and Harper were the last to rejig the equalization formula, so if you have any issues, make an appointment to speak with the Premier. 

Second, yes Québec receives the largest EP payout, but that’s largely because Québec is home to 8.6 million people. You could argue that Québec undervalues its hydro electricity but, again, that’s the bargain that H and K struck. On a per capita basis, which matters in this conversation, Québec is well down the list. If memory serves, PEI tops the list. But who wants to put the boot into PEI? It just wouldn’t be right.

Third, following the Great Depression huge sums of money were pumped into Alberta and Saskatchewan by the Federal Government — have you, for instance, heard of the PFRA? — and from the early 1960s until the 1973 OPEC Oil Crisis, Canada’s National Oil Policy (introduced by John Diefenbaker with the encouragement of the US for strategic reasons) meant that consumers from Ontario west subsidized development of Alberta’s oil sector. You can look it up.

Southern Albertan

Excellent comment!

Trudeau for prison

Regardless of the numbers and facts you just stated, it all comes down to one thing. That is that Albertans have been getting beat up since Trudeau came into to power and the division he has created between the East and West.
Not to mention this last election which again saw the division grow wider with Alberta and Saskatchewan’s votes being almost null and void. Most Albertans will definitely vote NO to the equalization payment question and honestly who can really blame them.
We feel that we have been taken advantage of for far too long, especially since the oil and gas industry has been hurting, the main staple of the Alberta economy at one time.
The federal governments track record for caring about the West is dismal at best and has not gotten or will be getting any better anytime soon.
Toronto and Montreal are apparently the center of the universe when it comes to politics in Canada. That has not sat well with anybody here, especially the blue collar workers struggling to feed their families and keep a roof over their heads.
Albertans will vote NO simply to save money they are rapidly losing to inflation and job loss.
It will be a common sense vote and maybe a bit of a spite vote considering we really never get a say on what goes on in this country.
Honestly, I do hope it is a NO, we need to take care of Alberta not Quebec!

Elohssa Gib

First, the roots of Western Alienation well pre-date Trudeau the Younger, and Trudeau the Elder for that matter. They can be traced to measures contained in Macdondald’s National Policy designed to foster industrial expansion in Central Canada, and have since been fueled by various events and decisions over time. 
Second, Canada’s Equalization Payment policy was introduced in 1957* and was one of several recommendations made by the report of the Rowell-Sirois Commission (1937-1940). Among other matters that report drew attention to differences across the provinces relative to income generation capacity, stemming from structural differences in provincial economies. It was accepted at the time, as many in Canada still do, that all Canadians should have access to the same basic level of public services regardless were location, and those in provinces with weaker and often narrower economies should not be disadvantaged relative to pubic services. 
So that raises two questions: (1) Do those structural differences remain? (2) Is it fair and reasonable that a person living in say, Manitoba or Nova Scotia, has access to a reduced level of public services, as compared someone in a richer province, simply because of where they live? Maybe think of the issue this way. Average incomes in Lethbridge are lower than those in Calgary. Consequently, on a per-capita basis Calgarians contribute more to the provincial coffers that we do here in Lethbridge. The difference in income levels is largely structural. So, should the average Calgarian enjoy a superior level of basic services from the Provincial government as compared to the average Lethbridge resident, or does it seem just that some income redistribution take place?

*I can’t remember if EP’s were introduced under Louis St Laurent or John Diefenbaker. If it was St Laurent, who led the Liberals to defeat in the 1957 election, then Diefenbaker, the Conservative who won that election, did nothing during his term in office to dismantle the policy.

Last edited 2 years ago by Elohssa Gib