Albertans will be asked in a referendum this fall if it’s time to end equalization payments to other provinces.
Premier Jason Kenney said Albertans will be asked if they want equalization payments removed from the Constitution in a referendum that will take place during the October municipal elections.
“For millions of Albertans equalization has become the most powerful symbol of the unfairness of Alberta’s deal in Confederation,” said Kenney in a Monday news conference.
Kenney said Albertans have been willing to help out other provinces but Alberta has been sending billions more than it is getting back “even when our economy is hurting and the economies of the recipients are booming.”
A motion was to be introduced in the legislature on Monday asking for a referendum on the question: “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.”
Alberta has not received an equalization payment since 1964-65.
Renegotiating the country’s transfer payment was a key recommendation of Alberta’s Fair Deal Panel.
“This is about giving Albertans a voice,” said Kenney. “This is about giving Albertans a seat at the table when it comes to the relationship between our province and a federal government that continues to take Alberta’s contributions for granted.”
Kenny acknowledged that just because Albertans vote in favour of dropping transfer payments does not mean it will happen. The province would first have to ratify a proposed Constitutional amendment and then send it to the Government of Canada for ratification.
That is not likely to happen, but a clear message will have been sent, said the premier.
“This is a strategy to elevate Alberta’s fight for fairness in Confederation to the top of the national agenda, to get Ottawa’s attention and to send a message to our friends in the rest of the country that we expect to be treated fairly.
“We will no longer accept government’s erecting barriers, for example the pipelines, while taking ever-growing equalization transfers from Alberta resources that they are trying to block.
“This is a legal tool to make a very strong political point in the strongest way possible to assert our fight for fairness in Confederation.”
Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu and the referendum will provide clarity on Albertans’ views of transfer payments.
“Albertans are now in the driver’s seat. This is their chance to make their views known and to send a clear message to Canadians from coast to coast to coast and the nation in general on the principle of equalization.”
Fair Deal Panel member Tany Yao said Alberta averages $20 billion annually in net contributions to Confederation.
As well, Alberta’s Fort McMurray region provides employment to 10,000 out-of-province workers and the province provides $3 billion more annually than it collects in Canada Pension funds, said Yao, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA.