The Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce was pleased that close to 62 per cent of voters in Alberta’s municipal elections supported removing the principle of equalization payments from the Constitution.
According to Elections Alberta, a total of 61.7 per cent of voters across the province, or 642,501 votes, were in favour of removing the principle. About 38.3 per cent of those who voted, voted no, while 50,969 ballots were rejected and 49,336 were blank. Those results were made official on Tuesday.
Reg Warkentin, policy and government relations manager with the chamber, said the results are similar to Red Deer election results where 68.62 per cent (13,980 votes) voted yes, and 31.38 per cent (6,393) voted no.
“It really is incumbent on our federal government to take a really hard look at what’s going on,” Warkentin said.
“Referenda do send a pretty strong message especially when they get up to the two-thirds mark. For the sake of confederation and financial sustainability, at some point or other, it has to be looked at. We’re quite interested to see how it plays out.”
However, John Kennair, political science instructor at Red Deer Polytechnic, said the results of the referendum will not change anything.
“(Premier Jason Kenney’s) purpose was to placate his base because he said he was going to do that. He’s trying to paint himself a hero to the Alberta people and the Alberta oil industry instead of working with others,” Kennair said.
He said Kenney is using the results as a bargaining chip to try and get other provinces to comply, but he’s forgetting they have their own agendas.
“They’re just not going to co-operate with him. He’s been very antagonistic and bombastic.
“Kenney keeps saying that ‘I hope Trudeau does the constitutionally responsible thing.’ He’s basically pushing it on to Trudeau because he knows himself that he doesn’t have the political capital to work with the other provinces right now.”
Kennair said Kenny shows a lack of understanding of how confederation works and that’s sad for somebody who was once a minister of the Crown. He has to get the support of seven provinces with at least 50 per cent of the population.
The referendum results are also far from an overwhelming yes by Albertans since municipal elections are known to have low voter turnout.
“It’s very difficult to say that’s a definitive yes. You don’t have a mandate.”
Advocacy group Fairness Alberta commended Albertans for elevating the cause of fiscal reforms in Canada.
“Equalization unfairness is hardly just an Alberta problem – families in Ontario, B.C., Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland are sending far too much in federal taxes so a bloated and unfair equalization program can boost provincial services for only 30 per cent of the country,” said executive director Bill Bewick in a statement.
“We need to use this referendum to get the ball rolling on serious reforms that will make things more fair at a difficult time for the 70 per cent of Canadians in contributing provinces.”
Fairness Alberta said that $600 per person from Alberta, Ontario, and British Columbia goes straight to other provincial governments while those three provinces struggle to deliver equal services.
Albertans also voted on the question, Do you want Alberta to adopt year-round Daylight Saving Time, which is summer hours, eliminating the need to change our clocks twice a year?
That vote was much closer, as 49.8 per cent voted yes and 50.2 per cent voted no. There were about 24,304 blank ballots and 22,907 declined.
Albertans will continue to adjust their clocks twice a year as they have in the past. The next time change takes place on Nov. 7, when Alberta falls back one hour.
“Albertans have very strong opinions about daylight saving time and the results of the referendum show that, right now, Albertans prefer to continue changing their clocks,” Nate Glubish, Minister of Service Alberta.
“There is no right or wrong answer on DST. We respect the decision made and will continue to focus on the pandemic and on Alberta’s economic recovery.”