Red Deer’s business community endorses the call from local voters to reform equalization payments.
Unofficial results for the referendum question in Monday’s municipal election showed Red Deerians overwhelmingly support removing the principle of equalization payments in the Constitution to end Alberta’s payments to other provinces. Local voters cast 13,349 yes votes, and 5,942 said no.
Reg Warkentin, policy and government relations manager with Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce, said Alberta is really hurting and hasn’t seen a penny from equalization which is a good indicator there’s something wrong with the program.
“It’s one of those things it can be easy to forget about with everything going on with the pandemic and unemployment, and so on. But when it comes provincial budget time, and we see some of the massive deficits and the impact it has on our finances, it would certainly mean a lot to Albertans to see something done about it,” Warkentin said.
Official results from all Alberta voters on the referendum question will be calculated by Elections Alberta at a later date.
Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan said the equalization system is rigged and equalization needs to removed from the Constitution.
“In principal, we should help each other out. But this formula is manipulated intentionally by some of our other partners to the detriment of Alberta businesses and families and that’s just not right. It’s not fair,” Stephan said.
He said Quebec Hydro, owned by the province of Quebec, offers the lowest electricity rates in Canada to its residents which reduces its income from electricity and increases the equalization payment it receives. Meanwhile, Alberta’s electricity rates are going through the roof.
“I know that a lot of people in Red Deer are tired of seeing our money leave Alberta and go to Ottawa and be redistributed principally to Quebec. We give way more than we get back. It’s out of kilter. It’s extreme.
“I really want to see the federal government, and other partners in our federal partnership, demonstrate that they have a commitment to acting in good faith and be fair,” Stephan said.
Warkentin said the chamber is also looking forward to the development of a business advisory council that Mayor-elect Ken Johnston proposed during his campaign, and strongly encourages the new city council to address crime, social disorder and economic development, which are the most important issues to chamber members according to a recent survey.
“Hopefully this council is the one to address it in a meaningful, sustainable way so we’re not talking about it again in four years,” Warkentin said.
Stephan said the city is in for lots of exciting changes with new members on council.
“It’s good to have new perspectives. They bring their own experiences and strengths,” Stephan said.