Opinion: Albertans have clearly had Canada’s back

This is a critical time for Canada’s economy as well as national unity – the relationship between Ottawa and Alberta at the centre of both challenges. To generate the political will for the reforms needed to make Canada unified and prosperous again we need Canadians to understand the relevant facts. This is Fairness Alberta’s mission.

To recover from this COVID-induced jobs and fiscal crisis Canada will need all provinces as productive as possible. Canada’s productivity gap is longstanding but has never threatened our future more. Not only is our technological age unique, but the global economy is in a self-imposed hibernation and when it wakes it will no doubt quickly change.

Canada’s government has an obligation to focus on restoring our prosperity: without it we will be overmatched by any and every global challenge. Alberta has been by far the most productive province for decades, generating jobs for Canadians and filling federal government coffers. Stats Canada data shows that from 2007-2018 Albertans paid $240 billion more in taxes than the federal government sent back in transfers, benefits, infrastructure, and other programs and spending.

That works out to an average of $5,000 per Albertan, or $20 billion – every year. For a sense of the magnitude of this, the only other net contributors from 2007-2018 were Ontario, at $98 billion, and B.C., at $55 billion. The rest of Canada took a net $432 billion more in Ottawa spending than they paid in taxes; this was only possible because Ottawa taxed Albertans $240 billion more than is spent on Albertans.

Now, however, future of the golden goose is looking increasingly bleak. Global energy prices have struggled since 2015 (and plummeted with the Russia-OPEC price war). Investment has nevertheless been strong in many U.S. states, and Russia is bullishly growing its industry to fuel the rapidly expanding Asian market. Canada, in contrast, has witnessed such capital flight that downtown Calgary has record office vacancies and lost its rush hour traffic long before COVID-19.

Our deteriorating investment climate now faces the spectre of a $170 carbon tax compounded by a “Clean Fuel Standard,” and numerous additional barriers to new industrial developments. Even with these challenges, Albertans still contributed a net $18 billion in 2019, and oil and gas exports surpassed all others in Canada at $102 billion. In other words, the golden goose is hardly dead, but it is far from its egg-laying potential at a time Canada is starving for eggs.

It is unfair that Albertans have contributed so much to Canada yet get so many barriers to future prosperity in return. Whatever short-term political gains these barriers serve, they necessarily feed nascent movements towards independence. It is also the kind of counter-productive policy that Canada can ill-afford given the global economic crisis and massive deficits we face.

Despite all this background, some leading commentators insist there is nothing really unfair about this – that Albertans simply pay more taxes due to higher incomes, and Alberta gets its fair share back. This ignores how broadly and deeply federal scope creep has intruded into provincial jurisdiction – half of federal spending is for constitutionally provincial responsibilities. While it is fair that higher incomes pay more taxes, it is the size of the federal budget bill and their spending choices which decide Alberta’s net contribution.

Others point to the hundreds of billions in debt-financed federal pandemic spending (like CERB and CEWS) and suggest it is vindication for federalism. Dr. Trevor Harrison of the Parkland Institute in a Jan. 28 column “Federal government has had Albertans’ back during COVID” points to analysis showing in 2020 that Albertans got $1,200 more in pandemic wage and employment supports (combined with the funds for well cleanup) than any province. This initially sounds compelling until you consider the central fact laid out above: Albertans sent a net $5,000 per person from 2007-2019, every year.

It is Albertans who have clearly had Canada’s back. It’s fair, and also clearly in Canada’s interest, to ensure policies at every level of government support Alberta’s economic recovery. Ignoring this imperils both the economic future of our children, as well as Canada’s future as a federation of ten provinces.

Bill Bewick, Ph.D. is the executive director of Fairness Alberta – a non-profit and non-partisan group dedicated to raising awareness across Canada of Alberta’s contributions and barriers. To learn more, visit fairnessalberta.ca.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Lyn Radford, 2019 Canada Winter Games board chair, was named 2020 Sport Event Volunteer of the Year at the Prestige Awards. (File photo by Advocate staff)
WATCH: Lyn Radford wins award for volunteer efforts

The board chair of the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer… Continue reading

A candlelight vigil will be held in Red Deer on Thursday to honour the 350-plus people killed in the Easter bombing attack in Sri Lanka. Contributed photo
Candlelight vigil planned for deaths linked to Olymel COVID-19 outbreak

A candlelight vigil is being planned for those who died due to… Continue reading

Red Deer Rebels forward Jaxsen Wiebe battles Calgary Hitmen forward Cael Zimmerman for a loose puck when the two teams squared off in February last season. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Calgary Hitmen shutout Red Deer Rebels

Rebels name centre Jayden Grubbe team captain ahead of Friday’s game

Traffic will be delayed on 40th Avenue and 19th Street until the end of February. (Advocate file photo).
Traffic delays expected downtown this weekend

Red Deer drivers will be delayed in the downtown area of the… Continue reading

Bryson, six, and Mara, eight, play with puppies from Dogs With Wings Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
WATCH: Dogs With Wings introduces Red Deer program

A program that trains puppies to be certified service, autism, facility and… Continue reading

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Funeral for Walter Gretzky to be held Saturday in home town of Brantford, Ont.

The funeral for hockey legend Wayne Gretzky’s father Walter will take place… Continue reading

A sign for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service building is shown in Ottawa on May 14, 2013. A newly released audit report shows that difficulties with the judicial warrant process at Canada's spy agency — an issue that made headlines last summer — stretch back at least nine years. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Spy warrant shortcomings stretch back almost a decade, newly released audit shows

OTTAWA — A newly released audit report shows that difficulties with the… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday night’s Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the estimated $29 million… Continue reading

A trial countdown sign marks the days at George Floyd Square, March 4, 2021, in Minneapolis. Ten months after police officers brushed off George Floyd's moans for help on the street outside a south Minneapolis grocery, the square remains a makeshift memorial for Floyd who died at the hand of police making an arrest. The trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin will begin with jury selection on March 8. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Officer’s trial could reopen intersection where Floyd died

MINNEAPOLIS — During a group’s recent meeting at the now-vacant Speedway gas… Continue reading

FILE - In this Aug. 30, 2020 file photo Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell calls for an end to violence in the city during a news conference a day after a demonstrator was shot and killed in downtown Portland. Amid protests following the police killing of George Floyd last year Portland dissolved a special police unit designed to focus on gun violence. Critics say the squad unfairly targeted Black people, but gun violence and homicides have since spiked in Oregon's largest city, and some say disbanding the 35-officer unit was a mistake. (Sean Meagher/The Oregonian via AP, File)
As violence surges, some question Portland axing police unit

PORTLAND, Ore. — Elmer Yarborough got a terrifying call from his sister:… Continue reading

Harley Hay
Harley Hay: Just don’t call it cod liver oil

Many people swear that a daily dose of various vitamins is an… Continue reading

Email editor@auburn-reporter.com
Letter: Preserving green spaces in Red Deer

The Advocate published an article Feb. 11 about Sunnybrook residents concerned about… Continue reading

Former Toronto Argonauts lineman Chris Schultz remembered as a gentle giant

Former Toronto Argonauts lineman Chris Schultz remembered as a gentle giant

Most Read