EDMONTON — Premier Ed Stelmach is demanding a much larger share of federal health transfers to help reduce Alberta’s record $4.7 billion deficit.
“We’re going to be pressing the federal government very hard,” the premier said Wednesday.
“We’re all equal Canadians, so we should get the same per-capita funding from the Canada health transfer — about $700 million.”
The recent federal budget changed the payment formula.
Robyn Cochrane, spokeswoman for Alberta’s finance department, said even though some provinces are getting more under the new per-capita formula, Alberta’s funding won’t change.
Alberta is getting about $2 billion this year, but would have received $733 million more if it was being treated like other provinces under the new formula, Cochrane said.
Finance Minister Iris Evans said Alberta gets $200 less for every man, woman and child than do other provinces.
“My argument to you is, if you’re unhealthy in Alberta, shouldn’t you be given the same kind of right that every other Canadian gets in every other province?,” she told the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.
“You’re worth less here, somehow, because we’re getting $700 million less than we would be if we were in any other province in Canada.”
Paul Stanway, spokesman for the premier, said the transfer money is a “significant” issue.
“It’s not like we couldn’t use the money.”
Stelmach said he’ll have one of his ministers raise the issue with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who was scheduled to make some announcements Thursday in Edmonton.
The record deficit announced Tuesday in Alberta’s new budget will force Stelmach’s government to find $2.2 billion in spending cuts or revenue increases by next year.
Both Evans and Stelmach said getting the transfer money owed from the federal government would be a good place to start.
“Our net contribution to Ottawa just in the last decade was $117 billion,” he said. “That’s taxpayer money going to Ottawa and not coming back to Alberta.”
Lloyd Snelgrove, president of the Alberta Treasury Board, which authorizes all government spending, said the province simply wants to be treated fairly.
“And I think it’s our responsibility to continue to push Ottawa to fund Alberta an appropriate amount,” said Snelgrove.
— With files from Shannon Montgomery in Calgary