Alberta Finance Minister says equalization program not working

Equalization formula fails Alberta again, says UCP

“If we were a different region of the country if we were Bombardier or the auto industry the federal government would have no problem stepping in and helping,” said Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci.

Ceci made the comments to media in Ottawa on Monday when federal and provincial finance ministers met.

Ceci said the federal equalization program isn’t working.

“Equalization does not work for Alberta,” he said.

Alberta’s United Conservatives also slammed Canada’s equalization formula after it was announced Quebec will get a $1.4 billion increase in equalization payments next year while Alberta faces a deficit.

Quebec will get $13.1 billion for 2019-20 even though it will run successive surplus budgets. Alberta, on the other hand, has about 160,000 unemployed and debt expected to reach $100 billion.

“As Canada’s finance ministers meet, they must immediately address the deeply flawed system that continues to subsidize Quebec at the expense of Albertans, who are facing a time of real economic challenge and unemployment,” said UCP finance critic Drew Barnes. “Since equalization was created, Alberta has received 0.02 per cent of all payments, the last of which was in 1964-65. In contrast, Quebec has received equalization money every year of the program, totalling $221 billion, or 51 per cent of all payments.”

READ MORE: Alberta saddled with a plan until 2024 in which Alberta gets no transfer payments

“Albertans are proud to be able to share their prosperity when times are good here but not elsewhere,” said Barnes. “But, it is also fair for them to expect that Canadians will do the same for Alberta when times are tougher.”

The other provinces to get equalization payments for 2019-20 include Manitoba ($2.3 billion), Nova Scotia ($2 billion), New Brunswick ($2 billion) and Prince Edward Island ($419 million).

Other oil-producing provinces such as Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador are also running budget deficits.

Barnes said the NDP was aware earlier this year that the federal Liberal government were renewing the current formula but did nothing.

“After Justin Trudeau rammed his equalization plan through parliament last June, without a word of objection from Alberta’s NDP government, it is clear that he does not intend to address this imbalance, that will see Quebec receive an additional 1.4 billion dollars in equalization funding this year,” said Barnes.

“In addition to the obvious issues with the equalization formula, this meeting of finance ministers should also be a time to recognize that the challenging economic climate in Alberta is only made worse by the continued tax increases by our provincial and federal governments. Alberta should make clear that it will scrap its job-killing carbon tax, and expects that the federal government will end it’s threats to make a bad situation worse, through imposing a carbon tax on Alberta’s struggling energy sector.”

In October oil prices dropped about 30 per cent and the discount on Canadian crude hit record levels.

“The differentials are a crisis and we are going to make sure Albertans see action on that front,” said Ceci.

In November the provincial NDP announced they would buy 7,000 rail cars to increase how much crude is shipped out of Alberta to market.

UPDATED 3:34 P.M.



lisa.joy@stettlerindependent.com

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