MLA Mark Smith/ file photo

MLA Mark Smith: Equalization formula

OPINION: MLA Mark Smith

Voters in our province have given a clear and strong mandate to the Alberta government – they want a fair deal in the federation. Over a million voters cast a ballot and nearly 62 per cent want to see the current equalization formula disappear. Over the last 25 years, Albertans have contributed more than $400 billion more to Canada in tax dollars than they have received in federal spending. Albertans make an immense contribution to equalization through federal tax contributions, which are transferred by the federal government to other provinces for programs and services. The current program has many issues, including a formula that requires it to grow automatically with Canada’s economy, even if contributing provinces like Alberta are experiencing immense economic challenges.

We are generous people in Alberta who want to help our neighbours. When there are wildfires in other provinces, we are happy to send our firefighters to help, for example. However, what is not fair is Quebec receiving net equalization payments while that province balances its budget, while Alberta is fighting its way out of an economic downturn. What is also frustrating is Quebec standing in the way of the Energy East Pipeline that would deliver ethical and secure energy to that province. They are happy to take our money with one hand and stand in the way of our economy with the other. Between 2014 and 2019 alone, Albertans made a net contribution of more than $100 billion to the federal government through federal taxes that helped build critical infrastructure.

Premier Jason Kenney put forward a government motion to ratify the referendum results and Ottawa now has an obligation to negotiate with our government. Albertans are united around Premier Kenney and the United Conservative government to get the fairness we deserve and expect. Former NDP Finance Minister, Joe Ceci said in 2015 that he was “agnostic” on the topic of equalization. Our government has heard Albertans loud and clear. It’s time for changes to this broken system.

We also asked Albertans if they want to permanently keep daylight savings time and do away with the bi-annual clock change. This referendum was very close as 50.2 percent of voters decided to keep the system currently in place. In case you missed the news conference, Service Alberta Minister Nate Glubish stated that the people have made their decision, and the government will not pursue this any further.

I would also like to thank the 13 candidates who put their names forward for our senate elections. Being in public service is an honour and a privilege. Our democracy is stronger when there are candidates with diverse views. Congratulations to senate nominees Erika Barootes, Pam Davidson, and Mykhailo Martyniouk. Our United Conservative Government is calling on Ottawa to honour the democratic choices of Albertans and appoint the chosen nominees to the senate.

When our government was elected in 2019, a major commitment was to put more decisions in the hands of the people, and we have done that.

— Mark Smith, MLA for Drayton Valley – Devon