MLA Mark Smith. File photo.

MLA Mark Smith. File photo.

MLA Mark Smith: Equalization payments

For decades, Albertans have watched as their hard-earned tax dollars were seized by Ottawa and redistributed among other provinces under a system of Equalization that has siphoned wealth from our job creators and our provincial treasury. In 2019, Albertans elected a United Conservative government to put an end to the Trudeau-Notley alliance and fight for a fair deal for Alberta. Over the course of the government’s mandate legislation the Alberta Parole Board has replaced a federally controlled parole board. Once the details of an agreement are finished Alberta, not Ottawa, will appoint a Chief Firearms Officer and Albertans will soon have the opportunity to start addressing the issue of equalization.

Canada’s system of Equalization is fundamentally unfair to Alberta, pulling billions of dollars out of our province – even during times of economic recession – and funneling that money into provinces with strong, even booming economies. This includes provinces run by anti-oil politicians who benefit from Alberta’s generosity while attacking our economic interests and implementing policies detrimental to our province and our people.

This is why Premier Jason Kenney recently introduced a motion in the Alberta Legislature seeking approval to hold a referendum on whether Albertans think the principle of making Equalization payments should be removed from Canada’s Constitution. The motion was debated and passed and areferendum will be held along with the municipal and Senate elections this upcoming fall.

The question facing Albertans in the proposed referendum will be: should section 36(2) of the Constitution Act, 1982—Parliament and the government of Canada’s commitment to the principle of making Equalization payments—be removed from the constitution?

If the majority of responses support removing equalization payments, the Alberta government will move forward with pursuing renewed negotiations with the federal government to get a fairer deal for Albertans. In order to make a change to the Constitution, the proposed change must be approved by the federal House of Commons and Senate, and by the legislative assemblies of at least seven provinces, representing at least 50 per cent of the population of all provinces.

Quebec’s ability to monopolize the national spotlight and command attention from Ottawa after they held contentious referendums in 1980 and 1995 has demonstrated what can be achieved when people, not politicians, are given the power to decide their future. A referendum on Equalization will be an opportunity for Albertans to be heard and to make a strong statement to Ottawa that Equalization does not work for Alberta.

Albertans are proud of the role our province has played within confederation. With an energy industry that forms the bedrock of our national economy and a competitive business environment unmatched by any other province, we have served as our county’s economic engine and a beacon of hope for ambitious Canadians from every region.

Between 2014 and 2019, Albertans made a net contribution of more than $100 billion to the federal government through transfers to the rest of Canada. Over the past 25 years, Albertans contributed more than $400 billion. This is hundreds of billions of dollars from Albertans that is filling the treasuries of hostile governments instead of supporting healthcare, education and families right here in Alberta.

Enough is enough. Albertans are demanding a fair deal in confederation and that is what we will secure with a referendum on Equalization.

— Mark Smith, MLA for Drayton Valley – Devon