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UCP introduces referendum legislation for equalization payments

Premier Jason Kenney introduce a motion today that will put the following question on a provincewide referendum ballot on Oct. 18, alongside municipal and Senate elections:

The referendum will ask: “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?”

“Albertans elected this government to get a fair deal for them. That’s exactly what this referendum is about. For too long, Albertans have been forced to subsidize public services in other parts of the country where politicians have been trying to block our pipelines and impair our vital economic interests, even during times of great economic hardship for us. This fall, Albertans will finally get a chance to tell the federal government that they’ve had enough of the unfair equalization program, and want reforms that recognize our province’s role in creating national prosperity.” Jason Kenney, Premier

Under the Constitution, fiscal imbalances between the provinces are set to be corrected by federal tax contributions, wherein the federal government then allocates said funds to other provinces. Many in Alberta, such as Minister of Justice Kaycee Madu, have called the program unfair. “Justin Trudeau’s equalization program is not fair for Albertans. Their generosity is being taken for granted by leaders who are happy to receive the money but reject the jobs that produce it. Albertans will finally have the opportunity to be heard," Madu stated. In the last 25 years, Albertans contributed more than $400 billion more to the nation in tax dollars than they have received in federal spending. Alberta is a "have" province (compared to the 'have-nots') and has accordingly not received an equalization payment since the 1964-65 fiscal year

The notion of having a referendum on equalization has been discussed since last year. Several MLAs in the UCP caucus also commented on the matter. “Alberta averages almost $20 billion annually in net contributions to Confederation. Almost 10,000 Canadians commute from across Canada to work in the oilsands alone. Alberta certainly doesn't appear to be getting treated fairly and I'm very happy that our government is listening to those that spoke at our Fair Deal consultations.” Tany Yao, MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo. “Equalization rewards irresponsible, anti-economic development policies while punishing responsible economic development governance. Over the past 10 years, hard-working Albertans have sent over $400 billion to some provinces that run budgetary surpluses with money that isn’t theirs. Albertans’ self-determinant spirit built this province, so it’s time we asked them whether things need to change," added Miranda Rosin, MLA for Banff-Kananaskis.

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