There are no two ways about it, the equalization system has been screwing Albertan’s for decades.
The image above demonstrates rather starkly how Canada has essentially acted as a big funnel which takes billions of dollars from producing provinces and pours them into Quebec. Alberta doesn’t even make up 1% on the receiving end despite enduring multiple downturns over the decades. Quebec meanwhile takes a heaping helping of over half of the equalization payments in Canada despite making up only 23% of the population. Quebec doesn’t need equalization but they aren’t stupid. Of course they will say yes to accepting these interprovincial welfare cheques which are being cut to them to try and gain political favor.
Equalization is only the most evident way that Canada screws other provinces in favor of Quebec. Bilingual hiring requirements, massive corporate welfare payments to Quebec companies and all manner of transfer payments help feed Quebec’s insatiable desire for the fruits of neighboring provinces.
Equalization is the most visible and odious of these bribes given traditionally to La Belle Province.
If Equalization is supposed to be some sort of hand up rather than a hand out, it is pretty clear that it has been a catastrophic failure. Quebec is as dependent and entitled as they ever have been despite decades of money being tossed at them by the rest of the nation. It is clear that they will never become self-sustaining through equalization so we may as well dump it. Call it tough love if you like.
The recent Alberta economic downturn really drove home just how deeply equalization screws us. Years of recession, business closures and record unemployment numbers have now plagued Alberta. Surely this is just the sort of situation where equalization should kick in and help out the province which has so generously helped the rest of the country for generations right?
We get nary a nickel while Quebec continues to engorge on billions.
The tall foreheads and supporters of equalization pooh pooh the unwashed Albertans when we dare speak up on this gross inequity. “You don’t understand how equalization works.”
I contend that most Albertans understand exactly how equalization works but will concede that many if not most don’t fully understand the mechanism of it.
There is no cheque that Alberta cuts and gives to the federal government which we could simply stop writing. The feds simply take taxes from Alberta and give us a disproportionately small return on it when compared to pretty much every province (especially Quebec). So while we aren’t cutting a cheque specifically for equalization, every time we pay a federal tax we are getting screwed on the services that we should see in return for it.
What better way to fix all these misconceptions than to hold a referendum though? A campaign of months where equalization can be truly discussed, debated and dissected for the pubic. If it is such a great deal for us, surely we will vote overwhelmingly to continue with this fine program of wealth redistribution.
Yes, I understand that no matter what we vote in a referendum that it can’t and won’t force the nation to change equalization. It sure would register our discontent in a formal way though. If the vast majority of Albertans voted to shitcan equalization, how long could the federal powers that be ignore this? How long would Albertans wait until asking for a referendum under the Clarity Act which would indeed force national change?
A referendum won’t be too costly when coupled with a municipal election. We are going to the polls anyway. One more ballot isn’t that tough to fill out. Nearly 60% of Calgarians came out to tell Nenshi where to go with his Olympic bid idea. Referendums help engage voters and that is a good thing no?
A referendum on equalization in Alberta won’t fix the system which continually screws us. It will be an important step in the direction of a better deal for Alberta though whether within or outside of the confines of confederation.
Kenney promised it and I am looking forward to the campaign.
Bring on the referendum!