Kenney announces plan to strengthen Alberta’s position in Canada’s federation
RED DEER: “The Trudeau-Notley alliance has failed Alberta,” said United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney. “And it’s why we need to stand up and fight for a fair deal, a new deal, for Alberta in the Canadian federation.”
In a speech from Red Deer, Kenney outlined how a United Conservative government would position the province to provide Alberta with more control over its own destiny within Canada.
“Alberta has been the greatest engine of social and economic progress in modern Canadian history. And we shared our prosperity with our fellow Canadians,” Kenney said.
Since 1957, Albertans have given Canada $611 billion more in federal taxes than we have received back in transfers and services, according to Professor Robert Mansell. In just the last decade, Alberta has made a net contribution of $200 billion.
“I always say that we Albertans are generous, and pride ourselves on helping our fellow Canadians when times are good here and bad elsewhere. But under the Trudeau-Notley alliance, the opposite has been true.”
Just days after the Premier of Quebec pronounced that there was “no social acceptability” for “dirty” Alberta oil, Quebec received a $1.3 billion increase in its equalization payments, despite the fact that Quebec is running a budget surplus while Alberta claims the largest per capita deficit of any province in Canada.
“Shortly after she became Premier, Rachel Notley went on TV to call Alberta ‘the embarrassing cousin that no one wants to talk about.’ What on earth was she thinking?” Kenney asked.
“We are by far the biggest contributor to the federation. We have always played by the rules, paid our taxes, and produced wealth for other Canadians. But in the middle of our prolonged economic crisis, we are under assault from other governments in Canada.”
The relentless attacks on Alberta by some of our neighbouring provinces and the unwillingness of Premier Notley to stand up to Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in Ottawa is fueling anger in the province over Alberta’s position in Canada.
According to a recent Angus Reid poll, a shocking 50% of Albertans surveyed said they support secession from Canada.
“At the heart of this number lies a real tension that runs through the hearts of many Albertans. Most Albertans – myself included – are proud Canadians,” Kenney said. “But Albertans are sending our fellow Canadians a clear message: we will no longer tolerate governments in other parts of Canada benefiting from our resources and hardwork, while trying to block those resources and pin down our economy.”
“We will no longer be regarded, as Rachel Notley said, as “the embarrassing cousins that no one wants to talk about.”
“Today I am announcing that a United Conservative government will aggressively pursue a fair deal for Alberta in Canada.”
The plan laid out by Kenney includes:
- Equalization Reform
The Trudeau-Notley alliance extended the current equalization formula for five years, without any effort at reform.
A UCP government will use the prospect of a referendum on equalization as leverage for federal action on pipelines and to demand reforms to the current unfair equalization formula.
- Fairness in the Fiscal Stabilization Fund
The Fiscal Stabilization Fund is a federal program that provides “protection to provinces in the event of extraordinary year over year declines in revenue.” Despite a drop in revenue of nearly $10 billion in 2015-16, a cap imposed by the federal government on the size of the Fund meant Alberta received only $251 million that year, a tiny fraction of the revenue decline.
A United Conservative government will ask Ottawa to increase the limit of the Fiscal Stabilization Fund to protect Alberta for major fiscal shocks.
- Convert Canada Health Transfer and Canada Social Transfer to Tax Points for the Provinces
The Canada Health Transfer and Canada Social Transfer are federal payment to the provinces for health care and social programs. Alberta receives $6.4 billion from these programs.
A United Conservative government will work with other provinces and press for Ottawa to cut federal income tax rates on Albertans – and every other Canadian – equal to the amounts now transferred to the provinces under the CHT and CST.
This would represent a transfer of tax “room” worth $54.9 billion to all provinces, and $6.4 billion to Alberta in particular.
In essence, the federal government would drop its federal tax rates and the provinces would raise theirs –filling in the tax “room” abandoned by Ottawa by a similar amount.
This would be revenue neutral – it would not raise taxes on anyone. In fact, Albertans could choose to use this fiscal room to cut tax rates in our province. This change would simply mean that we Albertans have more control over our own money to support our own social programs according to our priorities, not Ottawa’s. It would also give us more control over how revenue is raised. This is one powerful way of shrinking Ottawa’s control over Alberta.
- Stop the Trudeau-Notley payroll tax hike
Rachel Notley signed a deal with her ally Justin Trudeau to raise CPP payroll taxes on Albertans. They agreed to raise the CPP tax from 4.95 to 5.95% for both the employee and the employer.
A United Conservative government will abrogate Alberta’s agreement to increase this tax,and will work with other provinces to prevent future payroll tax increases.
- Fairness in Employment Insurance
Alberta pays more into the Employment Insurance system than it gets back. This is one of the reasons for our $20 billion net annual contribution to the rest of Canada.
The criteria to qualify for EI benefits varies by region. In 2016, Albertans in the Edmonton region who lost their job did not qualify for recent enhancements to the EI Program.
United Conservatives will demand that Canada’s Employment Insurance program be reformed so that Albertans who lose their jobs (as well as employers who pay EI premiums) are treated more fairly by the system.
- Exempt Alberta from CMHC Stress Test
A United Conservative government will challenge the federal government’s one-size-fits-all approach to mortgages by demanding an exemption for Albertans to the ‘stress-tests’ recently imposed by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
The CMHC’s change has had a devastating effect on Albertans already struggling with lower incomes and higher taxes while trying to buy new homes. Housing sales in Calgary, for example, are at their lowest level in thirty years.
We will work with other provinces that have been negatively affected to obtain regional exemptions from the stress test.
- Corridors Coalition: create pre-approved, guaranteed land corridors for Canadian products to each market
Canada needs to develop a predictable method for products to reach global markets.
A United Conservative government will seek to form federal and provincial agreement on resource corridors. These would be pre-approved land coordinators moving East-West and North in the Arctic. While satisfying indigenous, environmental and legal obligations, these corridors will expedite the approval process for resource projects.
The UCP has already begun seeking support for a corridors coalition with the premiers of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick, and with opposition leaders in other provinces.
- Charter of Economic Rights: full free trade and economic mobility
Other provinces seeking to block Alberta exports is just one flagrant example of how interprovincial trade barriers make us poorer.
A United Conservative government would be a relentless champion of unfettered free trade, labour mobility, and regulatory harmonization in Canada.
We would join Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister in pressing the federal government to adopt a Charter of Economic Rights, in his words “clarifying the vital rights of Canadians to sell their goods and services and exercise their trades and professions in every part of Canada.”
While such a Charter is a long-term strategic goal, a UCP government would act immediately to promote free trade within Canada. We released the details of our free trade plan on March 6.
- Create an Alberta Parole Board
A United Conservative government will end Alberta’s agreement with the Parole Board of Canada and pass legislation to create an Alberta Parole Board.
Inmates serving sentences of less than two years are housed in provincial jails and the Province has the jurisdiction to decide on early parole or conditional release. Ontario and Quebec have their own parole boards, but Alberta contracts with the federal government to have the Parole Board of Canada perform this service. Much of the recent property crime wave in Alberta has been connected to repeat offenders, including those on parole. We need a parole board that will reflect our community values, and seek to keep Albertans safe. Albertans deserve at least as much input into community safety as Quebecers and Ontarians have.
These measures are in addition to the ‘fight back’ strategies recently announced by Kenney to defend Alberta against those actively working against the province’s best interests, which include:
- A constitutional challenge of Trudeau’s No More Pipelines Act (Bill C-69) as a violation of our exclusive control over the production of oil and gas
- A willingness to use the ‘turn-off-the-taps’ legislation if provinces try to block our energy exports
- Building a coalition of like-minded provinces, in part to oppose the federal carbon tax, Bill C-69, and oppose obstruction of pipelines
- Holding a referendum on equalization if we cannot get a coastal pipeline built
“Some will say this plan is too bold, too ambitious. I say that now is not the time to be timid.”
“Canada is a great country. It will never be perfect, and there will always be give and take within the federation. But for too long that has meant Alberta giving, and other regions taking.”
“It’s time for Alberta to be a leader in the federation, like in the days of Peter Lougheed. United Conservatives have a vision and a strategy to stand up for this great province, so that we are masters in our own home, and renew our pride as members of the Canadian family.”