Equalization: Statement from Premier Kenney

Premier Jason Kenney issued the following statement in response to Quebec Premier Francois Legault’s comments on equalization:

“Quebec Premier François Legault’s comments reflect a misunderstanding of the history of equalization, and Alberta’s demand for fairness in the federation.

“Equalization has not ‘been in the Constitution since Day 1 of Canada.’ The principle of equalization was included for the first time in the 1982 Constitution Act, which Quebec refused to sign.

“It is historically inaccurate to say that ‘When Quebec got into Canada, equalization was in the plan. It is part of the original deal. We can’t change the original deal.’ In fact, equalization began as a unilateral federal program in 1957, and has undergone many significant changes since then.

“It is also completely false to suggest, as Premier Legault does, that I am ‘starting to become separatist.’ As I have said repeatedly, I always have been and always will be a proud Canadian patriot and a federalist, without condition. It was at my urging that the merger agreement creating the United Conservative Party included ‘loyalty to a united Canada’ as a founding principle. For me, that loyalty is non-negotiable.

“I have also been clear that most Albertans are proud to have shared much of our province’s good fortune with other Canadians, and that we do not object to equalization in principle. However, we cannot abide other governments benefiting enormously from our resources while trying to obstruct the development and sale of those resources. Nor is it acceptable that other provinces benefit from equalization payments generated in part from our energy resources while refusing to develop their own energy resources.

“Albertans have made a net contribution of over $620 billion to the rest of the federation through their federal taxes since 1957. We make a net contribution of approximately $20 billion to fiscal federalism each year. Alberta has been a great source of shared prosperity and social progress in Canada, and we hope to continue to be in the future.

“Our call for a fair deal in the federation simply means this: If Ottawa and other provinces want to benefit from Alberta’s resources, then they must not oppose the transport and sale of those resources.

“To put it more bluntly: If you want to benefit from our oil and gas wealth, stop blocking oil and gas pipelines. As I said at the Council of the Federation last month, ‘If you aren’t willing to accept our resources, why are you willing to accept the money that comes from them?’ Or as Quebecers say, ‘On ne peut pas vouloir le beurre, et l’argent du beurre.’

“That is why our government is committed to holding a referendum on Section 36 of the Constitution Act – the principle of equalization – if we do not see substantial progress on coastal pipelines and a repeal of devastating policies like Bill C-69, the ‘No More Pipelines Act.’ We make this commitment as a way of putting our struggle for fairness at the top of the national agenda.

“As I said in French on election night, Albertans admire and respect Quebecers. We have been and should be close partners in the federation, and in shared prosperity. I have also appreciated developing a positive working relationship with Premier Legault, whom I respect.

“Unfortunately, Premier Legault was mistaken when he said that equalization ‘is connected to the very existence of Canada. When Quebec got into Canada, equalization was in the plan. It is part of the original deal. We can’t change the original deal.’

“I would, however, remind him that exclusive federal jurisdiction over interprovincial pipelines is, in fact, part of the original deal of Confederation. It is enshrined in Section 92(10) (a) of the Constitution, which makes it clear that provinces cannot regulate ‘Works and Undertakings connecting the Province with any other or others of the Provinces, or extending beyond the Limits of the Province.’ This constitutional fact was recently confirmed by a unanimous decision of the British Columbia Court of Appeal. The Government of Quebec’s assertion that it can block approval of an interprovincial pipeline clearly violates the letter and spirit of the original Constitution.

“We simply ask that other Canadian governments respect the Constitution and help us get a fair price for our resources, so that we can continue to be partners in prosperity.”