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Josh Andrus - Project Confederation

$420 Million equalization payment to Ontario goes too far – Project Confederation calling for Constitutional Convention

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Submitted by Josh Andrus of Project Confederation

Confederation is rigged against Alberta.

It’s never really been funny, but now it’s just getting sad.

Not only do we get denigrated and dragged through the mud by the pundits and politicians in central Canada, but they always find a way to take more money from us too.

The concept of robbing the west to pay the rest is just another proud Canadian tradition carried on from one Prime Minister to the next, and this week we’re back to the old favourite, equalization, again.

In theory, equalization payments are given to provinces with weaker economies to help them provide public services.

If a province falls below the national average, it receives equalization payments – these are the “have-not” provinces, while the provinces above the national average, like Alberta, are the “have” provinces.


Sidenote:

It’s a common misconception that the “have” provinces pay money directly to the “have-not” provinces.

That’s not technically true – everyone is paying money into and receiving money from the federal government’s pot, and it’s the net difference that determines whether you’re a payer or a receiver.

But, in practice, these are essentially the same thing.

Many on the left try to use this slight detail to claim that Alberta doesn’t pay anything at all, which is blatantly not true, so don’t let them be misleading about what is essentially just a definitional argument about what counts as “paying”.


Well, this week we found out that equalization is now so out of control, and so much money is being taken out of Alberta, that they literally had too much money to give out.

That’s right, they collected so much money from Alberta, that even after they’ve raised up all the “have-not” provinces to equal the national average, there was still money left over.

So, what did they do?

Give it back to hardworking taxpayers in Alberta?

No, don’t be silly, they gave it to Ontario.

But, isn’t Ontario a “have” province that’s supposed to be paying, not receiving, I hear you ask?

Yep, but they did it anyway.

For the upcoming 2023-24 fiscal year, Ontario will get $421 million in equalization, despite being a “have” province.

The equalization program is now so ridiculously broken that they are giving equalization payments to “have” provinces too!

*****

Alberta had already been kicked in the teeth a few times this week by Ottawa – in particular regarding the so-called “just transition”

(Remember, that’s the federal government’s plan to transition our economy away from everything that pays for equalization).

Paying extra tax in order to fund equalization payments to Ontario must surely be the final straw?

Many economists say that little “quirks” like this just mean that the formula needs tweaking.

Some minor changes around the edges can make the system “fairer” for Albertans.

But, it’s funny how all these little “quirks” of the various systems in Confederation all seem to lead to Alberta paying more or other provinces receiving more.

There’s never a quirk that means other provinces receive less or Alberta pays less, is there?

What the economists fail to consider is that equalization isn’t just a mathematical formula that can be perfected.

It’s a political tool used by Ottawa to buy votes in certain parts of the country.

So even if these quirks aren’t deliberate, there’s no incentive for the politicians in Ottawa to fix the formula overall.

It’s simply not in their political interest to fix it.

The system is so ridiculously complex and skewed against Alberta that it just needs to be abolished altogether.

62% of Albertans voted to do exactly this in a referendum, but we were completely ignored.

So, now, we need a constitutional convention.

Constitutional reform is required to strengthen national unity and provide equal footing for provinces wary of federal intrusion into provincial jurisdiction.

The current constitutional order is designed to favour voter-heavy provinces, with no real defence available to smaller provinces.

A constitutional convention may be the only way to keep the country together.

Without one, inflamed regional anger will continue to divide the country, and the viability of remaining a single nation will continue to deteriorate.

Reforms are long past due.

If Alberta – and the rest of Canada – want to avoid Ottawa intruding on their constitutional jurisdiction, we need to pursue formal changes to the Constitution.

Might we fail? Yes

But, we will definitely fail if we don’t stand our ground at every stop.

Securing a constitutional convention will be a major focus of our work in 2023.

If you’re ready to get involved, please click here to sign up to volunteer.

If you can help fund our efforts and our ongoing activism work, please click here to make a donation.

It’s time to start fighting back!

Sincerely,

Josh Andrus
Executive Director
Project Confederation

P.S. We started a petition to oppose the “Just Transition” legislation – if you agree with us that the program will do immeasurable harm to Alberta, please click here to sign it. And, if you’d like to help us fight for an end to equalization and push for a constitutional convention, please click here to make a donation now.

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Alberta

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is leading the fight against our own federal government to save Canada

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Article submitted by Josh Andrus of Project Confederation

A lot of media attention of late has been focused on the Emergencies Act testimonies in Ottawa and Danielle Smith’s rise to the Premier’s Office here in Alberta.

However, the biggest development in federal/provincial politics in the last week might actually have happened in Saskatchewan, where Premier Scott Moe has taken a firm stance against the federal government in a document entitled Drawing the Line: Defending Saskatchewan’s Economic Autonomy.

The paper clearly sets out a problem and then proposes specific solutions.

First, the problem…

The Saskatchewan government has identified nine different federal climate change policies that are estimated to cost the province a total of $111 billion between 2022 and 2035 – the approximate halfway point to the federal government’s 2050 net-zero targets.

The costs of each of the nine policies are:

  • Federal Carbon Tax: $24.7 billion;
  • Oil and Gas Methane Mandate: $6.3 billion;
  • Oil and Gas Emissions Cap: $2.6 billion;
  • Fertilizer Mandate: $19.3 billion;
  • Clean Fuel Regulations: $34.9 billion;
  • Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate: $10.3 billion;
  • Federal Output Based Pricing System: $12.5 billion;
  • Agriculture Methane Initiatives: $0.5 billion;
  • Landfill Methane Mandate: $0.2 billion.

Don’t forget – these are just the direct costs.

We all know that the energy industry powers every other industry and, since energy is required to create almost every other product, as energy prices increase, costs for consumer goods will undoubtedly rise across the board as well.

Scott Moe and his team have a clear understanding of the problem and are deeply concerned about the impacts federal environmental policy can have on the economy.

For a province like Saskatchewan, where total provincial revenue for 2022 was just $17.2 billion, $111 billion is a gigantic cost.

And if that’s the cost to our neighbours, imagine what it will cost here in Alberta!

Remember too, this is just the first half of the federal government’s 2050 plan!

The economic costs of Net Zero 2050 are completely lost on the Trudeau government.

The 2021 Supreme Court of Canada ruling on the constitutionality of the Carbon Tax, as we noted at the time, creates a dangerous precedent where the federal government can essentially trample all over the constitutional jurisdiction of provinces using the Peace, Order, and Good Governance Clause embedded in the constitution.

This means that the Supreme Court has effectively ruled that the federal government can take control of practically any issue, simply by claiming that it is a matter of national concern – completely ignoring provincial jurisdiction.

Consider that the definition of Confederation, as espoused by the Oxford English Dictionary, is a union of sovereign groups or states united for purposes of common action.

Instead, what we now have is a federal government that has decided, upon the alter of climate change, to sacrifice our livelihoods and, with them, the very idea of Canada itself.

If we want to save this country, we need substantial reforms to the way this country is governed.

Thankfully, the Saskatchewan government’s paper also proposes some solutions that include:

  • Provincial legislation to clarify and protect constitutional rights belonging to the province.
  • Pursuing greater autonomy over immigration policy to ensure Saskatchewan has the people it needs.
  • Better recognition of Saskatchewan industry’s contributions to sustainable growth – for example, developing a carbon credit market to support our natural resource industries.
  • Preparing to take legal actions, legislative or otherwise, to maintain control of electricity, fertilizer emission/use targets and oil and gas emissions/production.

Here at Project Confederation, we’re very supportive of these ideas – in fact, many of them are ideas we’ve been promoting not just for Alberta, but for all of the west, since we launched as an organization.

So, props to Scott Moe and the Saskatchewan government for pushing us down the right path.

With your continued support, we can’t help but be excited about what we are capable of as we move forward.

Having seen significant success in Alberta already, we will be expanding our work all across Saskatchewan and the other western provinces in the coming months, as we take on Ottawa and prepare for the onslaught of a hostile federal government over the next few years.

If you’d like to get involved in our campaigns, you can sign up to volunteer with us here.

We also need financial support to continue with our work.

If you can afford to help fund our important work, please click here to make a contribution:

Thank you again to everyone for their help with this campaign and we look forward to working with you on many more issues in the future.

Regards,

Josh Andrus
Executive Director
Project Confederation

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Alberta

Project Confederation group urging UCP Leadership hopefuls to consider Alberta first

Published on

Article submitted by Josh Andrus of Project Confederation

The current Alberta government has certainly talked the talk about standing up to the federal government much better than previous administrations.

Actions speak louder than words, though, and action has been sorely lacking.

It has been more than nine months since Albertans strongly voiced their opinion in favour of abolishing equalization from the Constitution.

In the aftermath, the muted response from the federal government speaks volumes – when we called, nobody answered.

It has, therefore, become glaringly obvious that the equalization referendum was not enough to convince Ottawa to come to the table and initiate constitutional talks.

It’s also important to make sure we keep focused not just on any one particular problem, but on the core issue itself – the jurisdictional fight between the federal government and the provinces.

That’s why we need to effectively communicate to every Albertan three things:

  1. How the Canadian federation is supposed to work
  2. How it’s actually being run at the moment
  3. How to fix the problem and get it back to how it should be

1 How Canada is supposed to work is misunderstood (or misrepresented, perhaps deliberately so) all the time by the media, academics, politicians, and many others.

Canada is designed as a federation, and that word actually means something.

A federation is a union of (at least partially) self-governing states or provinces.

The creation of Canada didn’t merge a bunch of provinces, territories, colonies and countries into a single new entity.

Canadian confederation created a system where there was a clear division of powers between the federal government and the provinces.

Many (especially in Ottawa) think that the federal government sits “above” the provinces, suggesting it is more important, more powerful, and can tell the “lower” level of government what to do.

In fact, the federal government has complete sovereignty over the issues they were given jurisdiction over, while the provincial governments have complete sovereignty over the issues they were given jurisdiction over.

In short, Alberta – and all the other provinces – are supposed to be equal partners in this country, not subservient to continuously hostile federal governments in Ottawa.

 

2 Unfortunately, over time, the federal government has exerted jurisdiction over things it’s not supposed to control, and because the federal government gets to appoint federal judges, the federal judges have tended, also over time, to let the federal government get away with this.

Historically, this has involved ever-increasing federal control of natural resources and environmental concerns and the current federal government continued this trend, spending the past seven years trampling all over the constitutional jurisdiction of Alberta – through Bill C-69, Bill C-48, the carbon tax, and more.

Worse, they haven’t just completely ignored Alberta’s complaints about this overreach – they’ve actually continued to make things worse.

Since the equalization referendum, the federal government has continued to roll out even more new federal policies that will take over Alberta’s jurisdiction on a wide range of issues – childcare funding, healthcare rules, agriculture and fertilizer constraints, environment regulations, and more.

The current relationship between federal and provincial governments in Canada is not how it is supposed to be, and it isn’t sustainable.

Something has to give.

 

3 Given this approach by the federal government, it has become abundantly obvious that the equalization referendum was not enough to convince Ottawa to come to the table and negotiate some kind of compromise with Alberta.

Alberta must stand up for itself.

Alberta needs to start saying no to Ottawa, not just asking Ottawa nicely to change their mind.

Alberta must also demand that the Canadian Constitution be re-opened.

If the federal government’s judges are willing to twist the words in the Constitution so much that they become meaningless, then we need to re-write sections of the Constitution to make it crystal clear, in plain language, that the federal government’s current actions will not be tolerated or permitted any longer.

At a minimum, these changes would involve:

  • Abolishing equalization
  • A fair House of Commons
  • An equal Senate
  • Unrestricted free trade (including pipelines)
  • Complete provincial control over resources

Yes, this would be a big change from the current status quo.

But, let’s be clear, that’s only because things have drifted so far from what they are supposed to be.

Albertans are not actually asking for anything unique or radical.

We are simply asking for the federal government to follow the rules of the Constitution as they are written, not as they’ve been twisted to mean since.

And if the federal government won’t even agree to something as simple as that, well… at least we’ll have our answer then

Regards,

Josh Andrus
Executive Director
Project Confederation

PS:  If you’re in a position to contribute financially to our important work fighting for Alberta, you can make a donation here.

 

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