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Alberta

Equalization Program grows to record $20.9 Billion – Fairness Alberta looking to Ontario and BC for support

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This article submitted by Fairness Alberta

FAIRNESS ALBERTA: RECORD EQUALIZATION PAYMENTS IN BUDGET ARE UNFAIR, UNAFFORDABLE, AND UNNECESSARY

Fairness Alberta has released an analysis highlighting how this year’s federal budget allocates a record $20.9 billion to the Equalization program and plans to hike payments to so-called ‘have not’ provinces by 20% over the next four years.

Fairness Alberta Executive Director Dr. Bill Bewick is calling on Canadians in British Columbia and Ontario in particular – who will pay roughly $2,400 per family of four this year into payments for others – to join Albertans in demanding Equalization reform.

“The $20 billion-and-growing price tag for Equalization payments to 30% of the country is not just unaffordable, it is totally unfair and unnecessary given how much the gap between the ‘have’ and ‘have not’ provinces shrunk since 2015,” said Dr. Bewick. “When you consider the higher costs and budget struggles in places like Ontario, B.C., and Alberta, it is unacceptable to take so much from them to fund other provinces’ budgets, and outrageous that this would increase by 20% over the next four years.”

Fairness Alberta used the most recent Library of Parliament breakdown of federal revenues by province to estimate the share of Equalization funding that comes from each province, and broke it down to a per capita basis.

Alberta families are contributing about $2,700 to cover this year’s record Equalization payments, and Ontario and B.C. families are on the hook for about $2,400 each at a time when every provincial government is under tremendous strain.  Fairness Alberta recently called for a rebate to contributing provinces until a new formula is worked out or Equalization is scrapped altogether.

“The 67% of Canadians in the contributing provinces were struggling with their own provincial services even before COVID-19,” said Dr. Bewick.  “Given the collapse of the wealth gap between provinces, the ‘have’ provinces should get the share of Equalization that came from their taxpayers rebated until serious reforms are made.”

As Dr. Bewick outlined recently in the National Post, even a 50% rebate would mean a bump to provincial budgets of $4 billion in Ontario, and $1.5 billion being returned to B.C. and Alberta as provincial responsibilities like health care come under strain.

Fairness Alberta is a grassroots, non-partisan, and non-separatist association of concerned citizens, aiming to increase awareness across the country related to Albertans’ major contributions to Canada, while also providing clear, factual information on unfair federal policies that are anticipated to undermine the prosperity of Alberta and other contributing provinces further.

Fairness Alberta previously released analysis and recommendations for reforms to Equalization and the Fiscal Stabilization program, with an overview of fiscal federalism as well at fairnessalberta.ca.

Our previous releases, interviews, columns, and presentations to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance can be found in the NEWS section of our website. For more information on Fairness Alberta, its mandate, and future plans, please visit our website at www.fairnessalberta.ca.

For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact:

Bill Bewick, Ph.D.
Executive Director
Fairness Alberta
Cell: (780) 996-6019
Email: [email protected]

Background Calculations:

Ben Eisen and Milagros Palacios recently published a reportshowing the “Great Convergence” in provincial fortunes since the 2015 energy downturn.  While the gap between the median ‘have’ and ‘have not’ fell from $5000 per person in 2015 to only $1600 now, Equalization payments grew by 23%. This year’s $20.9 billion windfall to 5 provinces with one-third of the population is budgeted for $25.1 billion in 4 years.

Using the contribution rates to federal revenues by province last updated here we broke down Equalization funding per capita as follows:

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Alberta

Two deputy chief medical officers resign from their positions with Alberta Health

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Edmonton – Alberta’s two deputy chief medical officers of health are leaving their roles — less than a month after Dr. Deena Hinshaw was removed as the province’s top doctor.

Health Minister Jason Copping confirmed during question period Wednesday that both of the doctors have submitted letters of resignation.

“They are still continuing to work at this point in time,” he said in the legislature. “We are in the process of actually looking to fill those roles.”

A statement from Alberta Health said Dr. Rosana Salvaterra and Dr. Jing Hu, who are listed as public health physicians on the department’s website, have given notice.

When reached by her department email, Salvaterra responded: “Unfortunately, we are not able to comment.”

She later added that she respects and admires both Dr. Hinshaw and Dr. Hu.

“They are brilliant, hard-working, and compassionate public health physicians and I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to work alongside them for these past 14 months.”

Salvaterra, who has extensive public health experience including as the medical officer of health for Peterborough, Ont., joined the office in October 2021.

Her career in public health includes work in “the COVID-19 response, mental health, the opioid response, women’s health, poverty reduction, health equity, community food security and building stronger relationships with First Nations.”

Hu’s out-of-office message said her “last day at work with Alberta Health was Nov. 18, 2022,” and noted she wouldn’t have access to the department email after that date.

She got extensive training in China and at the University of Calgary before joining the health department in January 2020.

Their resignations came within a month of Hinshaw, who became the face of Alberta’s public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic, being removed from her position.

Hinshaw was replaced by Dr. Mark Joffe, a senior executive member of Alberta Health Services, on an interim basis.

“Dr. Joffe will be supported by medical officers of health within AHS, by other staff in the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, and by the Public Health Division,” said the statement from Alberta Health late Wednesday.

“We expect these changes to have no impact on the department’s and Dr. Joffe’s ability to meet the requirements of the Public Health Act.”

Hinshaw’s dismissal didn’t come as a surprise.

Premier Danielle Smith announced on her first day in office in October that she would be replaced.

Smith has made it clear that she blames both Hinshaw and Alberta Health Services for failing to deliver the best advice and care for Albertans as the hospital system came close to buckling in successive waves of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A lot of the bad decisions were made by Alberta Health Services on the basis of bad advice from the chief medical officer of health,” Smith told reporters on Oct. 22.

Smith has not placed the blame on front-line doctors and nurses but broadly on AHS senior management. Joffe, while serving as chief medical officer of health, retains his role in AHS senior management as a vice-president responsible for areas in cancer and clinical care.

Hinshaw, an Alberta-trained public health specialist, became a celebrity of sorts in the first wave of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, as she delivered regular, sometimes daily, updates to Albertans on the virus, its spread and methods to contain it.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2022.

— By Colette Derworiz in Calgary.

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Alberta

Alberta introduces bill for $2.8 billion in inflation-fighting payouts, rollbacks

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Edmonton – The Alberta government has introduced legislation to implement inflation-fighting rebates and payouts announced recently by Premier Danielle Smith.

Affordability Minister Matt Jones says the changes allow for help for families, seniors and the vulnerable soon.

Middle- to lower-income families, those with a household income of less than $180,000 a year, are to get $600 over six months for each child under 18 years of age.

The same income threshold and benefit applies to seniors, and the payout will also go to those on disability supports.

There will be electricity rebates and the 13 per cent provincial tax on gasoline is suspended from January to June.

The total cost of the package is pegged at $2.8 billion.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2022.

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