MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY - Red Deer-Mountain View Conservative MP Earl Dreeshen says until the results of referendum planned to take place in conjunction with the October 2021 Alberta municipal election are known, it is difficult to say what the federal government of the day might do in response.
Put forward by the Jason Kenney UCP government, the referendum will ask voters the following: “Should Section 36(2) of the Constitution Act, 1982 – Parliament and the Government of Canada’s commitment to the principle of making equalization payments – be removed from the Constitution?”
“The first thing is that the whole point of taking this to the people from the province’s perspective is just to see where Albertans are,” said Dreeshen. “Let’s see what Albertans have to say.
“If they believe there is some legitimacy to it and leverage, then that would be what the province would feel entitled to bring to the federal government.
“I think once we know what the people of Alberta have to say, it would certainly be something that would be on the agenda for discussion. You would then have to look at what is taking place.”
Equalization is the federal government’s transfer program designed to address fiscal imbalances between provinces.
The issue of equalization payments is important for Alberta, says Premier Kenney.
“Albertans elected this government to get a fair deal for them, and that’s exactly what this referendum is about,” said Kenney.
“For too long, Albertans have been forced to subsidize public services in other parts of the country where politicians have been trying to block our pipelines and impair our vital economic interests, even during times of great economic hardship for us.”
Albertans want reforms that recognize “our province’s role in creating national prosperity,” he said.
Asked if he sees Alberta’s referendum question as a protest against the federal government, MP Dreeshen said, “There are a lot of issues and a lot of concerns. A lot of people have been looking at some of the difficulties that we have based on the federal government actions, whether it be pipelines or whether it be on the ability to move into natural resource development across the country.”
The Alberta official Opposition has asked federal Conservative leader Erin O’Toole whether, if elected to form government, he would remove equalization from the constitution.
“Amending the constitution is a long and complex process at the best of times and it certainly won’t happen without the determined support of at least one leader of a major federal party,” said NDP leader Rachel Notley.
“If Mr. O’Toole will not commit to this then the referendum exercise is simply a $10-million stunt to slow the collapse of Jason Kenney’s poll numbers and not a serious plan to get Albertans back to work.”
Dreeshen’s riding includes all of Mountain View County and portions of Red Deer County.