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MORGAN: Bring on the equalization referendum

“I expect that opponents to a yes vote on the referendum will try to paint the referendum as being a proxy vote on Alberta independence. This simply isn’t true. The referendum on equalization is a dress rehearsal for a referendum on independence.”

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Whenever the issue of equalization comes up in Alberta, we are predictably greeted by a chorus of academics chiding everyone for not understanding how the program works. While most Albertans might not understand every bizarre detail of the program, they understand its principles. That’s why we so vociferously oppose it in overwhelming numbers.

We oppose the entire concept of a central government taking our tax dollars and doling them out to provinces based on political goals, rather than actual economic needs. We want the ability to express our opposition to the constitutionally entrenched equalization in no uncertain terms and a referendum is an ideal tool with which to do it.

Spending a few months within a referendum campaign on equalization will provide us with a great opportunity to clear up misconceptions on the program. Provinces do not cut cheques directly to the federal government for equalization. We have our funds taken through federal taxes and fees, they are put into general revenue, and then redistributed back to select provinces through a number of transfers and services.

Between 2007 and 2018, Quebec sucked $171.3 billion more out of Canada than it had put in, while Alberta put in $240 billion more than it got back from the rest of Canada. Equalization transfers made up $107.5 billion of what Quebec took in. While Alberta never wrote a cheque directly to Quebec, let’s not pretend that Alberta isn’t contributing billions to them through equalization. We can clarify that as the campaign progresses.

Critics of tackling equalization point to the lack of a direct province-to-province cheque as evidence this is much ado about nothing.

Let’s put this in simpler terms: If a community association collected homeowners fees from everyone in a neighbourhood and gave all of the cash back to just 50% of the households, the remaining 50% would be losing money. It would be little different than Canada’s equalization formula, except those receiving the money often get to block the driveways of those paying, but not receiving.

Some tall foreheads are telling us we are wasting our time having a referendum on a constitutional issue. There is a formula for constitutional amendments and it would take much more than an Alberta referendum result to trigger it.

In trying to change the constitution through conventional means, Alberta would need to get a super majority of provinces to sign on. Since the majority of provinces enjoy a parasitic benefit from the current equalization setup, it’s unlikely they would ever consent to change it.

While equalization as a concept is constitutionally mandated, the formula for the distribution of it is not. Equalization legislation has seen a number of changes over the decades. Usually, they are done so in order to maximize dollars taken from Alberta and maximize those given to Quebec and to the Atlantic provinces. This was done when non-renewable revenues such as those from oil and gas were factored into provincial income, while hydroelectric revenues in Quebec were exempt. This helps Quebec maintain its perpetual state as a “have-not” province despite having enough economic ability to stand on its own two feet. The formula can be changed legislatively to increase or decrease equalization to any degree. If a large majority of Albertans expressed their discontent with the way equalization is right now, perhaps enough federal politicians will be inspired to change the formula into something a little fairer.

As with most welfare programs, equalization is purportedly supposed to be a program that lends a hand up, rather than a handout. It is supposed to help a province weather bad economic periods in a temporary manner rather than become a permanent entitlement. Quebec has been a recipient of equalization transfers since the inception of the program in 1957. I think we can safely say after 64 years of trying, the equalization program has failed to help Quebec find its way towards economic independence within Canada. While Alberta has seen many economic ups and downs, it has never managed to qualify for a payment in the program’s modern history. No matter how hard times get for Alberta, it is pretty clear that the equalization formula won’t help them out as it sits. It will be difficult to try and paint equalization as a successful national program during the Alberta referendum campaign.

The cost of holding a referendum is negligible in light of the number of dollars being debated. With the entire province holding municipal elections at the same time as the referendum, adding another ballot is hardly an overwhelming task. Direct democracy is valued in Alberta and this example of it will be welcomed by most.

In having a referendum on equalization, Alberta will bring the issue to the table for national discussion. Many Canadians seldom even think about equalization, much less dwell on the inequity of it. That’s a luxury one can have when the program hasn’t been robbing them for decades. Perhaps with a national debate on the merits of the program, we will see support for it declining in other regions as people realize just how odious it is. National discourse is a good thing.

Whether one opposes or supports equalization, they shouldn’t oppose a referendum being held on it. In letting Albertans debate and vote upon this issue, many myths can be put to bed and we can come closer to a resolution on what has been a divisive issue for decades.

I expect opponents to a yes vote on the referendum will try to paint the referendum as being a proxy vote on Alberta independence. This simply isn’t true. The referendum on equalization is a dress rehearsal for a referendum on independence. How the rest of Canada reacts to the outcome of Alberta’s equalization referendum will determine if there is to be another referendum and how Albertans choose to vote in it. The referendum on equalization won’t be a waste of time by any measure.

Cory Morgan is the Alberta Political Columnist for the Western Standard and the Host of the Cory Morgan Show

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. David

    June 20, 2021 at 9:13 am

    Kenney is a political imbecile. Calling this referendum will have exactly the same effect David Cameron enjoyed when he ran on a promise to get a new deal for the U.K. within the EU.

    Oh, by all means Alberta, vote to end or change equalization, and then watch Kenney posture about getting “change”. It will end in political humiliation for him, and more anger for Albertans.

    This referendum, I think, may turn out to be not so much a dress rehearsal for a referendum on independence but a launching platform.

    I hope so too.

  2. Rose

    June 9, 2021 at 1:42 pm

    I’ve no doubt the referendum question will receive massive public support. However, I have little faith Kenney can make it happen. He’ll just half-attempt to cut a deal & negotiate, but compromise the whole thing, getting only a slight wording change (maybe). But in the end, we’ll be no better off.

    But globalist elitist Kenney will still claim a fake victory lap, with one of his bogus “Promises made, promises kept” speeches, of course.

    But Albertans have little patience for blow-hard politicians, and will be even more furious with him by then. This will all coincide with the next election, so UCP will be reduced to dust.

    Thankfully, WIPA will sweep up all the broken pieces to win an overwhelming majority, so true freedom & independence will finally be within our grasp.

  3. Barbara

    June 9, 2021 at 10:53 am

    This referendum is more obfuscation to pacify the masses. To create the illusion we have choices and to boost the UCP.

    We can’t let them divert our attention , our goal to have the same powers, the same control that Quebec has over it’s own Province.

    This referendum needs to be about us HAVING THE SAME RIGHTS AND PRIVILEGES AS QUEBEC.

  4. K

    June 9, 2021 at 10:35 am

    This entire landmass is a parasite. We need to get OUT, like, yesterday.

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News

Civil service mag promotes immunization passports

Any mandatory scheme would see Canadians required to carry proof of vaccination to eat at a restaurant, visit a shopping mall or go to a baseball game, said the magazine.

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A magazine for Canadian public service managers says the country must introduce vaccine passports, says Blacklock’s Reporter.

“The immunity of the population is detrimental for the safe reopening of the economy and various jurisdictions across the world are exploring the idea of immunity certificates as an enabler,” said a commentary in Canadian Government Executive, a periodical published for federal public service managers.

“After a rigorous analysis of the issue of immunity certificates, this article concludes the necessity of immunity certificates in Canada as a key enabler for the safe reopening of the society and economy in a post-Covid world.”

Any mandatory scheme would see Canadians required to carry proof of vaccination to eat at a restaurant, visit a shopping mall or go to a baseball game, said the magazine.

“They can also be used to promote economic activities such as workplace safety, tourism etcetera,” said the periodical.

The magazine acknowledged Canadians were divided on the issue and numerous foreign jurisdictions have banned vaccine passports.

“It is important to note in the United States several states such as Florida, Texas, Arizona etcetera have either banned or prevented the mandatory use,” said the commentary.

Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien in a May 19 statement said vaccine passports breached the Privacy Act since they compelled users and non-users alike to disclose personal health information to access public facilities.

“There must be clear legal authority for introducing use of vaccine passports,” said Therrien, adding Parliament would require “a newly enacted public health order or law” before any mandatory scheme could be introduced.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a January 14 podcast called it a divisive issue.

“I think the indications that the vast majority of Canadians are looking to get vaccinated will get us to a good place without having to take more extreme measures that could have real divisive impacts on community and country,” said Trudeau.

“I think it’s an interesting idea but I think it is also fraught with challenges. We are certainly encouraging and motivating people to get vaccinated as quickly as possible. We always know there are people who won’t get vaccinated, and not necessarily through a personal or political choice.

“There are medical reasons. There are a broad range of reasons why someone might not get vaccinated. I’m worried about creating undesirable effects in our community.”

Federal research shows about 12% of Canadians would refuse a COVID-19 vaccine under any circumstances. A total of 26% said they did not trust the Public Health Agency, according to the Statistics Canada report.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Canada Post to make bank on lending operations

The union said loans would be issued in a test project at post offices in Halifax and Bridgewater, N.S. and surrounding rural areas, as well as Calgary and Red Deer by year’s end.

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“A roll of stamps and $30,000 please.”

That will soon be possible as, for the first time in 53 years, Albertans will be able to go to the post office for a loan.

Blacklock’s Reporter said Canada Post on Thursday confirmed outlets in Alberta and Nova Scotia will broker cash loans for the Toronto Dominion Bank.

“The market test goal is to offer the new financial service in over 249 Canada Post locations before the end of 2021,” the Canadian Union of Postal Workers said in a statement.

Post offices would offer Toronto Dominion loans of $1,000 to $30,000 at “competitive rates.”

Post offices currently sell money orders, gift cards and process electronic cash transfers but disbanded deposit-taking postal banks in 1968.

The union said loans would be issued in a test project at post offices in Halifax and Bridgewater, N.S. and surrounding rural areas, as well as Calgary and Red Deer by year’s end.

“CUPW continues to support the creation of an independent postal bank despite our current partnership with Toronto Dominion Bank,” said the union.

“Partnering with a financial institution does not put an end to the goal of an independent postal bank.”

Parliament in an 1867 Postal Act allowed post offices to hold cash deposits and offer cheque-cashing services. Postal banks at their peak in 1908 held the equivalent of a billion dollars on deposit.

A 2016 Department of Public Works survey found 39% of small business owners nationwide, and 44% on the Prairies, said they would use Canada Post banking services if offered.

The department paid $142,137 for the study by Ekos Research Associates Inc.

“I think Canada Post is very open to increased financial services, not necessarily ‘postal banking’,” Brenda McAuley, national president of the Canadian Postmasters and Assistants Association, said in an earlier interview.

“I think the word ‘banking’ scares a lot of people. The banks don’t think it is necessary.

“There are islands in British Columbia where people have to take a ferry to get to a bank. We will look at pilot projects. I’ve got quite a few places on my radar.”

Canada Post in its 2020 Annual Report said it was “reinventing our retail model” at 6,084 post offices nationwide, including “assessing new financial services and options” mainly in rural Canada.

“Our vast retail network of post offices and dealer outlets across the country provides convenient locations and services with many of them offering evening and weekend hours to meet the changing needs of Canadians,” wrote management.

Jessica McDonald, then-chair of the Canada Post board, in 2018 testimony at the Commons government operations committee said the Crown corporation was “very open-minded” on resuming postal bank services.

“Postal banking has been under a tremendous amount of discussion and continues to be,” said McDonald.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Vancouver’s Stanley Park shut down at night because of fire threat

“The closure is being activated in an effort to reduce the fire risk to the park, which is extreme due to the current drought conditions and sustained heat events.”

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The risk of fire is so extreme in Vancouver’s iconic Stanley Park, officials are to start closing it on a nightly basis.

“The Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation will be temporarily closing all non-essential access to Stanley Park between the hours of 10 pm and 6 am beginning tonight,” said the board in a Friday statement.

“The closure is being activated in an effort to reduce the fire risk to the park, which is extreme due to the current drought conditions and sustained heat events.”

The board said park rangers will set up temporary overnight access control points at five locations.

“The current conditions in Stanley Park are extreme right now and given the size of the park, the risk of a fire breaking out overnight when fewer people may notice it or report it presents a significant threat to the wellbeing of the park, its trees, wildlife, and everyone who relies on the park and its ongoing health,” said Amit Gandha, Director of Park Operations.

“We have been in close contact with our partners at Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services as well as the Vancouver Police Department and they fully support this proactive measure to reduce the risk of a catastrophic fire in the park.”

Vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, and anyone who does not require access to the park will be turned around at access control points. 

Anyone requiring entry into the park during the closure, including the #19 bus, emergency services, patrons, and staff of park businesses, will be permitted to enter through the control points. Individuals who remain in the park after the closure begins will have unrestricted access to leave the park through the control points, said the board.

The access control points will be positioned at the following locations:

  • Traffic circle off Georgia St
  • The corner of Barclay and Park Lane
  • The corner of Beach Ave and Park Lane
  • The south exit of the Stanley Park Causeway
  • The north exit of the Stanley Park Causeway

The Causeway will remain open but access to the seawall will be closed.

The temporary closure will be in effect seven days a week beginning Friday, July 30 and will extend indefinitely until the fire risk has been significantly reduced.

Stanley Park is Vancouver’s largest urban park, with more than 400 hectares of naturalized West Coast forest. The park has approximately half a million trees – mostly cedar, fir, and hemlock – some of which are hundreds of years old.

Hundreds of wildfires are currently burning across BC.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter.com/nobby7694

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