Alberta barely rejects permanent daylight time; majority supports ending equalization
A tiny majority of Albertans voted against the province adopting year-round daylight time in the referendum by Alberta’s United Conservative government.
Less than 3,000 votes separated the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ camps, results released Tuesday morning show. Across the province, 50.2 per cent of voters voted ‘no,’ while 49.8 per cent voted yes.
However, the vote in favour of removing the federal equalization program from Canada’s constitution earned a strong majority at 61.7 per cent.
Since equalization is enshrined in the Canadian constitution, a change to the national program would require a minimum of seven provincial legislatures representing at least 50 per cent of the country's population to support it. In addition, the resolution would need to pass a vote in both the House of Commons and Senate.
CONVERSATIONS WITH OTTAWA
As the government had promised earlier, Premier Jason Kenney said Tuesday he would introduce a motion in the legislative assembly to ratify the results. The next step is to formally initiate a constitutional amendment negotiation with Ottawa on equalization.
He called the referendum result a powerful and democratic statement by Albertans for a “fair deal in the Canadian federation” and a symbol of frustration over federal policies, which have hurt the province’s economy.
“This referendum was always about creating political facts and creating legal facts. The federal government, in our view, clearly has an obligation to take this seriously and negotiate with us if they want to respect the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada from 1998,” Kenney told media.
“If the rest of Canada wants to be partners in prosperity with us, great. But please let us actually develop our economy and the resources that we own as Albertans in a responsible way.”
However, Kenney told reporters only Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe has expressed to him support for removing equalization from the constitution.
“We are realistic in recognizing that this likely would not achieve 7+50 [the minimum required provincial participation for a constitutional amendment] but that doesn’t prevent us from initiating negotiations with the federal government,” Kenney said.
“If we don’t have a willing partner on the other side, then we move to these other demands that constitute Alberta’s fight for a fair deal.”
Kenney said he didn’t expect an immediate response from the federal government, which appointed a new cabinet Tuesday morning. However, he said he’d communicate the “urgency.”
'AS CLOSE AS IT GETS TO A TIE'
According to the order-in-council approving the referendum on daylight time, that result is legally binding.
Given the majority of referendum participants voted to keep changing clocks twice a year, Service Minister Nate Glubish said his ministry would no longer pursue the option.
However, he said Alberta would keep an eye on neighbouring provinces, territories, and states that are considering a move to permanent daylight time.
He also defended the wording of the referendum question, which proposed if Alberta was to make a change, it would be to move to permanent daylight time or year-round “summer hours.”
“Given that it would be important that we not move in an opposite direction and be completely out of sync with all of our trading partners and the rest of the continent, that the choice should be between the status quo of changing our clocks twice a year or locking the clocks to permanent daylight time,” Glubish said.
Kenney added, “We thought it was important to consult Albertans on whether they wanted to follow suit. It’s as close as it gets to a tie.”
Also on the Oct. 18 ballot were Senate nominations.
Three federal Conservative members earned the most votes: Pam Davidson, Erika Barootes, and Mykhailo Martyniouk.
They earned 18.2 per cent, 17.1 per cent, and 11.3 per cent of the vote, respectively.
In Canada, prime ministers appoint senators. Alberta currently has five. Three were appointed by Justin Trudeau and two were appointed by Stephen Harper.
There are two vacant seats. Kenney said he would introduce a second motion on Tuesday calling on Prime Minister Trudeau to “respect the basic principle of democracy” by filling the chairs with Alberta’s elected nominees.
“These are enormous democratic mandates. There is a convention of prime ministers respecting Alberta senate democracy and this shouldn’t be difficult. It shouldn’t be controversial to simply respect democracy,” Kenney comments.
He said he would also be recommending the nominees apply through the federal senate appointment advisory council.
BY THE NUMBERS
Nearly 1,093,000 Albertans voted in the referendums.
On the question of year-round daylight time, some 24,300 ballots were rejected and 22,900 were left blank.
In both of the province’s largest cities, the majority sided against making a change.
In Lloydminster, Alberta and Saskatchewan’s border city, four times the number of people who voted ‘no’ checked ‘yes’ on their ballot.
But western communities were divided: Grande Prairie in the province’s north and Banff in the south both saw a majority vote ‘no.’ High Level, in Alberta’s most northwestern corner, and Rocky Mountain House, in western-central Alberta, boh saw a majority vote in favour of year-round daylight time.
On the question of equalization, more ballots were rejected or left blank: nearly 51,000 and 49,300, respectively.
In Calgary, some 61,600 more people voted in favour of Alberta trying to start a conversation on equalization with Ottawa.
Edmonton was one of five districts in the entire province in which a majority voted the opposite way. The capital city saw about 8,500 more votes against than in favour. The other four districts who saw a ‘no’ majority were all towns in or near Alberta’s national mountain parks: Banff, Waterton, Jasper, and Canmore.
Four districts tied.
The senate nomination election saw about 1,119,000 go to the polls. A total of roughly 418,000 ballots were either rejected or left blank.
Alberta’s premier denied voter turnout undermined the referendum results or senate nominations. Kenney suggested the 38 per cent turnout was high because of the extra ballot questions, and that the ‘yes’ vote to remove equalization would have been even stronger if held during a provincial or federal election.