'Time for Ottawa to start working for us': Kenney announces plan to get Alberta 'fair deal' in federation
EDMONTON -- The Government of Alberta will be opening offices in three other provinces to defend the province's economic interests as part of a plan to address what the premier calls a "deep sense of inequity and unfairness in Canada's prairies."
Speaking at a Manning Centre conference in Red Deer, Premier Jason Kenney revealed his plan to get the province a fairer deal in the federation.
"Albertans have been working for Ottawa for too long. It's time for Ottawa to start working for us," Kenney announced to applause.
"After five years of economic decline and stagnation, Ottawa must meet us half way. They must stop taking us for granted, and they must start listening to us," he said, drawing an analogy of Alberta's relationship with Ottawa.
"They need to understand they're killing the golden goose. They have both fists wrapped around the throat of that goose—the source of the gold that paid for quality services across Canada—and they're squeezing it hard."
The plan is for Alberta to open offices in Ottawa, Quebec and B.C., and introduce legislation that would allow Albertans to petition for a referendum.
Kenney said Alberta would fight to see its own earned dollars benefit the province more, by having non-renewable resource revenues excluded from the equzliation formula, imposing a cap on equalization transfers, and demanding reforms to employment insurance.
Additionally, the government has created a "Fair Deal Panel" to look at the benefit of Alberta ending several arrangements with the federal government, like the Canada-Alberta Tax Collection Agreement, Canada Pension Plan and the Alberta Police Service Agreement. The panel will explore instead Alberta forming an agreement to collect federal taxes in Alberta, and creating its own Alberta Pension Plan and provincial police force.
"We are demanding a fair deal now for Alberta within Canada, one that respects the constitution and gets Ottawa out of the way so we can do what we do best, what Alberta has always done," Kenney told the crowd.
"Grow our economy, create jobs, get back to work, and generate an oversized contribution to Canada's wealth."
The panel—comprised in part by former Reform Party founder and Calgary-Southwest Member of Parliament, Preston Manning, and former president and CEO of Alberta Innovates and son of a former premier, Stephen Lougheed—will also examine:
- Opting out of federal cost-share programs with full compensation, like the proposed pharmacare program;
- Enacting, like Quebec, a system in which public bodies like municipalities and school boards need provincial appoval before entering into federal government agreements;
- Asking for tax points in return for federal cash transfers; and
- Creating a provincial constitution.
Kenney promised only changes that received majority support from Albertans would be made, but the Official Opposition called Kenney's comments dangerous.
"Jason Kenney never talked to Albertans about putting their pensions in jeopardy in the last election and Albertans cannot trust Jason Kenney to be anywhere near their retirement savings," read a statement from Alberta NDP Leader, Rachel Notley.
"Instead of getting to work on the priorities of Albertans… he is exploiting the real frustrations of everyday Albertans by sowing the seeds of separation with tired ideas from decades ago. Alberta is part of Canada, and Jason Kenney needs to accept that."
In Red Deer, however, Kenney clarified his own stance while briefly commenting on the growth of western separatism sentiment, nicknamed Wexit, that bubbled up after the federal election.
While Kenney said he is as angry and frustrated as other Albertans, he considers himself a Canadian patriot.
"We all agree that the status quo is unacceptable," Kenney said in Red Deer. "For me—and I believe most Albertans—giving up on Canada forever is not the answer to this problem."
The Fair Deal Panel will consult with the public and stakeholders between Nov. 16 and Jan. 30, 2020.
Its other members include:
- Oryssia Lennie
- Jason Goodstriker
- Donna Kennedy-Glans
- Moin Yahya PhD
- Drew Barnes
- Miranda Rosin
- Tany Yao
The group will hand in a report by the end of March.