Well, you’re in luck. The provincial government wants you to have your say on Canada’s equalization program during the province-wide municipal elections on Oct. 18th, 2021.
Premier Jason Kenney is right to embrace some direct democracy.
Empowering people also empowers politicians because they know that voters are in their corner. Referendums also help the people hold politicians accountable between elections, force debates into the open and make government decisions more transparent.
For decades, Alberta governments have been making the case to Ottawa that Albertans put far more money into Confederation than we get back. Remember the old cartoon of the cow being fed in the west and milked in the east.
Since 1961, Albertans have sent about $600 billion more into Ottawa than we get back.
Equalization is part of that, costing Alberta taxpayers about $3 billion a year, or over $600 per person.
That’s a big pay-out, and one would think it would buy Alberta some goodwill.
Instead, Ottawa refused to get involved when British Columbia tried to block our pipelines and Quebec Premier Francois Legault wasn’t admonished when he said: “there’s no social acceptability for an additional oil pipeline,” and called our oil “dirty energy.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau barely peeped when U.S. President Joe Biden cancelled the Keystone XL pipeline. Trudeau also imposed one carbon tax and now he’s gearing up to hammer families with a second carbon tax through fuel regulations.
The feds and other provinces continue to take our money and kick us while we’re down.
Goodwill is scanty.
Premiers Peter Lougheed, Rachel Notley and now Kenney have pushed for a better deal for Albertans for a long time. Alberta politicians have politely pleaded with the eastern powers on everything from the National Energy Program, the mistreatment of Alberta’s energy sector and unfair equalization.
Ottawa remains hard of hearing.
Perhaps politicians on Parliament Hill will listen directly to the people of Alberta instead.
It’s time to step over the ropes.
The equalization referendum means much more than fighting an unfair scheme that takes money from Albertans and dumps it into the bank accounts of eastern provinces.
It’s Albertans’ chance to send Trudeau a clear message that the status quo must change.
Everyday Albertans care about equalization, and this referendum is a good way to tell Ottawa that our complaints are not just academic.
Even the risk of a referendum can be a powerful tool.
For example: many academic and political elites have been calling for a new provincial sales tax. Those calls were gaining steam until Kenney confirmed to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation that there would be no sales tax without a referendum and a say-so from the people.
It’s interesting that the majority of the sales tax cheerleaders shy away from holding a referendum on their great idea. Turns out they don’t want to look people in the eye before taking their money.
We have a great example of the power of a successful referendum here at home. Former premier Notley made funding an Olympic bid for Calgary conditional on a referendum.
If boosters wanted to spend taxpayers’ money, they would need to get their permission first.
The people voted no to the Olympics boondoggle and that was that.
Many opponents of direct democracy say allowing public involvement makes it harder for politicians to make difficult decisions. But the opposite is true. A show of force by Albertans would strengthen our leaders’ hands to take the fight to Ottawa.
The upcoming referendum on equalization puts government power in the hands of the very people it should: the taxpayers who are footing the bills.
Kevin Lacey is Alberta Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and Campaign Director of Fightequalization.ca.
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