Sixty-seven billion dollars.
That’s how much the federal government’s equalization scheme has cost Alberta taxpayers since its inception in 1957.
This year, equalization will cost Alberta taxpayers nearly $3 billion. That means that equalization will cost an Alberta family of four about $2,600 this year on average.
Since equalization was created, Albertans have received less than 0.02 per cent of all equalization payments. The last penny paid to Wild Rose County from equalization was all the way back in 1965.
Equalization is only one federal program that redistributes money away from Alberta taxpayers. After considering all the money the feds tax and spend, Albertans have paid more than $600 billion more to Ottawa than the province received back in federal spending since 1961.
What has all this money bought Albertans? Hostility.
Despite Albertans continuing to reject carbon taxes, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax will soak a family for $30 every time a family fuels up their minivan in 2030. Trudeau’s $170 per tonne carbon tax is expected to result in 30,000 fewer jobs in Alberta. Late last year, Trudeau also announced a second carbon tax through fuel regulations that could cost more than 6,800 Alberta jobs.
Through its No More Pipelines Law, discriminatory West Coast tanker ban, rejection of the Northern Gateway pipeline and moving the regulatory goal posts on the Energy East pipeline, the federal government has dealt blow after blow to Alberta’s energy industry and workers. Billions of dollars in resource projects that would boost Alberta’s economy have been stalled or cancelled since the downturn began in part because of politicians and governments in other provinces, according to Secondstreet.org.
When President Joe Biden pulled the plug on Keystone XL, Trudeau barely batted an eye. But when the Line 5 pipeline was in jeopardy, Trudeau’s natural resources minister said Ottawa would be “fighting for Line 5 on every front.”
What explains the different approach? Postmedia columnist Lorne Gunter summed it up:
“The biggest difference – the only difference – between Line 5 and January’s announcement of the cancelling of Keystone is that the hurt from the closure of Line 5 would have been felt mostly in regions of the country that vote Liberal.”
The feds have poured extra money into every province during the pandemic. But with Albertans paying hundreds of billions more to the feds than received back since the 60s, it’s clear that any dollar spent in Alberta is first taken from Alberta taxpayers.
Once the dust from the pandemic settles, the federal roadblocks to Alberta’s development will still be there. And if history is a good indicator, Albertans will be tasked with paying back an over-sized portion of the federal government’s debt-fueled spending spree.
Politicians in other provinces have also kicked Alberta while its down. In British Columbia, politicians pledged to “employ every tool available” to block Alberta pipelines. In Quebec, Premier François Legault called Alberta’s oil “dirty energy” and said there’s “no social acceptability” for another oil pipeline. This year, Legault will be cashing in on $13 billion from equalization, which is about $1,500 per Quebecer that he gets to spend however he fancies.
So, what has all this equalization money bought Albertans? Politicians in the rest of Canada that make it harder for Alberta families to put food on the table.
There is no silver bullet that will solve all these problems over night. But the first step in Alberta’s fight for fairness is voting yes to abolish this equalization status quo in the referendum on October 18.
This column was first published in the Calgary Sun on Oct. 15, 2021.