Unequal equalization is due for review

If the huge imbalance in equalization payments is anywhere near what is shown in a recent mailout by Peace River-Westlock MP Arnold Viersen, it is probably overdue for a review. That’s certainly the Viersen position. For some it will be easy to dismiss what he says as being politically motivated. While certainly true (anything to make the feds look bad, etc), the point is valid. A program that was started way back when as a way of the ‘have’ provinces helping out the ‘have nots’ (i.e. the Atlantics) has turned into a gigantic payoff to Quebec to appease separatist sentiment. Or that’s certainly the way it appears.

According to the Viersen version, Quebec received over $11 billion in equalization payments in fiscal 2018/19. Manitoba was second at $2 billion and (in descending order) Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario and PEI. The four provinces with oil got nothing, but paid out plenty.

It follows that Quebec’s ability to offer great social benefits (cheap daycare, etc.) is facilitated by this windfall. No such luck here in Alberta.

Things are out of balance. They have been for a long time.

There’s nothing wrong, in principle, with spreading the wealth around. Federal governments everywhere do it, as a way of keeping federations from splitting up. But it does appear things are too far out of whack and should be brought back to something that makes more sense. This will be a hot topic in both the provincial and federal elections that are expected next year. It’s high time our governments took a hard look at the equalization system.

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