I find myself agreeing with Brian McLeod's article calling for Alberta to pull out of the transfer payments. Earlier this year, I recommended to the PMO in Ottawa that the Liberal government phase out the equalization program and replace it with meaningful social programs directed for child care and seniors income support and pharmaceutic programs. The Canada equalization program of 1957 was originally introduced as a program to ensure that provincial governments had sufficient revenue to provide reasonably comparable levels of public services in Canada. A laudable objective. But as Brian McLeod has pointed out, this transfer of wealth created an opportunity to some provinces such as Quebec to use the funds as a government piggy bank, funding some very questionable projects. The original program was replaced with the 1982 Canada Act, which only increased the resentment of the program by Alberta and Saskatchewan.
The reason that I advocated replacing the equalization payments with social programs was to be fair to the citizens of Quebec, who have a growing group of senior citizens and is a province which tends to have large families.
Provinces such as Newfoundland and Labrador would also receive benefits for children and seniors because I found that, surprisingly, Newfoundland and Labrador does not qualify as a 'have not' province and does not receive equalization payments.
Former St. Albert Coun. Ken Allred and I, along with our wives, once spent a week touring Newfoundland, making use of B&B services, and I took time to visit small town offices and other municipal facilities and the information I obtained from them and local folks I talked to left me so impressed with how they did so well with so little financial support from the federal government. The formula now in use has become warped, unfair and insufficient to cope with issues experienced by Newfoundland and surprisingly Alberta when faced with a serious recession such as we are experiencing now.
The time has come for the federal government to 'pull out' of equalization and replace this with a beneficial social program aimed at children and seniors in all of Canada.
Bob Russell, St. Albert