Get set for a traumatic fight over equalization

Kelly McParland
Kelly McParland

The chances of serious reform coming to the program seem slim at best. Quebec isn’t about to willingly give up such a rich supply of easy money. But that doesn’t mean the issue will go away.

Brad Wall isn’t going quietly. The Saskatchewan Premier has just a few weeks left before he retires in favour of a less colourful figure. Yet, far from slipping off into the prairie sunset (which comes early this time of year), he’s still firing off tweets on one of his favourite topics: the absurdity of the federal equalization program.

“Quebec cuts income taxes, sends cheques to parents & balances their budget,” he wrote. Monday. “Next yr they get $11.7 BILLION in equalization, $650 MILLION more than last yr, as SK taxpayers pay in $580M, and get $0..while our finances hurt by stubborn low commodity prices. Something isn’t right.”

Appended was a map of the equalization breakdown, with big fat zeroes on the three western-most provinces, rising to the gargantuan $11.7 billion Quebec will receive in testament to its evidently incurable status as a “have-not”province.

It’s far from the first time Wall has beefed about equalization, which is hard-wired into Canada’s constitution and treated as one of the many absolute rights Canadians now deem theirs by birth. Lately he’s been echoed by Jason Kenney, opposition leader in next-door Canada, who has threatened to hold a referendum on the program should he become premier, though what that might accomplish isn’t clear.


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