Published:November 5, 2021
-Spencer Fernando News&Commentary
The energy wealth of Alberta has made possible the construction of countless schools, hospitals, roads, and much more across our nation. Why is that being ignored?
If someone constantly helps you pay your bills, provides you with financial support and job opportunities, wouldn’t it make sense to feel some gratitude towards them?
Particularly in our personal lives, we would look negatively upon someone who received help from others without showing any gratitude whatsoever.
Even worse would be someone who received all of that help, yet not only criticized those who helped them, but actively tried to impoverish those who helped them, all the while still demanding their financial support.
Almost instinctively, we feel grateful for those who help us, and gratitude is a key part of not only our personal relationships, but in the relationships between different parts of a country.
With that in mind, the lack of gratitude shown to Alberta by most of Canada is stunning.
In a 2019 column, the National Post discussed how – in the 11 years preceding – Alberta had paid a net $240 billion to the rest of the country:
“In just 11 years, Albertans have paid out almost $240 billion to the rest of Canada.
That number is more than one-and-a-half times as much as B.C. and Ontario combined, whose taxpayers pitched in $54.6 billion and $97.9 billion respectively, the other two largest net contributors to the federal balance sheet.”
In that same time period (2007-2018), Quebec received a net $171.3 billion.
Put in per capita terms, the contribution of Albertans is immense:
“The numbers from Statistics Canada show that Alberta’s $240 billion comes to about $5,000 a year — for 11 years — for Alberta’s taxpayers.
Ben Eisen, a senior fellow with the Fraser Institute’s Provincial Prosperity Initiative, said the results, per capita, were hard to ignore.
“Despite economic challenges which could reduce net contribution to federal finances, it still remains true that Alberta is a major net contributor to public finances,” he said in a phone interview.
“Far more tax revenue comes to Ottawa from Albertans than what comes back to Alberta in terms of federal services and transfers.””
Furthermore, from 1961 to 2017, Alberta paid net $600 billion more to the rest of the country than they received.
Quite often, Quebec has used the money coming in to the province from equalization (mostly from Alberta), to expand government services and/or cut taxes.
This means Albertan taxpayers are having to fund the standard of living in other parts of the country.
Which brings us back to the example I used to lead off the article.
It is simply a fact that the standard of living enjoyed by many Quebec residents is in large part reliant upon money that is taken away from Alberta.
This should, in a logical world, lead to Quebec feeling a great degree of gratitude towards Alberta.
Imagine how many schools, hospitals, bridges, highways, fire halls, police stations, and more were in Quebec (and other provinces) with money earned by Albertans.
And, even if we are looking at things from a purely self-interested lens, it would make sense for Quebec to support the expansion of Alberta’s energy sector, since – under the current equalization system – more wealth for Alberta means more wealth for Quebec.
But of course, we see the exact opposite.
Quebec politicians demonizing the energy sector
Politicians in Quebec, whether provincial politicians, or federal politicians like Justin Trudeau, seem to almost revel in demonizing the Alberta oil & gas industry.
And beyond demonizing the industry, they actively seek to restrict it.
Quebec constantly opposes pipelines that could bring Alberta’s energy resources into the province, choosing instead to buy foreign oil from countries like Saudi Arabia.
Politicians like Trudeau love to fly around the world and virtue-signal about how they will restrict the oil & gas sector, while still supporting the equalization program that is heavily dependent on the revenue from that sector.
Dysfunctional & exploitative relationship
The way things are, with Alberta expected to provide a large amount of money to other provinces and the federal government, while having their ability to earn that money restricted by those same provinces and the feds is highly dysfunctional and exploitative.
It’s that feeling of exploitation that has understandably led Alberta to reject the current equalization system.
Remember, many Albertans were okay with the current system when the federal government was supportive of the energy sector.
This makes sense, since people are willing to help others when they feel that help is appreciated and acknowledged. And, when people feel that everyone has a fair opportunity to succeed and become more prosperous, there is not nearly as much concern or anger about paying into a system that benefits others more than ourselves.
But now, with the Canadian economy severely damaged, surging inflation, a carbon tax that goes up every year and new restrictions set to be imposed on the oil & gas sector, is it any wonder that Albertans are fed up with being taken advantage of and exploited?
Politicians who are dismissing the equalization referendum are making a big mistake. Ignoring it, and maintaining the current unfair and exploitative system will only further drive a wedge between Alberta and the rest of Canada.
This is also a warning to the Conservative Party in particular. If they decide to support Quebec’s pushback against losing a seat in the upcoming redistribution (with Alberta set to gain 3), and if they don’t take a strong stand in favour of Alberta’s demand for a fair deal, they will be punished more and more by their base.
And of course, while Justin Trudeau may be enjoying the exploitation of Alberta and may love using the province as a punching bag for his own political benefit, history will not look kindly on a ‘leader’ who pits Canadians against each other, drives a wedge between regions, and wrecks the great prosperity engine of the nation.
One way or another, the dysfunctional relationship between Canada and Alberta will end. Either enough Canadians will wake up in time and show gratitude to Alberta (including reforming/ending the unfair equalization system), or a critical mass of Albertans will decide to seek their future independently.
The latter would be a tragedy for this country, but if that takes place the responsibility will be with those politicians like Justin Trudeau and provincial politicians in other provinces who have benefitted from the economic exploitation of Albertans.