Alberta Premier Jason Kenney reiterated his government’s pledge to hold a referendum on equalization payments, an issue the province has no power to unilaterally change, at a Thursday news conference.
Kenney said the equalization question would be put to voters during municipal elections this fall across the province.
“On October the 18th, as we’ve committed to in our platform, Albertans will be going to the polls to vote on reforming equalization on saying yes to a fair deal,” Kenney said.
A referendum was a UCP election promise in 2019 and a recommendation of the fair deal panel, which studied how Alberta could exert more independence.
The premier reiterated comments he’s made in the past about the vote being a means of achieving leverage “as we fight for a fair deal on all fronts and fight for a strong Alberta economy.”
“I’ve always said that a yes vote on the principle of equalization does not automatically change equalization, it doesn’t remove it from the Constitution. We cannot do that unilaterally,” Kenney said.
“What it does is to elevate Alberta’s fight for fairness to the top of the national agenda, in a sense, it takes a page out of Quebec’s playbook.”
Kenney said his government believes a referendum would force the federal government to negotiate in good faith, based on a Supreme Court ruling tied to Quebec’s separation referendum.
Alberta would need federal government approval for any change and seven of 10 provinces would have to agree to any constitutional amendments. Quebec, B.C. and Ontario also have veto power.
In addition to equalization, Kenney said there would be a vote on whether to get rid of daylight saving and that there would be a ballot to pick federal senators to represent the province in Ottawa.
Senators are not elected in Canada.
Kenney said he raised the issue with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during his visit to Calgary last week.
At that time, Trudeau reiterated that there is already a process in place for appointing senators, but Kenney said the prime minister did open the door a little by saying those elected should apply through the federal government’s process.
“If they go through that process, and they also happen to prevail in your provincial election, maybe that’s something that we would consider,” Kenney said of Trudeau’s comments.
A vote on pulling the province out of the Canada Pension Plan and creating a new Alberta Pension Plan will not be held, nor will a vote on creating a provincial police force.
Finance Minister Travis Toews said work continues to assess the risks and benefits of creating a provincial plan and could be addressed in the future.
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