Alberta to chase feds on equalization
Last Updated: Thursday, January 14, 2010 | 7:26 PM MT
Alberta's new finance minister, Ted Morton, has the job of negotiating a new equalization deal with Ottawa. (CBC)One day after shuffling his cabinet, Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach is signalling a confrontation with the federal government over equalization.
Stelmach has put his new finance minister, Ted Morton, in charge of negotiating with Ottawa to update the equalization deal because he says it doesn't work for Albertans.
Alberta pays a lot more money in federal taxes than it receives, yet the province is criticized for its vast energy wealth, which helps many other Canadians, said the premier on Thursday.
"Especially after the discussion at Copenhagen, where much of the criticism was placed on this province, and yet our contribution — this last economic downturn, the worst year since the 1930s — was well over $21 billion and that cannot continue and we have to have that discussion in Canada," Stelmach said to reporters in Calgary.
Morton, considered a fiscal hawk, said equalization has outlived its original purpose of helping all provinces provide roughly the same level of services to citizens.
Alberta isn't the only province unhappy with how the equalization program works, he added.
"If Ontario's not happy with it, if it doesn't do any good for Saskatchewan, B.C. or Alberta, it seems to me there's room for productive discussion," Morton said.
Morton is to bring down his first provincial budget on Feb. 9.
Tories need to wine, dine oilpatch
The new Alberta cabinet will be officially sworn in Friday in Edmonton.
Ron Liepert, who has been moved from health to energy, admitted he needs to work on the strained relations between the Alberta Progressive Conservative government and the energy industry.
"There has been a loss of trust, I certainly have made no bones about it," Liepert said. "I'm not going to deny that there isn't lashing out going on out there."
Stelmach said he expects Liepert will open an office in Calgary, as well as cozy up to oil and gas CEOs at the members-only Petroleum and Ranchmen's clubs.
One of Liepert's first tasks will be examining the results of a competitiveness review that looked into how provincial regulations — including the controversial royalty regime for oil and gas revenues — and legislation affect investment in Alberta's energy sector.
Redford adds Calgary portfolio
Stelmach is also wooing support in Calgary, where his personal and party popularity has sagged, according to recent polls.
The newest version of the cabinet raised the number of Calgary-area MLAs to seven from six.
Justice Minister Alison Redford was given the additional responsibility of being the political minister for Calgary. She said the post will lead to better communication between community leaders and the government.With files from The Canadian Press
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