Bernier talks equalization and pipelines at Calgary 'Equality or Independence' rally

The Equality or Independence Rally, hosted by Freedom Conservative Party (FCP) leader Derek Fildebrandt, invited the leader of the new player in right-wing federal politics to Calgary on Saturday for the event.

The event was hosted by Freedom Conservative Party leader Derek Fildebrandt

Freedom Conservative Party leader Derek Fildebrandt (left) hosted Maxime Bernier, Leader of the People’s Party of Canada, at his Equality or Independence Rally on Saturday. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

Albertans who say they're unhappy with the status quo when it comes to the relationship between this province and Ottawa had an outlet this weekend. 

The Equality or Independence Rally, hosted by Freedom Conservative Party (FCP) leader Derek Fildebrandt, invited one of the federal scene's newest party leaders to Calgary on Saturday for the event. 

Guest of honour, Maxime Bernier, leader of the People's Party of Canada (PPC) and former federal Conservative leadership hopeful, took the opportunity to speak with rally-goers about equalization payments.

"A province should not [be] receiving equalization payments for decades," he said. "Just like an individual should not be receiving welfare cheques for all his or her life."

Dwayne Hill says if equalization isn't made more 'equitable' for Alberta, the next step would be independence. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

Dwayne Hill was one of more than 100 people at the rally.

"If you believe an equalization system can't be changed to be equitable for Alberta, then independence is the next step," he said.

Speaking to reporters, Fildebrandt said Bernier reflects what the FCP stands for and is an important ally to Albertans. 

"Max is the only federal leader talking about equalization and a fair place for Alberta — an equal place for Alberta — inside of Canada, in any substantive way beyond just platitudes," he said.

"So there's a huge overlap, there's a large overlap of the membership and some of the activists that are involved in the party."

Equalization wasn't the only talking point at Fildebrandt's rally. Pipelines were also on the agenda. 

"The federal government should run what needs to be at a national level. And national infrastructure goes across borders," he said. 

Some attendees at the Equality or Independence Rally held homemade signs. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

That message was echoed by Bernier. 

"What's the point of being one country if we don't use the power that we have in the Constitution?" he said to applause and cheers. 

In December the FCP launched its 'Equality of Independence' campaign, advocating that within one year of the next provincial election, "Alberta and the federal government must reach an agreement recognizing equality for Alberta within confederation."

The FCP said if that goal is not achieved, a referendum on independence should be held in its place.

With files from Anis Heydari