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Kenney blasts Quebec premier for 'historically inaccurate' stance on equalization

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says his counterpart in Quebec fails to understand the history of the federal equalization program after François Legault said it has been in the Constitution since Canada's inception.

'If you want to benefit from our oil and gas wealth, stop blocking oil and gas pipelines'

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says his counterpart in Quebec, François Legault, misunderstands how and when the equalization program came to be. (CBC)

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says his counterpart in Quebec fails to understand the history of the federal equalization program after François Legault said it has been in the Constitution since Canada's inception.

The Quebec premier made the comment in response to Kenney's reiteration via Twitter on the weekend that his UCP government plans to hold a referendum on Alberta's participation in equalization "if we don't get pipelines we need and repeal of anti-Alberta legislation like C-48 and C-69."

Legault said in reaction that Quebec is entitled to equalization and there is no question of adjusting or changing it.

In a Facebook post, and later in a press release, Kenney said on Monday that Legault has his facts wrong.

"Equalization has not 'been in the Constitution since Day 1 of Canada.' The principle of equalization was included for the first time in the 1982 Constitution Act, which Quebec refused to sign," Kenney said.

"It is historically inaccurate to say that 'When Quebec got into Canada, equalization was in the plan. It is part of the original deal. We can't change the original deal.' In fact, equalization began as a unilateral federal program in 1957, and has undergone many significant changes since then."

Kenney also categorically rejects the assertion that he is veering toward a separatist stance.

"As I have said repeatedly, I always have been and always will be a proud Canadian patriot and a federalist, without condition," he said.

"It was at my urging that the merger agreement creating the United Conservative Party included 'loyalty to a united Canada' as a founding principle. For me, that loyalty is non-negotiable."

Kenney says Albertans have made a net contribution of over $620 billion to the federation through federal taxes since 1957, and the province makes a net contribution of approximately $20 billion to fiscal federalism each year.

He says most Albertans are proud to have shared much of the province's good fortune with other Canadians and don't object to equalization, in principle.

But attempts by the leadership of other provinces to thwart Alberta's ability to develop and export its natural resources could change that, he said.

"Our call for a fair deal in the federation simply means this: If Ottawa and other provinces want to benefit from Alberta's resources, then they must not oppose the transport and sale of those resources," Kenney said.

"To put it more bluntly: If you want to benefit from our oil and gas wealth, stop blocking oil and gas pipelines."

The last time the complicated equalization formula was adjusted was by the federal Conservative government led by Stephen Harper in 2009. Notably, Kenney was in Harper's caucus at the time.

While the political rhetoric continues, it's still unclear how Kenney could force the federal government's hand on the issue — even with a referendum — since the payments come from individual taxes collected in each province and the federal equalization program is outlined in the constitution. 

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