Alberta would pull out of the federal equalization program rather than see the other provinces benefit from its oil and natural gas resources, Premier Ralph Klein said.Now, according to this CBC story, Klein actually can't do this and has no control over Alberta's equalization payments in the first place.
Klein said on Wednesday he's ready to fight with the eastern provinces to keep Alberta's resource revenues out of the equalization program, which sends federal money to poorer provinces so they can provide services such as health care.
At a meeting next month, other premiers are expected to suggest that Alberta's oil revenues can be included in the calculations that determine how much cash each province gets from Ottawa.
"This is political showdown," Klein said. "This is also a constitutional issue. Alberta has control and authorization and authority over its resources."
But University of Alberta political scientist Steve Patten suggests Klein can't really do that, and his bluster won't go far among the premiers, even if it works to whip up long-standing anti-eastern sentiment among Albertans.So the stance is bluster - but the sentiment beneath it speaks volumes. Alberta's oil? That's Canada's oil, Ralph.
Equalization payments come from federal government revenues, such as federal income tax, not from Alberta's bank accounts, Patten said. Pulling out, he said, would have no effect on the program.
"When we in Alberta talk as if Alberta Â perhaps the premier Â sitting down and writing a cheque a couple of times a year to the poorer provinces, we're really misrepresenting what the formula is all about. That's not the way it works," he said.
This kind of talk just fosters divisiveness, feeding the view of some Albertans that their provinces' wealth is actually their personal wealth, and they have no obligation to share it with the rest of the country.
Hey, let's all move to Alberta and become instant oil barons. And since Alberta's not part of Canada, we won't have to pay taxes or give anything back! What's that you say? Alberta is part of...?
Since Klein doesn't really have control over the transfer payments, encouraging regional divisions must be his real goal. That and looking tough, I suppose.
Not exactly incisive political commentary, I know - I'm just venting. I'll leave it to you all to fill in the blanks.