Confused in Alberta

From the Edmonton Sun:

Tory leadership contender Ted Morton says Alberta should cut the amount it contributes to federal transfer payments so it can build more roads and sewers for an influx of workers.

Speaking on an Alberta radio talk show (Rutherford-CHQR-CHED), Morton says it makes no sense for Ottawa to pay out employment insurance to keep workers in Atlantic Canada and Quebec where they’re unemployed, when Alberta needs workers.

He says workers shouldn’t come to Alberta unless the province can keep more of its money to build up its infrastructure.

Morton … says recent studies have shown that Canadian workers are not very mobile. He says those studies show it’s a direct result of equalization and transfer payments, which help keep workers in areas of the country where there are fewer jobs.

It was Ralph Klein who cultivated the myth that the government of Alberta pays money to Ottawa in support of transfers to other provinces. This is not true: federal transfers to the provinces are funded out of federal taxes, as are federal transfers to persons (such as EI). Alberta cannot unilaterally reduce its federal taxes, though I suppose they could return their share of federal transfers.

It is hard to know from this CP wire story, reporting on a radio news interview done by Morton, whether it is Morton or the un-named journalist who does not understand how federalism works. Assuming the reporting is correct, Morton appears to confuse federal program-related transfers, equalization and EI, while simultaneously arguing that Alberta needs workers but Maritimers should not come. An astonishing peek inside one of the Calgary school’s top minds.


  • If Albertans are serious about equitable allocation of federal spending, maybe they should look into where argricultural subsidies are going.

  • Hint – the cattle and dairy industry are massive recipients of federal agricultural subsidies which impoverish third world nations.

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