Conservatives pitch fiscal reform to end ‘mistreatment of Western Canadians’

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says his party would revamp the country’s fiscal stabilization program in what he calls a “first step to end the mistreatment of Western Canadians.”

“Even as Alberta’s economy suffered with massive reductions in resource revenues, Albertans continued to pay more than their fair share to support the rest of the country,” O’Toole, who was visiting Calgary on Thursday, said in a release.

“That’s why a Conservative government will fix the Fiscal Stabilization Program as a first step to ensuring that Western Canadians are treated equally in our confederation.”

The Conservative plan includes:

  • Removing the per person payout cap, which was recently raised from $60 to $170. 
  • Lowering the threshold for payouts from a five per cent decline in revenue to a three per cent decline. 
  • Lowering the threshold for a payout from a drop in resource revenue from the current 50 per cent to 40 per cent. 
  • Making all the changes retroactive to 2015.

The proposal would give Alberta $4 billion in rebates, according to the Conservatives.

The fiscal stabilization program is intended to shore up provincial finances when there is a sudden drop in revenue. 

The issue has been a persistent source of complaint for the current Alberta government, which has argued the formula needs to be revisited. It says the province has lost out on billions of revenue as the price of oil plummeted and the government’s bottom line went with it. 

Recent changes introduced by the governing Liberals failed to satisfy the province.

Fiscal stabilization is one of the factors that led to the creation of Alberta’s “fair deal” panel, which made recommendations on everything from the province establishing its own police force and pension fund, to holding a referendum on equalization payments within the federation.  

The Conservative announcement in Calgary comes one day after the prime minster came to town for a day of politicking and announced the final approval of a massive transit project for the city. 

The announcements and tours by the two federal leaders are expected to fuel speculation about a looming federal election.