BLOC HEAD: Blanchet says Alberta does not send cheque to Quebec
Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-François Blanchet has attacked Alberta Premier Kenney by saying that he needs to “start explaining things with truth.” Blanchet went on to say that Kenney had been spreading “false information” about the province’s equalization payments, according to Global News.
An indignant Blanchet told The West Block that Canada “does not send a cheque to Quebec … I would be glad if he started explaining things with truth instead of some false information as we see.”
Without mentioning 71,000 jobs the Canadian economy shed in November, Finance Minister Bill Morneau stood in the House of Commons’ West Block foyer on Monday to announce a measly tax cut that would provide earners of $50,000 “with tax savings of close to $300 in 2023.”
Twenty million Canadians would benefit said Morneau, of the Liberals proposed increases to allowable personal income before taxes from $12,300 to $15,000.
In the wake of disastrous fall job figures reported last week by Statistics Canada, the minister touted “the lowest levels of unemployment we’ve seen in a very long time, but as we know, there continues to be economic anxiety and economic challenges.”
Asked about Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s demand for A Fair Deal for Alberta within Canada, banner advertisements purchased for the front page of today’s Ottawa Sun and Citizen editions, Morneau said he hadn’t read them yet, “but I will have a meeting with the Alberta Minister of Finance this afternoon and we will listen.”
“It’s important to listen, to consider their challenges. Their challenges are true. So we will listen and work together to improve the situation across the country, including Alberta,” said Morneau.
Across the street from Parliament, Kenney was about to address the Canadian Club in specific terms about the anxiety and challenges his province faces, having shed 175,000 jobs since 2015–18,000 in November alone – on the cusp of meetings with Morneau.
“There cannot be a strong Canada without a strong Alberta… our ability to play that role in the future is at risk. That puts Canada’s prosperity at risk,” Kenney warned during his speech, reiterating the province’s “net contribution(s) of $630 billion to the rest of Canada since 1961”, by way of federal income tax transfers.
By Kenney’s estimation, this wealth transfer from Alberta, which the federal government redistributes to other provinces in the federation equalled $55,000 for each man, woman and child in Alberta.
The Alberta premier went on to outline “the fair deal” his province seeks includes “a firm and fast deadline for TMX… and to make it a priority to bring First Nations into the project as an equity partner as soon as possible.”
As three separate indigenous groups are lined up to buy a stake in the existing 1,150 km pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C. and a proposed $7.5 billion expansion, Morneau and the government have been silent on such a deal, despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise last June for unlimited Indigenous ownership.
On this front, the Alberta premier lines up squarely behind federal Conservatives; either want more tidewater pipelines and new environmental legislation (bills C-69 and C-48) repealed, what Kenney and his Ottawa cohorts label as pipeline killers.
Scrapping this legislation–C-69 that revamped resource project assessments and 48, the northwest coast oil tanker ban–said Kenney, would allow the province a freedom “to develop our resources at a fair market price.”
Kenney has been beating the TMX drum for some time and shortly before Trudeau’s summertime green light for the project, the premier issued his demands in another ad-buy, this one splashed on the front pages of the Globe and Mail.
“Let us take seriously these challenges in a province that has done so much (for Canada). Let’s not make the mistake of diminishing or deriding (them),” Kenney told the Canadian Club on Monday morning.
Less than an hour earlier at Morneau’s tax cut scrum, the overall benefit was cut down to size in a brief back-and-forth with Mona Fortier, the Middle Class Prosperity minister and associate minister of Finance.
Reporter: “Have you looked at how much it’s going to save a person on their pay cheque? It’s at $300 a year. What’s that per pay cheque?”
Fortier: “Well, you know with this pay cheque will help to–with the $300 or $600 for families it will help ends meet and help families have access to more activities after school.”
Reporter: “It’s $11.50. Everybody knows…”
Fortier: “Well it’s still money that is combined with all of the measures that we’ve put in since 2015. It will help families cover some costs that they want to send their kids to camp or to put money aside for retirement.”
The parties that could potentially hold the balance of power in the Liberal’s minority government had very different takes on Thursday’s Throne speech when they responded in the House of Commons, Friday.
While the separatist Bloc Quebecois stood in defence of Quebec’s autonomy, the New Democrats assumed their traditional role as defenders of the poor and marginalized.
Bloc leader Yves-Francois Blanchet took particular issue that the speech lumped Quebec in with provinces and territories as one of “the regions of Canada.”
“Let’s make something clear. Quebec is not a region of Canada. Quebec is the land that the Quebec nation shares with a number of First Nations,” Blanchet told the House of Commons, reminding MPs of his party’s raison d’etre.
“Although we may not be aiming specifically for this… Quebecers know that the Bloc is a party based on the concept of independence.”
Blanchet also said that in defending Quebec’s autonomy on matters of healthcare and environmental assessments, “The Bloc is not only representing the national assembly of Quebec but also the voices of the other provinces.”
The separatist party leader also said that Quebec voters turned to his party “because they can’t identify with any federal party.”
“They’re not all sovereigntists, but they’re nationalists,” he said.
Bloc support at the polls tripled their seat count (10-32) in the Commons while the number of NDP candidates were nearly cut in half, from 40 down to 24.
New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh, whose enclave was relegated to fourth party status after October’s election in a Bloc-surge, accused Liberals for “profiting off student debt” while waiving government loans to corporations.
Singh was also skeptical about the Throne speech’s promise to lower the cost of telecommunications services by 25 percent.
“In Canada we pay…some of the highest cellphone and internet fees in the world. It’s not a coincidence because the government has allowed the telecoms to do this,” said Singh.
“Access to the internet is not a luxury, it’s a necessity…(and) the cost of cell phone and internet services are impeding people in their everyday lives.”
Affordable and available housing, as well as making good on a national pharmacare plan that consecutive Liberal governments have paid lip service to, also formed Singh’s response to the Throne speech.
“Across Canada people are making difficult choices every day, about cutting their pills in half or going without the life-saving medication that they need,” he said.
“What is it going to take for the Prime Minister to keep his word and to deliver pharmacare that covers all Canadians?”
The New Democrat leader also suggested that Trudeau talked the talk on indigenous reconciliation, which also prominently featured in the Throne speech, but that the government’s actions fell short of walking the walk.
“I can’t wrap my head around it,” said Singh. “(They) ignore a human rights tribunal ruling, delay the funding to end the discrimination and continue to take indigenous to court.”
At the beginning of October, the federal government filed for judicial review of a Canadian Human Rights tribunal ruling ordering $40,000 in compensation to First Nations children taken from their communities under the on-reserve child welfare system.
The United Conservative Party (UCP) appears to be preparing for a fight for increased autonomy with the Trudeau government.
In their first annual meeting, members voted on through informal straw polls on a series of issues aimed at getting a “fair deal” from the Trudeau government.
From the province’s potential tax collection agency to the police force, trade relationships, pension plan, and firearms watchdog, members voted in large groups to support autonomy and further pull away from Ottawa.
A panel weighing those ideas is to complete its report by March 31.
“We are not seeking a special deal. We are simply seeking a fair deal,” Premier Jason Kenney told party faithful.
While not backing the secession movement, Wexit, the move to fight for autonomy is not surprising. Polls have placed Alberta’s desire to potentially declare independence close to if not higher than the separatist-prone province of Quebec.
The leader of the Parti Quebecois, Pascal Berube, has attacked Jason Kenney and his UCP in an opinion piece in the Calgary Herald.
In the article, Berube declared that Kenney was lying to Albertans about Albertan taxes paying for Quebec’s social infrastructure. Berube claimed that Kenney’s statements were “simply not true.”
Berube also took time to rebut Kenney’s indignation over equalization payments—an issue that Kenney will put to a referendum. Berube said that equalization payments were calculated based on the province’s ability to generate tax revenue, and thus “Albertans should not complain about paying for any of Quebec’s social programs. It simply is not true.”
Berube went on to say that “Alberta is a bigger spender than its leaders would like you to believe … Alberta is not some libertarian’s dream, as some would like you to believe. The province is a perfect example of ‘big government.’”
By saying this, Berube has labeled Kenney and the UCP as hypocritical and manipulative.
What was more piercing, however, was when Berube attacked Kenney directly, suggesting that Kenney was “looking for someone or something to blame for his gigantic fiscal deficit.”
Berube went on to say that “Albertans need to realize that their leaders have let them down … he will seal his place as the proud heir of past leaders who drove Alberta to the brink of the fiscal precipice where it now finds itself.”
Berube’s attack is the latest incident in a war of words between the two provinces. Previously, Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet and CAQ leader Francois Legault had criticized Kenney and the Wexit movement. Blanchet, for example, has also disputed Kenney’s equalization claims, declaring that Alberta doesn’t “send a cheque to Quebec.”
Blanchet has also ridiculed the broad sentiment of alienation in the western province, stating that “the desire to do whatever they want with their oil might not be a sufficient reason to fuel a desire to become a country.”