House Speech on Equalization Reform - 2016

In November of 2016 we debated a motion on equalization in the Alberta Legislative Assembly.  The NDP voted it down. 

Here is an edited excerpt:


November 28, 2016

Motion 509. Mr. Jean moved:

Be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly urge the government to complete and make public a report by August

31, 2017, that evaluates the current equalization formula and outlines the improvements the government will seek on

behalf of Albertans when the equalization program is next renegotiated.


Mr. Panda: Mr. Speaker, I'm really disappointed that government members forgot who elected them, who they have to represent, but

the Official Opposition and all the opposition here are actually representing Albertans because they know that they were elected by

Albertans. We are on the side of Albertans.


I am proud to rise to support the Leader of the Official Opposition's Motion 509, calling on the government to make

Alberta's position public by next summer so we can begin a national conversation. This reasonable motion before us today gives

everyone in this House the opportunity to tell their constituents about this danger and do something to help Alberta get a better deal

from Ottawa.


The aim of equalization payments is to ensure that reasonably comparable levels of services are available at similar

taxation levels and, second, that the commitment is only to the principle of achieving reasonable comparability. In 2014 over $28

billion was extracted from Alberta taxpayers and sent to Ottawa, never to return. How are we supposed to grow and develop Alberta

if we force Albertans to make a net contribution to Ottawa that is bigger than the entire budget for the national defence of the

Canadian federation? It's not right.


It is not just we politicians who have been saying that we need a better deal on equalization. Academics, economists, and ordinary

Albertans all realize that equalization isn't working for Canada, whether we are a have or a have-not. This is why the Wildrose

turned to the experts and the think tanks to help understand equalization better and figure out what we need to do. Yes, the Wildrose

sought help from Dr. Marco Navarro-Génie at the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies out of Halifax.


Halifax is surrounded by four chronic net-recipient provinces of equalization: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Quebec.

Some say that equalization allows those provinces to not reform their public services to get better value for money. That

is recommendation 3 from our report, that equalization be made conditional on steps being taken by

recipient provinces with relatively high program delivery costs to reduce costs so that the per capita costs of providing

programming in the recipient provinces would not exceed the national average.


Equalization also creates disincentives for recipient provinces to

grow their economy for fear of going off the equalization payments.

We see that in Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick they do

not want to develop their resource industry out of unfounded

environmental fears, fears that we have dealt with in Alberta for 50



But Quebec can sure offer substantially lower tuition fee

rates at public universities and colleges than other provinces, and

the students will misbehave and riot and bang pots and pans

together to protect that low price. They will also protest Energy East

and fracking without realizing that it's Albertans, many working in

the energy sector, that are paying for their cheap tuition.


Besides the equalization program, there are other cash transfer

programs from Ottawa that put Alberta at a disadvantage – we call

these stealth equalization – programs like employment insurance. If

you fish for a living on the east coast, after two days on a boat you

can qualify for employment insurance. Fishermen's employment

insurance is income based, not based on the number of days



These self-employed people are no different than farmers

and ranchers. I don't see farmers' employment insurance based on

the income they made; in fact, they, like all the other self-employed

folks in Alberta, aren't eligible at all. It was Prime Minister Pierre

Elliott Trudeau that set this scheme up for fishers in the 1970s with

the support of his Maritimes lieutenant, Allan J. MacEachen. It was

a bad scheme then, and it's a bad scheme now.


Maritimers and Newfoundlanders – and I should know; I have

one working for me – joke about going on lotto 10/42: work 10

weeks, and get employment insurance for 42 weeks. Wow. What a

great disincentive on the search for work, job creation, and

innovation. Who would want to do anything when all you have to

do is work for 10 weeks and get pogey for 42 weeks? Then you can

spend your time going for coffee, driving a quad or snowmobile on

the trails, or working under the table in the black market.


Maritimers and Newfoundlanders will complain that their

industries are seasonal. That's right. Some probably are, but what

about the rest of the year?


Alberta farmers and ranchers have a seasonal industry, too. So

does oil and gas. Did you ever hear of a spring breakup? Some

people will complain about all the people that will have to move

away from their communities to find work. Well, I promise they

won't have to move as far away as I did. That's just life sometimes,

Mr. Speaker, especially when your government isn't generating an

investment-friendly economic environment. People all over the

world move all the time to find work. Look at all the economic

immigrants like myself. We didn't choose easy street. Why do

small communities out east get to live on easy street on the backs

of Alberta taxpayers? It's a wealth transfer, pure and simple.


Here we have oil and gas workers out of work, and their EI has

run out. What are they going to do? Our guys out here can't work

anywhere for 10 weeks and then get 42 weeks of employment

insurance. Of course, they can't rotate in and out of a rig for 10

weeks each and collect from the government for the rest of the year.

That would be wrong and a terrible disincentive. Instead, if they

can't find any work, they'll have to turn to the Minister of Human

Services and demand income support. It's not fair, Mr. Speaker.


Our recommendation 5 reads, “That substantial reforms to the

Employment Insurance (EI) Program be made to [ensure that it

treats] similarly situated Canadians with more parity.”


Alberta paid over $3.3 billion into EI in 2013 and received only $1.4 billion in

benefits. That includes maternity leave. That means that almost $2

billion was transferred out of Alberta to pay for EI in places like

Atlantic Canada.


Mr. Speaker, the case for reforms is clear, and negotiations will

get nowhere if we wait. We need to educate Albertans and Canadians

on the facts. So I rise today to add my voice to that of the hon.

Member for Fort McMurray-Conklin and call on the government to

evaluate the current equalization formula and outline the

improvements they will see on behalf of Albertans.


Mr. Speaker, with that, I ask all members of this House to support this private member's motion. Thank you.


For the motion:

Aheer Hunter Panda Barnes Jean Rodney Clark Loewen Schneider Cooper MacIntyre Smith Cyr McIver Stier Fraser Nixon Taylor

Hanson Orr


Against the motion:

Anderson, S. Horne Miranda Babcock Jabbour Nielsen Carson Jansen Payne Ceci Kazim Piquette Connolly Kleinsteuber Renaud

Coolahan Littlewood Rosendahl Cortes-Vargas Loyola Schreiner Dach Luff Shepherd Dang Malkinson Sigurdson Drever Mason Sucha

Fitzpatrick McCuaig-Boyd Turner Goehring McKitrick Westhead Hinkley Miller Woollard Hoffman


Totals: For – 20 Against – 40

It's not you it's the Carbon Tax

The NDP is at it again.

This time, pedalling the false notion that a rejection of their carbon tax agenda is equal to a rejection of science.

These worn out talking points came last week from Steve Williams, president and CEO of Suncor.

Speaking at an event in Calgary, Williams stated that “the science of the left wing is different that the science of the right wing,” and blamed conservatives for dividing the public on the issue.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Some wealthy CEOs might criticize us for rejecting the NDP’s carbon tax, but we are on side with the vast majority of Albertans who are forced to bear the costs of this government’s policies.

Albertans who don’t appreciate being shamed by elites who have no trouble making ends meet for rejecting a policy that has wreaked havoc on household budgets across the province.

Poll after poll shows just how unpopular this carbon tax is, and with good reason — it hasn’t done a thing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Instead, it simply punishes Alberta consumers by increasing the cost of everything from heating our homes in the winter to putting gas in the vehicle that gets us to work each day.

What it has done is drive emissions, along with good, mortgage-paying jobs, to jurisdictions without a punitive carbon tax regime.

We already see energy jobs booming in places like North Dakota and Texas, while the oil and gas workers in Alberta remain unemployed.

The fact of the matter is that Albertans were sold a false bill of goods when the NDP introduced its carbon tax — a tax they never campaigned on.

They were told that it would buy us the so-called “social license” we needed to get shovels in the ground on a pipeline to tidewater.

Not one pipeline opponent has become a pipeline supporter as a result of this carbon tax and the Trans Mountain pipeline project now hangs in the balance, despite the fact that taxpayers have now assumed the financial risk.

These opponents — the same ones the NDP promised would become supporters if we handcuffed our economy with a punitive tax on everything — are now doing everything in their power to block Trans Mountain.

They are the elected officials in British Columbia that are denying permits and bringing progress to a standstill with an endless stream of court challenges.

They are the so-called “activists”, funded by foreign anti-Alberta interests, that are illegally blocking construction.

Not one of these opponents has been swayed by the Alberta NDP’s carbon tax.

Instead, they are digging their heels in for the long haul.

So, rather than admit it was wrong, the NDP has chosen to smear every Albertan opposed to the carbon tax as a climate change ‘denier,’ a phrase deliberately intended to invoke Holocaust denial.

Anyone that dares challenge this government on the false logic of “social license” or raise a question about carbon leakage is branded as backwards and anti-science.

But, I know that Albertans are smarter than that, and I know they do not believe for a minute that the only way to address climate change is through a carbon tax.

The NDP would be wise to remember this the next time they feel an urge to insult the people they are supposed to represent.

Original Link

Op Ed: With regards to Trans Mountain, what’s going on?

On April 15, 2018 the Prime Minister hosted a trilateral, closed-door meeting between himself, the Premier of British Columbia, John Horgan, and our Premier, Rachel Notley, to hash out some sort of way to move forward on the Trans Mountain Pipeline. This was a significant moment for Canada (Prime Ministers rarely call meetings to resolve disputes amongst provinces), and Albertans expected something significant to emerge from this meeting (construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline is critical to the economic future of Alberta).

So what’s happened since then?

Well, heading into the meeting, Premier Notley promised Albertans legislation that would give the Alberta government the authority to “turn off the taps,” thereby limiting Alberta’s oil and gas exports to British Columbia. The NDP made good on their promise to bring forward a bill giving them that authority, but they appear to be misleading Albertans about their intent to use this legislation.

Forget the fact that this legislation was needed last year, when the BC NDP first came to power with the goal of harassing the Trans Mountain pipeline to the point that its proponent, Kinder Morgan, just cuts their losses and walks away, which, of course, would be disastrous for Alberta’s vital economic interests and Canada’s reputation as a destination for investment. The NDP wasted precious time underplaying the threat posed by Horgan’s government and their determination to obstruct this project.

Following the trilateral meeting, Premier Horgan made quite a revealing comment that has gone largely unnoticed in Alberta. Despite all the tough talk from Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Notley, Horgan offered a candid assessment of the meeting that doesn’t jive with what our Premier and Prime Minister are saying.

Horgan told Global News in British Columbia the following:

“The Prime Minister said quite unequivocally that he had no intention of threatening British Columbians when it came to transfer payments or any other joint projects that the federal and provincial governments are working on,” said Horgan. “When I asked premier Notley what her intentions were she said their legislative session is very brief and they were going to bring in enabling legislation and they didn’t necessarily think they were going to act on it.”, April 15, 2018

This is quite a discouraging appraisal of an important meeting from Premier Horgan.

Think about this for a second. The purpose of this historical meeting was to enforce the idea that the government of British Columbia does not have the right to obstruct a federally approved pipeline, like Trans Mountain. Yet, the Premier of British Columbia emerged from that meeting more confident than ever that Alberta wasn’t going to act on its threats.

Compounding the problem of the Alberta NDP’s inaction is the fact that Trudeau also emerged from that meeting promising “legislation to ensure that the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is completed.” Yet we still have not seen anything from the federal government to this effect.

Kinder Morgan has given notice that it will walk away from Kinder Morgan on May 31. Since then we’ve seen nothing but empty rhetoric from governments of Premier Notley and Prime Minister Trudeau. With fewer than 4 weeks to go to that deadline, the NDP has yet to pass legislation that, according to Premier Horgan, it does not intend to use, and Trudeau still has not introduced his legislation that, we were told, he intends to use.

This is political theatre of the worst kind. Alberta’s economic future hangs in the balance, while governments at different levels try to out boast each other with empty threats. Albertans deserve better than these cheap theatrics.

Varcoe: Another jolt hits Alberta’s power sector

The chief executive of the Alberta Balancing Pool has suddenly left the organization.

And the electricity industry’s watchdog, the Market Surveillance Administrator (MSA), is still searching for a permanent head, seven months after the previous one left.

Now, the official Opposition wants Alberta’s auditor general to delve into the province’s ongoing electricity issues.

United Conservative Party MLAs want the A-G’s office to conduct an audit and tally up the total cost of the NDP’s decisions to phase out coal-fired power plants, subsidize consumer power bills and shoulder financial losses inside the Balancing Pool.

These events — along with legislation introduced last week to prepare Alberta for a new capacity market in electricity — give the impression a whirlwind has touched down in the power sector.

That impression would be right.

Alberta’s electricity industry is caught up in a vortex of change swirling across the sector.

For example, Balancing Pool CEO Bruce Roberts unexpectedly left the government agency earlier this month.

A terse three-sentence statement by the agency provided little insight into his departure. Roberts confirmed “it was my decision to leave” but declined further comment.

Balancing Pool chairman Robert Bhatia wouldn’t discuss the matter, but expects a new CEO to be in place soon.

“We’re working hard on the issues that the Balancing Pool needs to deal with,” he said in an interview. 

The independent agency has been at the epicentre of change within the sector since the Notley government took power in 2015.

Panda: Energy policies undercutting Alberta's resource and revenues

In the 2015 election, Albertans clearly voted for change. But after nearly two and a half years of this new government, how would voters grade the NDP’s energy strategy?

With the price of oil at a three-year high, Albertans may not realize that we’re not reaping all the benefits of the recent uptick. In fact, the opposite is happening: the price differential between what the market price is and what Canadian oil and gas producers get for their product is increasing.

Why is there a price differential? Well, because Canada lacks the necessary energy infrastructure to get its oil products to new markets we’re left selling our product to one customer: the United States. As a result, American buyers of Canadian oil receive a steep discount. The difference in the price of Western Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Western Canadian Select (WCS) is known as the price differential.

According to the Economics Dashboard at the Government of Alberta, “[t]he differential of WTI over WCS was US$11.02 in November 2017.” An $11 differential on already-low oil prices means lost revenue (in the form of taxes and royalties) for an NDP government that is already drowning in debt. This week that differential grew to roughly $30.

Under the NDP, Alberta appears no closer to closing the price differential gap. We are now saddled with a costly carbon tax, while other jurisdictions continuously try to kill approved pipeline projects worth billions in investment and employment for Albertans.

The NDP never campaigned on the carbon tax yet announced it just months after assuming office. With no mandate to impose a carbon tax, the NDP needed to justify this astronomical tax increase through other means. They told Albertans that a multibillion dollar tax on virtually everything was necessary to secure the so-called ‘social licence’ for pipelines — the same pipelines needed to close the gap on the oil price differential!

After two and a half years of ‘social licence,’ it’s clear the NDP didn’t do their homework. During that time, we’ve seen the federal and provincial government pile on additional job-killing regulations and taxes, like the NDP’s new industrial carbon regulations and the combined provincial-federal carbon tax increases.

Unswayed by the supposed benefits of carbon taxes, the National Energy Board added up-and-downstream emissions tests to its assessment of future energy projects. In addition to being a clear violation of provincial jurisdiction, the federal government’s overreach will kill future investment in Alberta’s oil and gas sector. TransCanada blamed the new federal emissions tests when they killed their own $16-billion Energy East project, politely citing a review of “changed circumstances.” Sadly, Alberta’s NDP remains muted in the face of these changes implemented by the Trudeau Liberals.

Meanwhile, our biggest customer, the United States, is now our biggest competitor: they’ve become a net exporter of gas; they’re also enjoying record oil production numbers while building liquid natural gas export terminals. And they did all of this within the same low-price environment that we currently find ourselves in. Canada’s oil and gas sector is flat while the U.S. is prospering because of policy not price.

Regardless of what your opinion of the petroleum industry is, Alberta’s oil and gas sector is critical to everyone in this province. The resource belongs to us, the people of Alberta. And we deserve to get fair market value for our resource precisely because this is how we pay for our valuable public services. Right now we’re losing billions in revenue while borrowing to pay for schools, hospitals, and other critical infrastructure.

Of course, we want Alberta’s industry to succeed, and a United Conservative government would enact grassroots-approved policies that send a clear message to job-creators: Alberta is once again open for business. And we think those signals will propel Alberta to the head of the class.

In the meantime, I’m giving the NDP a failing grade.

Panda: Notley's attempt to win social licence for pipelines is a failure

Let’s face it, the NDP’s social licence scheme is a massive failure with far-reaching consequences for everyday Albertans.

Last year, Premier Rachel Notley made a very risky bet with Ottawa. She bet that if she imposed a massive new carbon tax on the Alberta people with no mandate to do so, she’d win so-called social licence from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government. She lost.

Nearly a year later, we’re certainly worse for wear, while jurisdictions across North America scoop up the jobs and investment we’ve lost, thanks to the NDP’s risky play.

This was a big win for Ottawa on Alberta.

Ottawa is actually collecting GST on the carbon tax we pay (Wildrose warned the NDP about this tax-on-tax last year). Every time you fill up your vehicle or heat your home, you’re sending even more money to Ottawa because the carbon tax is itself taxable.

Ottawa just solidified the tanker ban on the British Columbia coast, which could significantly harm our energy industry, beyond what it has already suffered.

Ottawa continues to collect billions more out of our province through a broken equalization and transfer system than it gives back, even though our province is down on its luck.

And now, to add insult to injury, Ottawa is pondering yanking the National Energy Board out of Calgary and moving it to Ontario, simultaneously insulting our great city, and our world-class energy regulator.

Notley bet it all and lost. She served Alberta up on a platter to Trudeau and his friends. She was badly outplayed by a slick Liberal with nice hair.

The only perceived benefit of this social licence scam has been the approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion. Notley touts this accomplishment daily, as it’s one of her sparing achievements.

But that project is now under severe doubt, thanks to the efforts of the B.C. NDP and Greens, who’ve pledged to stop it by any means possible.

Industry hopes for this pipeline are fading fast on the heels of the B.C. election. And members of Notley’s own oilsands advisory group, such as Tzeporah Berman and Karen Mahon, are fundraising and working around the clock to ensure it never gets built.

Wildrose previously warned Notley about trafficking in these risky deals to obtain essential, nation-building projects such as energy pipelines. The facts and necessity of these projects could have compelled them to creation on their own. Now these approvals are stuck in a web of bad political gamesmanship.

The people of Alberta are suffering and Notley and the NDP are still chasing social licence. They don’t understand that real families are suffering, while they chase this fool’s gold.

They laugh in the legislature when we raise concerns about the record 100,000 Albertans on employment insurance, the double-digit unemployment, the 84,000 good, full-time jobs that were lost last year, and the major, international companies that are fleeing our province.

It’s time for the government to drop this notion of social licence and get back to work on attracting investment and creating jobs through common-sense policies.

So long as we’re stuck with this premier, we need her to have our backs, and stop worrying about what her fancy environmental friends or Prime Minister Justin Trudeau think.

Let’s take care of our own families, friends and communities, before we worry about taking care of anybody else’s.

Tax hikes make tough times even harder

NDP policy is hitting Calgarians hard at a time our city can least afford it.

Our unemployment sits at more than eight per cent, the highest in decades. Home values across the city are dropping, and just last month, Alberta shed 40,000 full-time jobs across several industries.

Many Calgarians would agree that now is not the time to make things worse, but that’s just what the latest series of government policies is doing, on the backs of working families right across our city.

It starts around the kitchen table. With the average family seeing their wages go down, or possibly even facing unemployment, they are being forced to squeeze every penny out of their monthly budgets. That could mean pulling a child out of hockey for the next season, cutting out a family trip, or having to downgrade on some of the essentials.

And that’s before taking into account the series of new taxes families are being forced to pay. By January of next year, households will be paying more to heat their homes, drive their cars and pay for groceries because of the NDP’s new carbon tax.

By 2018, the full cost of this tax will take roughly $1,000 out of the typical Alberta household’s budget to pay for over $6 billion in new government spending and expensive corporate welfare projects.

Yes, Alberta should continue to be part of the solution in the effort to reduce global emissions: that’s why Wildrose has long advocated for natural gas and clean air strategies. But the fact is, Alberta is already a world leader in research and innovation in reducing emissions. The NDP government’s approach will only make it more difficult for Alberta to compete on a global stage.

In the private sector, companies perform risk assessments and cost-benefit analyses before any major investments or decisions are made. But Alberta’s new carbon tax bill fails to give Albertans any information on the full economic impact of the carbon tax, or any emissions reduction targets the government plans to achieve by spending the billions in new taxes that will be collected every year.

Under this plan, our local producers will see costs rise, small business owners will have less money for hiring and innovating, and our export sector will be increasingly less able to compete with other jurisdictions, such as Saskatchewan, which do not face the same regulatory burdens Alberta now does. That means fewer jobs for Calgarians at a time we badly need them.

Homeowners and businesses won’t just be feeling the pinch from a new carbon tax; today, Calgarians are seeing a massive jump in their property taxes as a direct result of the NDP government’s 10.2 per cent hike to the provincial share on everyone’s property tax bill.

Premier Rachel Notley will try and pin this excuse on a fixed funding formula based on new government spending, but the fact is, her NDP government had a choice, and they chose to raise the tax bills on families in one of the most difficult economic climates Alberta has faced in decades.

It was the wrong choice, and now city council is wrestling with the difficult decision to reduce services to help compensate for this massive provincial tax grab.

Taken together, these policies are proving a dangerous recipe for families and an economy that many feel is fragile enough already.

The direction our province is heading is the wrong one for Alberta. When families and business are hurting, they shouldn’t be seeing their taxes increase. Policies should be put forward to bring stability back to Alberta’s economy, encourage investment in our province and restore the Alberta Advantage.

These are the policies Albertans are asking for, these are the policies Wildrose has been asking for and it’s time Notley and her NDP government start to listen.