No fair deal in Ottawa’s budget: Toews

By Catherine Griwkowsky April 21, 2021

Finance Minister Travis Toews said Ottawa’s latest budget isn’t up to snuff when it comes to the increased fiscal fairness Alberta has asked for.

The formula of wealth redistribution at the heart of the UCP’s fair deal complaints hasn’t changed, Toews said.

Despite Alberta being hit hard by the pandemic-related downturn, its residents are still sending disproportionately more in payroll taxes to Ottawa than the federal government is handing back to the province, he said.

“We are gravely disappointed that the federal government once again missed an opportunity to fix the fiscal unfairness of the federation by acting on the unanimous request of provinces to retroactively lift the cap on the fiscal stabilization program,” Toews said in a statement.

“This means that Albertans who have paid more than their fair share — kicking in $600 billion more than they’ve received in return — continue to be penalized during an economic crisis and a global pandemic.”

At the Council of the Federation, premiers unanimously called for a permanent increase in health transfers. That request was also not addressed in the budget, Toews said.

The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) had a rosier perspective on its relationship with Ottawa, welcoming the $2.5 billion for affordable housing countrywide and transit investments through the federal gas tax.

“We have heard the commitment from the government that they’re focused on strategic, co-ordinated investments to stimulate our economy,” AUMA president Barry Morishita said in a news release.

The federal Liberals have partnered with Alberta’s large cities on infrastructure investments in recent years — an arrangement the UCP tried to bar.

The child care question
A flagship promise in Ottawa’s budget is $10-per-day child care spaces within the next five years — but provinces are required to match costs in order to cash in.

Toews was noncommittal, stating that Ottawa’s plan “appears to lack the flexibility that parents need and provincial governments require.”

“Any child care agreement between Alberta and Ottawa must respect the diverse needs of children and the fundamental principle of parental choice in child care options,” he said.

NDP Children’s Services critic Rakhi Pancholi said the UCP has been moving in the wrong direction on affordable child care, having ended the $25-per-day child care pilot.

“We will continue to press the UCP to work cooperatively with the federal government to ensure these federal dollars are invested properly,” Pancholi stated.

Business Council of Alberta president Adam Legge praised the national child care program but said overall his group is disappointed.

“It has a significant price tag but comes up woefully short on the ambition and approach necessary for Canada to become an economic and climate leader coming out of the Covid pandemic,” Legg said.