Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said his government will hold a referendum on daylight saving time and equalization during the upcoming municipal election.
On Thursday, Kenney said he will ask Albertans to weigh in on several issues during the municipal election Oct. 18, but they will not be asked whether they want an Alberta pension plan or provincial police force that would replace the RCMP.
He will also ask Albertans to elect senators, although Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has no obligation to appoint them once elected. Senators are not elected in Canada.
Trudeau has no obligation to alter or change the equalization formula as a result of the provincial vote, but Kenney said both issues would help the province maximize the leverage Alberta has to fight for a fair deal for the provincial economy.
"I've always said that a yes vote on the principle of equalization does not automatically change equalization, it doesn't remove it from the Constitution. We cannot do that unilaterally," Kenney said.
"What it does is to elevate Alberta's fight for fairness to the top of the national agenda. In a sense, it takes a page out of Quebec's playbook."
If Alberta were to force a change in the equalization formula, it would require the federal government to approve and have agreement from seven out of 10 provinces on the constitutional amendment.
Kenney said he spoke with Trudeau about electing senators last week while the prime minister was visiting Calgary, and Trudeau told the premier to encourage Albertans who are running for senate to also apply through the federal government appointment process.
The premier said Trudeau would consider the candidates if they go through the right process.
Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews said there is currently a study underway to examine the costs and benefits of creating a possible Alberta pension plan, but the issue will not be on the ballot in the fall.
“It’s critically important that we do our work to ensure that Albertans are well informed, so that they can make a well-informed choice when we take this to referendum,” Toews said.
The province is also currently studying what a provincial police force to replace the RCMP could look like.
“Transforming Alberta’s law-enforcement system in this way would entail many operational logistical and financial details, which is why we are taking the time to continue looking into it as part of determining what the next steps would look like,” Alberta Minister of Justice Kaycee Madu said.
Kenney said there is a need for more consultation with Alberta’s Indigenous populations and municipalities before the province makes a final decision on the matter, and the province has yet to decide if the issue would go to a referendum.
“One possibility would be to invite only Albertans who are policed by the RCMP and who would be directly affected by this to vote on it,” Kenney said.
Alberta Urban Municipalities Association president Barry Morishita said in an email they are concerned the referenda and the province's Senate nominee election are potentially distracting, and they are encouraging candidates and voters to focus on local issues during the local elections.
Morishita said there is also the risk of having a federal election called between now and the municipal election, which would further complicate the municipal vote.
“There is a risk that there will be so much ‘noise’ swirling around in Alberta’s political environment in August and September that it will be very difficult for everyone to remain focused on local issues during this year’s municipal elections,” Morishita said.
“Municipal candidates and voters need to resist the urge to wade into matters that cannot be influenced or resolved by local governments.”
Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Albert Gazette