Albertans support bid to change equalization, narrowly turn down year-round daylight time

·4 min read
Alberta municipalities were tasked with running the two referendum votes alongside civic ballots in Oct. 18 municipal elections.  (CBC - image credit)
Alberta municipalities were tasked with running the two referendum votes alongside civic ballots in Oct. 18 municipal elections. (CBC - image credit)

Most Albertans who voted in last week's municipal elections want Canada to remove the equalization section from the Constitution, but support for reverting to year-round daylight saving time was almost evenly split among voters — with those voting against narrowly coming out on top.

Elections Alberta reported nearly 62 per cent of voters said "yes" to the equalization question, while just over 38 per cent checked "no."

The question asked whether voters support removing a clause from the Constitution that commits the federal government to redistributing taxes paid by all Canadians to ensure that all citizens, regardless of the province in which they live, have equitable access to public services.

The different political cultures of Alberta's two largest cities were reflected in the results. In Edmonton, 51.9 per cent were against and 48.1 per cent were in favour, while Calgary showed much stronger support for the idea — 58.2 per cent voted yes while 41.8 said no.

On the daylight saving time question, 50.2 per cent of Albertans who voted said they were opposed to moving to permanent daylight time while 49.8 per cent said they were in favour.

Demanding respect, Kenney says

At a news conference Tuesday, Premier Jason Kenney said the equalization result sent a "powerful" statement to the federal government.

"Albertans are demanding to be respected," Kenney said. "They're demanding that the jurisdiction of this province under the Canadian Constitution be respected ... and we fully expect the prime minister to respect the constitutional amendment process and to sit down and negotiate with Alberta in good faith."

The equalization vote was a part of the UCP's platform in the 2019 provincial election, with Kenney stating that that Alberta has concerns over billions of dollars its residents pay, while provinces such as British Columbia and Quebec obstruct oil and pipeline projects that underpin Alberta's wealth.

The constitution can't be changed without the consent of two-thirds of the provinces with at least 50 per cent of the population of all of them combined.

Later in the legislative assembly, government House leader Jason Nixon gave oral notice of a motion to ratify the referendum results. Nixon expected the motion will be debated on Wednesday.

As for the DST result, the province will respect the results and not proceed with a time change.

WATCH: Equalization victory or flawed process?

Voters asked to choose three senators-in-waiting

In addition to questions about equalization and clocks, voters were also asked to choose three senators-in-waiting for Alberta.

Out of 13 candidates, three Conservative Party of Canada candidates received the most votes: Pam Davidson (18.2 per cent), Erika Barootes (17.1 per cent) and Mykhailo Martyniouk (11.3 per cent).

Canadians do not elect Senators. The prime minister chooses candidates from a list of people who apply for the position.

When the NDP became the government in Alberta, senate elections were dropped. However Premier Jason Kenney and his United Conservative Party brought them back when they took office in 2019.

Lack of clarity, says Notley

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley said Kenney "botched" the process by posing questions that weren't clear.

She said the majority of Albertans would have supported the time change question if was about whether people wanted to stop changing their clocks twice a year, instead of specifically asking to stay on daylight saving time year-round.

As for the equalization question, Notley said the result was not as definitive as it should be.

Elections Alberta did not provide official turnout numbers as the vote was part of the provincewide municipal and school trustee elections on Oct. 18.

Estimates put the figure at around 39 per cent of voters. There were no polling stations in First Nations communities.

"It was a mess all along," Notley said. "It doesn't meet any of the criteria that have been set out in the courts that the premier tries to rely on."

A constitutional law scholar from the University of Alberta said the result will do little to convince other provinces to join Alberta in pushing Ottawa to open up the constitution.

Law professor Eric Adams said the prime minister has a duty to listen to what Alberta or any other province has to say, either in a letter, a face-to-face meeting or a first ministers' meeting. But he can also decide not to go ahead.

Adams said Alberta would have to turn to other provinces for support, which could itself create a new set of problems.

"The ball is in the court of the other premiers. Is anybody willing to grab hold of of this policy? Does the government of Alberta have other provinces lined up that want to support this change?" Adams asked.

"In my view, the most likely outcome here is is that this doesn't head anywhere or it gets rather tangled up in a number of other constitutional proposals that the Alberta government doesn't have any control over.

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