Strathcona County, Calgary voters support nixing equalization in referendum

·3 min read
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says he's encouraged by preliminary results of an equalization referendum in the province. (Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta - image credit)
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says he's encouraged by preliminary results of an equalization referendum in the province. (Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta - image credit)

Early referendum results from seven Alberta municipalities show a majority of voters support removing the federal government's commitment to equalization transfers from the Constitution.

Enthusiasm to send a message to the federal government that equalization isn't working well for Albertans was strong in Red Deer and Grande Prairie, where more than 69 per cent of residents cast a "yes" vote.

Premier Jason Kenney said Tuesday preliminary results from across the province suggest about 60 per cent of voters were in favour. A majority vote is the mandate his government needs to act, he said.

"This is a commitment we have made to Albertans in the last election, to let them speak to the issue of equalization, to give this province leverage in fighting for a fair deal — that and other transfer programs," Kenney said.

If the official results, coming next week, show a majority "yes" vote, the Kenney government will introduce a motion in the legislature to ratify the request for a constitutional amendment. Then, he'd seek negotiations with the federal government.

The question posed to voters asked whether they support removing a clause from the constitution that commits the federal government to transferring federal tax dollars between provinces to ensure equivalent public services are available across Canada.

Alberta has no power to unilaterally change the Constitution, nor does the federal government.

Kenney has said the referendum is about pushing Ottawa to amend equalization to correct a perceived unfairness to Alberta.

With Alberta municipalities tasked with running two referendum votes and senate preferences alongside Monday's civic ballots, some cities and counties have released local tallies.

Kevin Lacey, Alberta director of the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation, is impatient to see the provincial government act.

Submitted by the CTF
Submitted by the CTF

The federation created a third-party advertiser, the Society for Albertans Against Equalization, and spent about $225,000 on a campaign to sway the vote in favour.

"We wanted to help make the case for both reform, and to show Ottawa, and the rest of Canada, that these concerns that Albertans have about equalization and the money we're sending to Canada are both legitimate and need to be addressed," he said in an interview Tuesday.

He said Kenney should be travelling the country, trying to get other provinces onside.

Voters not rushing to permanent daylight time

Citizens' enthusiasm for clock changes was less clear from preliminary municipal results.

If the voters of Calgary, St. Alberta and Strathcona County were in charge, Albertans would continue changing their clocks twice a year.

People in Medicine Hat were more interested in embracing year-round daylight saving time, which would keep the province on summer hours.

University of Calgary psychology professor and circadian rhythm expert Michael Antle said the results are likely muddled by the lack of a third option — staying on Mountain Standard Time year-round, or, winter hours.

He said those hours better align winter sunlight with the times most people would wake up for work or school, and is the option most supported by sleep experts.

That biological mismatch of rising in the dark leads to a longer-term feeling of jet lag during the shorter winter days, he said.

Kenney says these divided perspectives are why his government put the question to a vote, rather than relying on a survey last year.

Although the referendum result is binding on the government, it doesn't specify a timeline to act. Kenney has said that will depend on what nearby jurisdictions do.

Elections Alberta is scheduled to release both provincial referendum results on Oct. 26 at 11 am.

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