We have dicussed this ad nauseum on this blog over the past few years but I still think that it remains a valid question. To some, Equalization is a perfectly legitimate – and if you remember former Premier Lord’s fiery defence – a Constitutionally protected – source of revenue for poor provinces that need it to provide a similar level of public services to citizens as richer provinces.
But if it is a perfectly legitimate source of provincial revenue similar to sales tax or income tax, why then is Equalization a knock on Premier Doer’s record as Premier of Manitoba? From an editorial in today’s Globe & Mail:
The Winnipeg Free Press noted that he failed to wean his province off equalization payments, which last year made up over 20 per cent of provincial revenue.
Let’s be clear. The Globe & Mail is not a bastion of right week ideology and neither is the Winnipeg Free Press but the default position is that it is a negative that Doer “failed to wean his province off equalization payments.”
It seems to me that Equalization has never been considered legitimate. Instead of being viewed as a way the federal government (taxing Canadians not Albertans or Ontarioians) supports an equivalent level of public services across the country, equalization is positioned – squarely (not withstanding Lord’s position) – as a negative subsidy where money is being taken from residents of rich provinces to subsidize poor ones).
I have been tracking this issue in the national press for almost as long as I have been writing this blog and I can tell you that this is the first time I have read that it was a negative for a Premier not to wean his province off equalization.
Shawn Graham was right to make weaning off equalization a fundamental part of his government’s strategy. The writing is on the wall, folks. The problem is that we have only increased our need for equalization in the past three years. In the 2006-2007 budget, we received $1.43 million. By the 2009-2010 we received $1.69 billion in equalization. An 18% increase in three budget cycles.