Braid: From Quebec, a proposal for a new big tax on Albertans


Blanchet is happy that a majority of Albertans who voted agree with the removal of the principle of equalization from the constitution.

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Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet has the genius to plant pins in the skin of Alberta. He has been doing so since the 2019 federal election campaign, and he was doing it again on Wednesday.

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This guy is important in national politics because his quasi-separatist party won 32 seats in Quebec in the October federal election. That is more than all of the federal ridings in Alberta.

Trudeau’s Liberals pay him a lot of attention, still hoping to take over Bloc ridings, but fail.

Blanchet looked almost gleeful at a press conference in Montreal on Wednesday. It is fortunate that a majority of Albertans who voted agree with removing the principle of equalization from the Constitution.

A clever provocateur, Blanchet seems to understand that once a problem like this opens up, anyone can throw their ideas at it, whether they are serious or just disruptive.

If Premier Jason Kenney’s UCP government fulfills its wish – some sort of national convention with all the provinces and Ottawa – all of this could quickly escape Alberta’s concerns. Everyone will want something.

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Here is Blanchet’s great idea.

“We are proposing a green equalization, whereby we set the average emissions for a jurisdiction in Canada,” he said.

“Those who are above that calculation, say Alberta, pay.

“Those who are below that average level get the money because they are doing well in terms of tackling climate change.

“I would like to have some discussions about this as well.

“But I always say that the best solution to all of this is for all of us (to be) invest a significant amount of money in Alberta and Western Canada, to help them get out of this toxic economic model.”

In Blanchet’s vision, Alberta would pay huge sums of money to other provinces thanks to this new tax.

For this to work (for Quebec), it asks to calculate the per capita emissions in each province, which means that Alberta would pay even more.

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Blanchet does not say, however, that this green equalization would replace the current system. It would apparently stay in place. We would have to pay twice.

Quebec would continue to consume large quantities of foreign oil, presumably without taxing Saudi Arabia.

In return, there would be handouts to keep the West away from its “toxic economy”.

At least Blanchet speaks of support for the transition. The Liberals and the federal NDP just vaguely greet him in passing.

Blanchet first presented his green equalization plan during the 2019 campaign. In the Francophone leaders’ debate, he described it in detail while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listened intently.

Trudeau simply said that Canada needs a strong government to deal with climate change. He did not refute Blanchet’s plan.

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Neither does NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. Andrew Scheer, then the Conservative leader, did not seem to understand what was going on.

Blanchet comes from the same school of thought as Steven Guilbeault, the former activist and new Liberal Minister of the Environment.

Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault speaks at a press conference in Ottawa, Canada, October 26, 2021.
Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault speaks at a press conference in Ottawa, Canada, October 26, 2021. Photo by LARS HAGBERG / AFP via Getty Images Files

Among them, it is sometimes recognized that the economy of Alberta is crucial to equalization payments.

Their dream is that Alberta can continue to contribute to the growth of alternative energies. Green prosperity will fuel the high income levels that allow equalization payments, including Quebec’s $ 13 billion per year.

But imagine Alberta’s campaign to remove Equalization from the Constitution works miraculously and the program ends, ending the Alberta tax levy that feeds the payments.

Would Ottawa then have a particular interest in supporting the Alberta economy?

The message is: don’t start an argument if you have no idea what other people are going to say, especially when very strange things are already being said.

Don Braid’s column appears regularly in the Herald

Twitter: @DonBraid

Facebook: Don Braid Politics

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