Saskatchewan’s premier says it’s time to start asking if equalization should be changed.
“I don’t remember it ever coming up in a (federal election) campaign,” Brad Wall told News Talk Radio’s Gormley Wednesday morning. “The reason is it’s controversial … regions of the country feel very passionately that there ought to be no change, and if there is to be a change, it should simply just be more money into the program.”
However, with one of the longest federal election campaigns now underway, Wall says there’s an opportunity for premiers to question equalization.
“Is this program very efficient? Why is hydro not included? Why (is there) this lag for western Canadians? And can a big chunk of this be better used?”
Wall said equalization was briefly discussed when Canada’s premiers met in Newfoundland last month. However, Wall says he wants to talk about doing equalization differently, saying it hasn’t been readjusted in some time.
“There’s not regular changes to the program, and that means we’re stuck with some problems.”
Those problems, according to Wall, include a three to five-year lag in the calculation , and the fact that oil and gas gets included in the formula while hydro does not.
Wall says he would suggest splitting the program – a roughly $17-billion investment – in half to use half of the money for equalization, and put the other half to either infrastructure, or a combination of infrastructure and sustainable tax reductions.
“I think every premier has a long list of infrastructure projects they’d like to get done. So do our municipalities.”
Wall added that he feels his suggestion is what he feels people in Saskatchewan want, adding that the status quo is unfair to western Canadians.