Alberta’s Christmas List

Before Amazon and the internet, the Sears Wishbook was the catalogue many Canadians browsed about this time of year.  It had all manner of toys, clothes and marvelous gifts for Christmas.

As children, the Premier and Finance Minister Travis Toews must have studied the Wishbook. And they found it an inspiration to send off a list to the Federal government via the various ‘wise men’ (and women) who show up as emissaries from the East.

Here is a summary of Wishbook asks so far and a severely normal forecast of the likelihood that Santa Trudeau and company will fill the Alberta stocking.

 Alberta’s Christmas ListThe Federal Government’s Gifts
1Provide firm timelines for the completion of TransMountain pipeline. Nope! Given the vagaries of weather and the activist federal Court of Appeals in BC, the federal government will be loath to commit to a firm timeline.  But they are happy to report on construction progress!
2Kill the new environmental legislation (the No More Pipelines bill).  Or significantly modify the regulation so that it isn’t so onerous and uncertain for industry to deal with.OK, we will look at what can be done with regulations! But we won’t amend the legislation.
3Kill the tanker ban legislation that blocks only bitumen from the northwest coast of BC.Uh well… since there is no current projects proposed, let’s not worry about it OK?
4Remove the federal carbon tax as a job killer and ineffective climate change tool.Not going to happen! There is ample evidence to dispute both your claims and mounting evidence to support the need for climate action.  Two thirds of the population voted for parties that supported climate change action.
5Establishing equivalency agreements for Alberta’s heavy emitters and methane regulations.Well maybe! Perhaps there is opportunity to show a bit of federal flexibility.  Recognising that provinces have different regulatory approaches.  But methane regulations will be closely scrutinized.
6Renegotiate the Equalization program by disconnecting it to GDP growth and removing resource revenue from the calculation.Not a chance! The federal Liberals path to a future majority government relies upon Quebec, the major beneficiary of the program.  
7Retroactively change the Fiscal Stabilization program (a federal program to help when provinces experience a sudden drop in revenue) so that Alberta will get $2.2 billion instead to the $250 million it received. After a bit of foot dragging, the federal government will agree.  It is a one-time amount and it doesn’t disadvantage other provinces.
8Retain per capita calculations for Health and social transfers to the provinces.No change in the program is expected, so an ‘easy yes’
9Expand a tax credit program and capital cost allowance program and a tax write off program so treatment of the energy industry is consistent with the manufacturing industry.Unlikely.  The environmental lobby is dead set against any subsidies to the energy industry.  After a big debate, Cabinet will say no changes to this program.
10Remove the Canada Mortgage and Housing ‘stress test” for Alberta and extend 30-year mortgages.Maybe! This could happen since the test has had some unhappy consequences and was mainly aimed at Toronto and Vancouver markets.
11Accept the due diligence of the province to speed up funding within the federal Investing in Infrastructure program.OK! Perhaps this or an alternative measure to flow infrastructure funds more quickly can be found.
12Allow Alberta to opt out of the proposed Pharmacare program with full financial compensation similar to Quebec’s position.Let’s talk! Negotiations on Pharmacare will outlive the minority government’s tenure, so the federal government won’t have to answer this question.
13New federal funding and perhaps a “flow through share” program to clean up orphan wells.  There won’t be direct funding or a beneficial tax treatment!  But a loan similar to the one negotiated by the Alberta NDP government is in the cards.
14Federal co-operation with the “Fair Deal Panel” assessing the feasibility of setting up and Alberta Pension Plan as an alternative to the Canada Pension PlanSure! the federal government will provide information.
15Take up Alberta’s offer to host a Federal Provincial Territorial Finance Minister’s meetingHmmmm a definite maybe! But thanks for the offer to host and your ideas for the agenda.
16Accelerate approval for the Teck Resources Frontier mine and TransAlta natural gas pipelines to convert coal-fired plants to natural gas.The current go slow approach won’t change!

So, the Wishlist list contains a few small wins. Premier Kenney can continue to paint the feds as the bad guys!  Arguing with the feds diverts attention from budget cuts and the weak economy. 

The federal government will mostly stick to its plans.  There is enough small wins that it can be seen to be dealing with western separation sentiments without compromising votes in central Canada.