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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is requesting nearly $1.7 billion dollars from Ottawa following the collapse in oil prices that has plagued the provincial economy for years.
Kenney’s request is a timely one, as Alberta continues to seek avenues to renegotiate Alberta’s relationship with Ottawa and Canada as a whole, looking to gain more autonomy from the federal government, according to the Globe and Mail.
The Kenney government is looking to receive $252-million from the Fiscal Stabilization Program, as aligned with Alberta’s 2019 budget. Though Ottawa has yet to greenlight the funding, Kenney has made it clear that he expects much more.
Alberta was the recipient of over $250 million from the Fiscal Stabilization Program in 2016 due to the province’s soaring unemployment rates, while provincial budgets also reached the red, ending in a deficit. The former Notley government filed a request in September of last year, asking Ottawa for a second payment under the same program.
Kenney is now asking that Prime Minister Trudeau quickly approve the request, which as already passed a year in waiting time. Kenney is also asking that Trudeau send the larger cheque he is seeking for his province. According to Alberta’s finance ministry, the province is ineligible for a third year of funding due to the economic bounceback after 2016.
Kenney told media on Saturday that the funds, when received, would go towards helping Alberta’s economic shortcomings, as the province is yet to fully come out of the 2016 recession. “It was designed to be an equalization rebate for the have-provinces when they have a sudden and unexpected decline in revenues.”
That equalization rebate is one that Kenney has recently gotten into verbal fisticuffs over with Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchette.
Recently, Kenney responded to Blanchette’s comments that Quebec would not support Alberta’s venture into a separatist movement, one that he says his party had no interest in comparing to Quebec’s previous movements, and one he has little interest in aiding.
“If they were attempting to create a green state in western Canada, I might be tempted to help them,” he said. “If they are trying to create an oil state in western Canada, they cannot expect any help from us.”
Kenney responded by telling the Bloc leader to “pick a lane”
“If you are so opposed to the energy that we produce in Alberta, then why are you so keen on taking the money generated by the oilfield workers in this province and across Western Canada?” said Kenney, the keynote speaker, to the sold-out crowd at the Westin Calgary.
“Pick a lane. Either you can say as Quebec that you’re no longer going to take the energy and equalization resources that come from Western Canada’s oil and gas industry … or you can do what we do as Canadians, coming together to support each other, especially in times of adversity,” said Kenney.
His fiery speech, which was given at a luncheon for the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors, received a standing ovation.