To the government of Quebec:
We hope you enjoy the money that we’re sending to you this year through federal equalization payments. We hope that you will put the money to good use for roads, schools, hospitals and social programs. After all, the money you’re receiving could have been used here to improve the lives of people in Saskatchewan and other have provinces.
Please don’t waste it on acting like entitled and spoiled brats (something Quebec has mastered in the past).
We would ask that you not spend it on importing oil from Saudi Arabia, but we know you would much rather import oil from Saudi Arabia that Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Your friends in Saskatchewan.
The formula for equalization payments for 2019 has been revealed. The have provinces, including Saskatchewan, will contribute $20 billion to the have-nots, including Quebec, which will receive $13 billion of the equalization money.
The Quebec government gets to use that money to improve the lives of their people, and to spend money on those pet projects that Quebec has become known for. Money that could be used to construct a new nursing home in Estevan? That’s going to Drummondville, Trois-Rivieres or some other city that doesn’t know where Estevan is.
(It would be nice if the Quebec government would name a hospital after Saskatchewan, in a similar way that you can have naming rights attached to a hospital if you pay enough money. But we digress).
The discussion about equalization payments comes up each year at this time. And each year, the three most western provinces make a stink about how much money they’re sending elsewhere, especially to Quebec. And each year, nothing is done about the situation.
We want to see changes to the federal equalization formula, but we know that nothing was going to happen. Not when voter-rich and volatile Quebec, which complains any time something doesn’t go their way, is going to lose billions of dollars in federal funding.
A rule of thumb when it comes to running the Canadian government: don’t tick off the second-most populous province.
There is one difference this year. For the first time in a decade, Ontario finds itself among the have-not provinces. Suddenly the most populous province, and therefore the province with the most constituencies, is contributing into equalization, rather than taking money from the rest of the country.
It likely isn’t going to change anything. The formula will remain the same. Quebec will still take in lots of money. But there might be more dialogue if Ontario is paying into the equalization scheme for the long-term.
It would be wishful thinking to say we should do away with equalization, but it would be nice if it happened. The provinces that are blessed with natural resources and other means of generating income should keep that income, and use it to make our lives better.
Think about what the provincial government could do down here if it kept all of the equalization money. Build a new Estevan Regional Nursing Home. Twin Highways 39 and 6 between Estevan and Regina. Enhance the schools and the healthcare facilities in southeast Saskatchewan.
If the main beneficiary of equalization was Atlantic Canada and the northern territories, and if those governments were receiving a reasonable amount of money to help their people, then equalization might make sense.
But when Quebec, with all that it has going for it, receives so much money each year, you know that something needs to change.