Alberta’s premier is calling on Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet to “pick a lane” after he said he wouldn’t offer advice to Western provinces looking for more independence within Canada.
“If they were attempting to create a green state in Western Canada, I might be tempted to help them,” Blanchet said following a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday.
That sentiment didn’t sit well with Premier Jason Kenney, who took the opportunity, during an address to members of Alberta’s oil and gas sector, to again raise the issue of equalization payments that he says the province of Quebec benefits from.
Blanchet’s comments came on the same day Kenney said the Parti Québécois tabled a motion in the national assembly that would see Quebec have the ability to veto any proposed changes to the equalization formula.
“To Mr. Blanchet, to the Parti Québécois: if you are so opposed to the energy we produced in Alberta, then why are you so keen on taking the money generated by the oilfield workers in this province and across Western Canada?” Kenney asked.
“You cannot have your cake and eat it too. Pick a lane.”
Kenney said Alberta has paid $600 billion in equalization payments since 1960, adding the province has contributed $23 billion each year for the past five years.
“And yet we are going through an economic crisis,” he said. “All we ask is a little bit of fairness — we’re not asking for a special deal, we’re asking for a fair deal.”
The comments come on the heels of Kenney’s announcement of a “fair deal” panel on Saturday, which is aimed at pushing forward with Alberta’s interests.
In his announcement, Kenney said many of the ideas the panel would be looking at, like having provincial representation in negotiations that relate to the province’s interests, are borrowed from Quebec.
“Either you can say as Quebec you’re no longer going to take the energy and equalization resources from Western Canada’s oil and gas industry, and then you can become even more independent — by the way — on OPEC dictator oil imports, or you could do what we do as Canadians, coming together to support each other, especially at times of adversity.”
Following the federal election which saw Trudeau’s Liberals win a minority government, Kenney said he sent a letter to the prime minister outlining Alberta’s key interests, one of which was a demand for fundamental change to the equalization payment program.
He also said at the time that if there were no changes made to the highly controversial Bill C-69 — dubbed by some as the “no more pipelines” bill — he would mount a challenge to have equalization eliminated from the Canadian constitution.