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Moe promises more independent Saskatchewan in throne speech

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Moe promises more independent Saskatchewan in throne speech
WATCH: In Wednesday's throne speech, Premier Scott Moe's Saskatchewan party pledged to work towards making the province more independent within Canada. – Oct 27, 2021

Premier Scott Moe is promising to build a stronger, more independent Saskatchewan.

Lt. Gov. Russ Mirasty, reading the throne speech written by the Sask Party, explicitly stated the government wants to make the province more independent within Canada.

The speech referenced the referendum in Alberta last week, where a majority of people who voted indicated they wanted to remove equalization from the constitution.

Read more: Economic stimulus drives Sask. throne speech, pandemic takes back burner

“The federal government is now compelled to enter into good faith negotiations with the provinces on changing the equalization section of the constitution,” a readout of the script says.

“My government will be a full participant in those negotiations, representing Saskatchewan’s interests to achieve meaningful reform to equalization.”

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While just over 60 per cent of people voted in favour of the motion, Elections Alberta estimates fewer than 40 per cent of voters cast a ballot.

Alberta’s referendum does not compel the federal government to discuss the matter.

Click to play video: 'Majority of Albertans votes to scrap equalization payments'
Majority of Albertans votes to scrap equalization payments

 

Daniel Westlake, a University of Saskatchewan political scientist, said the Supreme Court of Canada did rule the federal government must discuss altering the constitution if the majority of voters in a referendum decide they want to secede.

But he told Global News the case of Quebec sovereignty and what Moe and Kenney are promoting are two very different issues.

“It’s one thing to say that you can’t keep a province in the country against their will,” he said.

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“It’s quite another thing to say that any province can open up any part of the Constitution by virtue of having a referendum.”

Equalization directs tax money the federal government collects from richer provinces to provinces with less income to ensure a better basic level of service for all Canadians.

Changing the practice is very complicated and difficult to do. Altering or scrapping equalization would require seven provinces, containing more than 50 per cent of Canada’s population, the House of Commons and the Senate voting to do so.

Westlake said the four Atlantic provinces, Manitoba and Quebec are likely against cancelling equalization and he said he isn’t aware of any indication that Ontario and B.C. would be interested in doing so.

“Two provinces can’t change this part of the Constitution,” Westlake said.

Read more: Alberta referendum results are in, Kenney speaks to results

Moe pointed to his government’s recent creation of a provincial chief firearms officer, who oversees enforcement of the federal Firearms Act, as a step towards more independence within Canada.

The federal government previously appointed the person who monitored adherence to the Act.

Moe also said the provincial government will consider other steps to build autonomy, including “the possibility of taking back the administration of our corporate income tax system from the federal government.”

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And the premier promised a new provincial protective services agency, which would combine highway patrol officers and conservation officers, the provincial capital commission and a few other roles, would also make the province more independent.

Westlake said the laws won’t change regardless of who is enforcing them, though he said symbolism is important.

“Quebec will make the argument often that the fact that they’re delivering services to their own citizens creates a stronger connection between (the provincial government) and their citizens,” he said.

He also told Global News a province like Saskatchewan could find it hard to collect federal taxes on behalf of the federal government, something Moe also proposed.

“There may be reasons why the provinces have let the federal government do these things in the past, and you have to kind of be careful that you’re not creating inefficiencies,” he said.

Given how difficult, or how merely symbolic, Moe’s proposals are, Westlake said they amount to political statements and not constitutional challenges.

“(Moe and Kenney) tend to do well by raising questions of Western autonomy and by basically picking fights with the federal government,” he said.

“So, politically, this may be advantageous.”

–With files from Jessica Guse and Thomas Piller

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