Alberta Prime Minister Jason Kenney reaffirmed his government’s commitment to a referendum on compensation payments on Thursday and announced a second daytime vote during municipal elections this fall.
Both referendum questions will be on the ballot when voters go to the polls on October 18 across the province.
Kenney said the referendums are an important step toward “direct democracy” and will help shape Alberta’s future.
The Conservatives United promised a referendum on compensation payments during the 2019 provincial elections.
The constitutionally required payments are designed to address deficits in the spending capacity of the provinces so that Canadians have reasonably comparable public services no matter where they live in the country.
Kenney has said that the equalization program is unfair to so-called “haves” provinces like Alberta that have contributed greatly to equalization but are now experiencing tough economic times.
Voters will be asked whether a section of the Constitution that commits the federal government to the principle of making matching payments should be removed.
The equalization program will not change if Albertans vote “yes,” as that would require a constitutional amendment. But Kenney said he would push the province to petition the federal government.
“What it does is elevate Alberta’s fight for justice to the top of the national agenda,” Kenney said during a news conference in Calgary on Thursday.
Alberta opposition NDP leader Rachel Notley said Kenney’s equalization referendum is weak.
“No one in Ottawa is really interested in the answer to that question,” Notley said. “What Jason Kenney needs to do is focus on the real issues: job creation, economic diversification, promoting renewable energy, protecting our health care, protecting our education.”
Notley, however, applauded the government’s measure on daylight savings time.
Alberta Service Minister Nate Glubish said allowing Albertans to have a voice in how the province observes daylight saving time “should not be taken lightly” because there are strong opinions on both sides of the argument.
“The way Albertans calculate time affects literally everyone in this province, as well as others beyond our borders,” Glubish said.
Airlines, port authorities, tour operators and professional sports organizations linked to national broadcasts have raised concerns about schedules should Alberta stop changing its clocks, it added.
Glubish said syncing any potential changes with other jurisdictions would help mitigate potential impacts.
“There is a danger of acting in isolation,” he said.
In 2019, Service Alberta asked residents what they thought about switching to permanent daylight saving time. Ninety-one percent of approximately 141,000 respondents said they were in favor of the change.
The final wording of the referendum question will be decided this summer.
A government draft says: “Should Alberta end the practice of changing our clocks twice a year?”
The province announced that Albertans will also be able to elect three Senate candidates, two current vacancies and one alternate, during the fall ballot.
Kenney said he raised the issue with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during his visit to Calgary last week. Senators are rarely elected in Canada.
The province said there will be no vote this fall on excluding Alberta from the Canada Pension Plan and creating its own provincial police force. The government said it will continue to evaluate both issues.
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