MISSISSAUGA, ONT. — Canada’s premiers are calling on the federal government to reform its transfer payments program to provide better help for provinces going through an economic slump.
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball said the fiscal stabilization program hasn’t provided anywhere near enough money to make up for his province’s declining oil revenue.
“When you use the word ‘stabilization fund,’ you think the intent would be to stabilize something,” Ball said at a news conference with the 12 other premiers in Mississauga, Ont.
“Well, it didn’t work. It’s outdated. It’s been around since the ’80s.”
Canada’s oil and gas sector, which is concentrated in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador, has shed a quarter of its total jobs since 2014.
The federal government provides money to provinces when they see “extraordinary” declines in revenue. But it makes up for declines in revenue from natural resources — such as oil — only if the decline is more than 50 per cent in one year.
All 13 premiers signed off on a statement that says the fiscal stabilization program needs to be “more responsive to economic circumstances and downturns in resource sectors without compromising other transfer programs.”
They want retroactive payments for the past five years, more funding when resource revenues disappear and a $60 per person cap removed from the payment formula.
Western premiers thank their colleagues
The premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan thanked their counterparts for supporting the call.
Premier François Legault of Quebec — who has sparred with other premiers over transfer payments in the past — did not address a question on the topic.
“If the federal government follows through and listens to this unanimous recommendation from Canada’s premiers, we’ll put those funds — which we paid into the federal system — to work with job creation programs in Alberta,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said. “So I’m just delighted.”
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said the other premiers were “unwavering” in their support for the changes.
“Today, they had our backs,” he said. “And I commit to them that we will have theirs when needed as well.”