Thursday, May 25, 2006

Profiles in WTF?

Honestly, I have no idea what this means:
Alberta Premier Ralph Klein is threatening to drop out of the federal government's equalization deal with the provinces -- if energy income is included in the program's formula.

Klein says Alberta has "control" and "authorization" over its resources under the Constitution, and he's seeking a legal opinion to see if there's a way he can pull his province out of the revenue-sharing deal.

Klein is promising a fight unless the federal Conservatives live up to their election promise to not include resource revenues in the equalization formula.

"They made a campaign promise, the federal Conservatives, that they wouldn't include resource revenues in the equalization formula," Klein told reporters in Edmonton Wednesday. "And I would hope they live up to that, because otherwise they're going to have a battle on their hands."
As more than one person has pointed out, there's nothing for Alberta to "pull out" of - the money that "have not" provinces receive all comes from the Feds, and Albertans don't get to withhold federal taxes simply because Ralph's throwing a snit.

I also have to say, I don't understand why natural resources are exempted from revenue-sharing. I understand there's a separation of powers in the constitution when it comes to mines, etc. But we're essentially talking about accounting done by the federal government, and it's a mystery to me why Ottawa would decide that manufacturing taxes count as provincial income, but oil royalties don't.

But I must confess I don't have a clear understanding of the revenue-sharing system to begin with. Anyone know where I can find a FAQ or someting?

Oh, and this is insulting:
The always outspoken Klein said Wednesday that he's getting ready for what he calls a political showdown with Quebec and Ontario at a special leaders meeting next week, following what will be his last western premiers conference in Gimli, Manitoba.

"(Ontario Premier Dalton) McGuinty is on a different wavelength, so is Quebec," he said. "Quebec wants resource revenues included. Of course, they want the money that we're enjoying now. Albertans have earned that money."
How, exactly, has Alberta "earned" its recent windfall? Did Ralph Klein personally buy a few million cars and send them to the Chinese, spurring the recent increase in oil prices? Alberta has done nothing to "earn" $70/barrel oil that it wasn't doing to "earn" $35/barrel oil. To imply that the recent windfall is the result of some virtue of the Albertan worker is simply ridiculous. Furthermore, the implication that somehow Ontario and Quebec have not earned their money is insulting in the extreme.

Ralph Klein needs to stop picking fights with hallucinations, and needs to leave office post-haste.

Update: Okay, Wikipedia (yes, grain of salt) says that lumber, gas taxes, income taxes, and mineral resources are all already factored in. So the mystery grows: Why on Earth wouldn't we consider oil wealth? In fact, Wikipedia says oil wealth is already factored in, making this even more bizarre.

My guess is that Klein somehow thinks that the federal government - which is so inimically hostile to Alberta at the moment - is going to re-start the NEP or something. Is Ralphie off the wagon?

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