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Star Forum: Reinstating equalization is a must for province


Dear editor: Our Federal Government needs to reinstate equalization to Newfoundland and Labrador. We shouldn’t have to wait till 2019.

Some people were proud that Newfoundland and Labrador was a “Have” province, but some weren’t, including myself.

A lot of people used to feel that during the oil boom times that we were “Have-Not” people living in a “Have” province, that the wealth wasn’t distributed throughout society equitably.

Do you know that Nova Scotia has a balanced budget and a slight surplus even though it receives $1.7 billion in equalization payments as it is a “Have Not” province?

Do you know that Quebec has a $2 billion surplus even though they receive $10 billion in equalization from Ottawa as it is a “Have Not” province?

Yet, we have a $1.8 billion or $2.7 billion dollar deficit and we do not receive equalization as we’re still classified a “Have” province?

That is why I feel that the Dwight Ball Liberals should be fighting tooth and nail to have equalization reinstated and our seven Liberal MPs: Judy Foote, Gudie Hutchings, Yvonne Jones, Ken McDonald, Seamus O’Regan, Scott Simms and Nick Whalen should be advocating for this measure. 

Prime Minister, this is what our federal Constitution — The 1982 Canada Act says in regards to Equalization Payments. The Canada Act 1982, which amended the constitution, included the rights of the poorer provinces to equalization payments. Subsection 36(2) of the Constitution Act, 1982 states that “Parliament and the government of Canada are committed to the principle of making equalization payments to ensure that provincial governments have sufficient revenues to provide reasonably comparable levels of public services at reasonably comparable levels of taxation.”

Even though I am not a Progressive Conservative, I must admit that my fellow Newfoundlander and Labradorean, P.C. MHA. Keith Hutchings is spot on when he writes: “One of the ways to help address the fiscal crisis in our province is by demanding that Ottawa respect the principle of equalization enshrined in the Constitution ...”

In 2016, six provinces will receive equalization to top up their revenues as revenues have fallen. Why? Because their own revenues are insufficient this year to provide “reasonably comparable levels of public services” at “reasonably comparable levels of taxation.”

They are not required to tax and fee their residents to the point of promoting outmigration, slowing the economy and ripping services from health and education to the detriment of our people.

This year, N.L. is also not earning enough to provide “reasonably comparable levels of public services” at “reasonably comparable levels of taxation.}

Any amount of equalization at this time would allow the Liberal levy, tax increases, health cuts, school cuts and other regressive decisions to be reconsidered and possible innovative and long-term better choices to be made.

Why is it reasonable for other provinces in this great federation we call Canada to get funding when their revenues fall short, but unreasonable for Newfoundland and Labrador to expect the same fair treatment?

Why are our Liberal MHAs silent on this? Why would they sooner force deep cuts, tax hikes and a levy on their own constituents than advocate for fairness? (Re: "Ferryland’s MHA Keith Hutchings’ letter, “Liberals not willing to fight for equalization,” The Telegram, Monday, Aug. 1)

According to New Democrat MHA Gerry Rogers: “We’ve been asking that same. It’s odd that Ball is not pushing for this (Facebook, May 6, 2016)”

If we have equalization now, perhaps the Dwight Ball Liberal government would be able to reverse the tax increases and the severe cutbacks in our healthcare, education, social programs and other essential provincial government programs that benefit the health and well-being of all of us.

We are a “Have Not” province now, and as such we should be receiving equalization now period. Ottawa knows about our province’s socioeconomic struggles and by obtaining equalization, Newfoundland and Labrador can maintain national standards in health care, education, social services and so on.

And, with equalization, perhaps, our province could balance our budget, instead of having a fiscal, and indeed, a social deficit!

The federal Liberal government has the constitutional obligation to provide socioeconomic assistance to an economically struggling province, Newfoundland and Labrador due to the global decline in oil and iron ore royalties!

Like your late father, Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, and you, I believe in a “just society” where no one is left behind.

Edward Sawdon, St. John’s

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