The Covid pandemic has, among other things, reminded us that we are indeed “all in it together,” requiring government leadership and assistance unprecedented in recent history. According to a report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, “federal and provincial governments have announced almost $600-billion in spending commitments across 849 measures.” The report, Picking up the tab, released at the end of January, provides a “who is doing what” exercise, tracking what each level of government is spending and where it’s going.
It concludes that “federalism is doing its job,” pointing out that 92 percent of the direct spending commitments have been made by Ottawa. A particularly interesting fact is that Alberta is receiving the highest level of per capita spending,—$11,200 per person—93 percent coming from the feds. Albertans are receiving $1,200 more per person from the federal government than any other province.
The reason Alberta benefits disproportionately is largely the result of federal contributions to two programs: the oil and gas well cleanup fund and the oil and gas industry emissions reduction fund. Provincially funded business measures are also large compared to other provinces. As a result, support for business is a high $5,500 per Albertan. Supports for individuals, entirely federal, are worth $3,800 a person. Alberta’s contribution, as a percent of GDP, is among the lowest of all the provinces.
What will particularly puzzle some is why Alberta, with the highest average income of all the provinces, along with the lowest debt and the lowest per capita amounts raised in taxes, should be getting the most relief. Well, it isn’t because Albertans are getting more spending money in their jeans; it’s because of the need for federal money to help clean up after the oil and gas industry. Wait until we have to clean up the tar sands. You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.
Meanwhile, during all this togetherness between Ottawa and Edmonton, the separatists have been as quiet as mice. Perhaps even they have realized that in this federation of ours, the whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts.