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Letter to the Editor

Posted on January 5, 2021 by 40 Mile Commentator

Mr. ( MLA Drew) Barnes made two false statements in the Dec. 15, 2020 article “Barnes looks to be appointed the minister of autonomy.” Firstly, he claimed it was a “…fact that since 1960 Alberta has(sent) $670 billion more to Ottawa than we’ve received.”. Secondly, referring to the last twenty years, he said “…Alberta I think has sent $250 billion to Ottawa-so the financial drain still continues,”. I will accept the accuracy of the dollar amounts quoted by Mr. Barnes. The falsehood, however, is in his saying that Alberta paid those dollar amounts. Our province did not pay them. Those dollar amounts were paid by Canadian taxpayers who resided in Alberta. I state the obvious when I say that residents of a province are not that province.
Individual and corporate taxpayers pay federal taxes to Ottawa. Provinces do not pay federal tax to Ottawa, and, indeed, Canada’s Constitution legally keeps them from being made to do so. Our Constitution Act (formerly the British North America Act), in section 125, makes it illegal for the federal government to tax provinces and for provinces to tax the federal government. This has been the law in Canada since 1867, which is 38 years before Alberta existed. That is why Alberta has never paid federal taxes of any kind.
Moreover, taxpayers residing in Alberta are not taxed, federally, because they reside in Alberta. If thy resided in another province their federal tax would be the same. What Mr. Barnes is really complaining about in the two quotes, above, is that Canadian taxpayers who reside in Alberta earn more income and thus pay more tax, on average, than do Canadian taxpayers residing elsewhere. In fact, in the last federal census, it was shown that the average annual family income in Alberta was almost $94,000, the highest in the country, while, for a comparison, the average annual family income in Quèbec was $60,000. What Mr. Barnes is really complaining about is an aspect of federal spending of federal tax revenue. How does it follow that because he and others of his ilk who believe the falsehood, above, are unhappy with an aspect of federal spending there is a resultant disadvantage to the Province of Alberta? It does not follow. I will, again, state the obvious when I say to Mr. Barnes and to those who believe the falsehoods, above, that if you want to pay less in taxes, then earn less income, and stop promoting the falsehood that somehow a greedy and rapacious federal government is pillaging a hapless, victimized Alberta.
Mr. Barnes, as an elected representative, ought to know that his stated falsehood, above, is false in fact and in law. This is basic operating knowledge for every provincial and federal elected representative in Canada. If one wants to drive a car, one must know the rules of the road. Drivers who do not know the rules are dangerous. I am not expecting elected representatives to be experts in Canadian constitutional law-that would be unreasonable- but it is incumbent on them to understand and to know the basic rules of how our country works.
Gregory R. Côté, Irvine

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