EDMUNDSTON, N.B. - Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he doesn't anticipate major changes coming to the federal equalization program, which is set to expire in two years.
The federal-wealth sharing program is set to end in 2014, and provincial governments are positioning themselves now to negotiate a new deal.
After a local funding announcement Friday in Edmundston, N.B., Harper was asked whether he felt a national debate on equalization was needed.
"There is always a debate on equalization," he quipped. "I've never seen it stop at any point in my political life."
The program, which is worth $15.4 billion this fiscal year, is meant to ensure all Canadians have access to comparable public services wherever they live. Six provinces are collecting equalization this year: Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba.
"We're in discussion with the provinces about their various preferences — on which the provinces are not of a single mind," Harper said.
"I don't anticipate major changes to the program as we move forward."
<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equalization_payments_in_Canada#Regional_fiscal_disparities_in_Canada" target="_hplink">Here's how much money each province will receive in equalization payments during the 2013-2014 year.</a> Source: <a href="http://www.fin.gc.ca/fedprov/eqp-eng.asp">Department of Finance</a>. (Alamy)
Per capita: $2,350 (MICHEL VIATTEAU/AFP/Getty Images)
Per capita: $1,342 (Tim BREAKMEIE/AFP/Getty Images)
Per capita: $1,985 (Luke Pinneo/Getty Images)
Per capita: $1,353 (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jezz/">Flickr: Jezz's Photostream</a>
Per capita: $246 (GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images)
Per capita: $934 (Alamy)
(<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/60548141@N00/" target="_hplink">Flickr: magnolia1000</a>)
(MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
(<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/justaprairieboy/">Flickr: Just a Prairie Boy's photostream</a>)