POLITICS

Brad Wall, Saskatchewan Premier, Says He Disagrees With Harper On Equalization

08/14/2015 08:16 EDT | Updated 08/14/2015 08:59 EDT

WASKESIU, Sask. — Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says he disagrees with Conservative Leader Stephen Harper on equalization.

Wall, whose Saskatchewan Party government has conservative roots, has been pushing to make the $17-billion program that sends money from Ottawa to poorer provinces an issue in the federal election.

But Harper has said the formula is not a central question for voters and Wall shouldn't worry about it.

"If you can't deal with some of these issues in a federal election, then when can you? So on this issue I don't agree with the prime minister,'' Wall said Friday after a caucus meeting in northern Saskatchewan.

"It's a $17-billion-dollar program and we are having a federal election, so I think it is something that should be at least discussed to some extent during this campaign."

He noted that none of the other parties has raised the issue either.

Equalization is a constitutionally guaranteed program that helps poorer provinces to provide government services at tax levels similar to their wealthier neighbours. The federal government calculates how much each province can raise in revenues and ensures poorer provinces meet the national average.

Saskatchewan is considered a "have'' province and does not receive equalization. The province that collects the most is Prince Edward Island at about $1,980 per person.

Wall has suggested the federal government halve equalization payments and spend more money on infrastructure projects across the country.

He has consistently said the formula used to calculate hydroelectric revenues underestimates the wealth hydro generates for provinces such as Manitoba and Quebec, thus entitling them to higher equalization payments.

He has also taken shots at opponents of the proposed Energy East oil pipeline, and said last month that perhaps the project would get approved quickly in Central Canada if equalization payments flowed through it.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil has called Wall's recent musing divisive.

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