McGuinty: provinces won't agree on equalization
Published Wednesday, February 7, 2007 3:05PM EST
TORONTO - Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty admits the provincial premiers will not reach an agreement today on changing the revenue-sharing equalization program.
The premiers have scheduled a conference call to talk about internal barriers to trade, energy, the so-called fiscal imbalance and equalization.
Ontario doesn't want any increase in equalization payments to poorer provinces until it gets the same level of federal funding for health, education and infrastructure as other provinces.
McGuinty says each of the provinces has been engaging in its own separate talks with the Conservative government to get a deal that benefits them.
He says it would be unreasonable to expect the premiers to come to a consensus today on the best way to approach equalization and the fiscal imbalance.
McGuinty says he'll be reminding his colleagues that Ontario doesn't want a special deal, just the same deal that the other provinces have with Ottawa.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has promised to fix the fiscal imbalance and is expected to take some steps in that direction in the federal budget even without a united front from the provinces as to what they want.
Saskatchewan and Newfoundland want Harper to live up to a pledge not to include natural resource revenues in the calculations that determine which provinces should receive equalization payments.
A federal report recommended 50 per cent of natural resource revenues be included in the calculations, but other provinces want all of those revenues included.
Ontario takes no position on that issue other than to say it wants no enrichment of equalization until the fiscal imbalance issue has been addressed.
The premiers had been scheduled to meet in person in Toronto on Wednesday, but critics say they changed the meeting to a conference call after realizing the media would focus on yet another failure by them to reach an agreement.
The premiers struggled with equalization and the fiscal imbalance at their annual meeting last summer in Saint Johns, and had to admit they simply could not come to any agreement on the big money issues that divide them.