That was the message from the United Conservative Party (UCP) MLA as he officially kicked off his party leadership campaign in Edmonton (Wednesday) that’s using the slogan Autonomy for Alberta.
Several people have now lined up in hopes of replacing Premier Jason Kenney who announced in May he didn’t have a strong enough mandate to continue in the job.
Jean told a packed room of about 130 people that the province must act on results of a fall referendum that showed nearly 62 per cent of voters rejected the way the federal government collects tax money from provinces and doles it out across Canada — a scheme known as equalization.
Each year Alberta has sent billions of dollars more to Ottawa than it gets back to spend on services in the province.
Historically that imbalance has seen between $15 billion to $27 billion annually going to Ottawa from Alberta to be spent in other parts of the country.
Jean says it’s time to act on the referendum results by insisting Ottawa come to the table and strike a new deal with Alberta.
“People are not satisfied in Alberta,” said Jean. “If two people are in a relationship and that relationship is not going well… it’s time to sit down and talk about the relationship and fix it.
“People feel like they’re not being listened to. They’re not getting a fair deal.”
“There are so many things we need to fix and we need the federal government to come to the table and fix it with us.”
Besides equalization another big burr under the saddle of Albertans is the failure of the feds to support pipelines and the oil and gas sector, Jean said.
When asked in a reporters’ scrum after his speech how he’d go about pushing Ottawa on issues — especially on equalization, Jean said: “How about giving notice to the prime minister and the other provinces that we want to start immediately with the referendum discussions and opening up the Constitution?”
As angry as Albertans might be, Jean said he’s dead set against going down the road of separation from Canada.
“I don’t want to separate. I want to fix Canada. I love Canada.”
UCP party members will vote for a new party leader and results will be announced October 6.