Government of Alberta 'won't be bribed' by feds as funding spat continues

Jason Nixon, Alberta's Minister of Community and Social Services, stressed his government 'won't be bribed with our own money' to bring in 'dangerous building codes' that will increase the cost of living for every Albertan.

Government of Alberta 'won't be bribed' by feds as funding spat continues
The Canadian Press / Adrian Wyld and The Canadian Press / Todd Korol
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The Government of Alberta remains adamant that Ottawa involves them in all funding agreements with municipal stakeholders after tabling legislation on jurisdiction.

“Have you heard from your federal counterpart on the matter?” asked Rebel News. “I have heard from Minister [Sean] Fraser, [who] I meet on a regular basis,” replied Jason Nixon, Minister of Community and Social Services.

“We met in Edmonton just a couple of weeks ago and we are in contact at the political level as well as both of our departments on a regular basis,” he clarified.

“I have also heard from him since we tabled Bill 18 in the legislature.”

Bill 18, the Provincial Priorities Act, will require provincial entities to obtain prior approval from Alberta’s government before entering into, amending, extending or renewing an agreement with the federal government. 

According to Nixon, his federal counterpart has indicated that they are prepared to sit down with the province. “That would move us forward as a province … with respect [for] our jurisdiction,” he said.

“But more importantly, to [ensure] the province can do our role in … distributing funds across this province [Alberta].”

Nixon told Rebel that has not taken place over the last several months with announcements taking place in select communities.

Calgary's mayor recently said the city will continue to negotiate directly with Ottawa for financial support despite Alberta's proposed legislation. 

On April 11, Jyoti Gondek told The Globe and Mail that the province did not instruct Calgary to halt such talks with the federal government.

“There’s money on the table right now,” Gondek said. “We don’t have time to wait.”

On January 31, the City of Calgary provided Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver with details for 64 federal agreements, collectively worth $435 million.

“It appeared frankly that if a mayor had connections with the Federal cabinet, that their community would do better,” Nixon said. “I believe eight communities saw federal housing dollars, which is sorely lacking.”

The Minister of Community and Social Services is set to sit down with Fraser “after the budget” for a “serious conversation.”

Nixon stressed his government “won't be bribed with our own money” to bring in “dangerous building codes” that will increase the cost of living for every Albertan.

“And we will not allow the federal government to stand on our jurisdiction,” he said. “Municipalities are a product of the provincial government.”

Although the minister said he will work with municipal partners, he clarified: “It's easier to get a deal done between the federal and the provincial government than it is between 300 plus municipalities.”

The province of Alberta accounts for 12% of the national population, but only received 2.5% of the $1.5 billion in federal housing funding last summer.

“To what do you attribute that disparity?” Rebel asked Nixon. “Is this a political maneuver by Ottawa?” 

“I haven't been shy about answering this question,” he replied. “I think the proof is in the number that you just said.”

“They often make big announcements in the province, then head across the country and distribute that money disproportionately in places that clearly the federal government is trying to save seats.”

Nixon told reporters that is not how the federal government should be working with housing money.

“It is the position of the province that at the very least these big housing dollars should be distributed per capita by province,” he said. “We should be receiving 12% of whatever announcements are coming forward.”

Should the federal government not treat Alberta fairly, the minister warned the province would move forward “at a rapid rate” to address the housing crisis.

“But it will certainly be easier and faster with the federal government at the table,” he said.

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