Equalization debate re-emerges ahead of finance ministers’ meeting in Ottawa


OTTAWA — Canada’s long-simmering internal debate over the how the federal government divvies up equalization payments among the provinces is expected to flare up this week during the twice-yearly gathering of the country’s finance ministers.

On the eve of Tuesday’s meeting, finance ministers from some so-called “have” provinces — those that don’t receive equalization funding from Ottawa — say they very much intend to raise the issue, even though it’s not on the official agenda.

The federal government has been drawing criticism in recent days after renewing the existing equalization formula for another five years — despite strong objections by some provinces.

Newfoundland and Labrador Finance Minister Tom Osborne says that late last year, he urged federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau to consider changes to a formula that he says puts the struggling economy of his province — and of others — at a deep disadvantage.

Osborne says interprovincial discussions over equalization are difficult because there are so many competing interests around the table — particularly between provinces that receive billions through the program and those that get nothing.

Equalization is designed to help poorer provincial governments provide public services that are reasonably comparable to those in other provinces.

The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version made incorrect reference to “have not” provinces.