By Licia Corbella, Calgary Herald
News flash for Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty: the oil and gas industry isn’t being subsidized by Ontario or any other taxpayers for that matter. In fact, the “sworn enemies of corporate welfare,” the staff at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, spent months hunting for these apocryphal subsidies to big oil and, try as they might, they found nothing. Nada. Zero.
“We looked and we looked and discovered that these often-cited subsidies to the oil and gas industry simply weren’t there,” admitted Derek Fildebrandt, acting federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
“Dalton McGuinty is pretty sorely mistaken, so is Jack Layton when they say the oil and gas industry is getting billions of dollars in subsidies. It’s simply not true,” said Fildebrandt.
“There were some taxdeferral mechanisms with regard to capital costs on multibillion dollar plants, but the federal government closed those loopholes, so there is nothing now at all,” he added.
On Wednesday, during the annual Council of the Federation Conference that ended Friday in Vancouver, McGuinty said he was tired of Ontario subsidizing the West’s oil and gas industries.
“There is preferential tax treatment at present for people who want to develop oil and gas projects. I’ve got nothing against that. But what about some good tax treatment as well for people who want to develop cleanenergy industries in Ontario?” said McGuinty.
The only money the feds have provided the oil and gas industry was a $120-million grant from the Clean Energy Fund to help Shell Canada’s proposed $1.35-billion carbon capture and storage project at the Scotford refinery near Fort Saskatchewan. That will help Canada reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and clearly falls within the mandate of the fund.
Ultimately, the reason Canada is doing as well as it is when compared to the rest of the world has much to do with oil and gas activity in the West. Alberta, B.C. and Saskatchewan are currently the only net contributors to Confederation this year. It can be argued that Newfoundland is too, though it is still receiving equalization payments via a special deal established by former premier Danny Williams.
Ontario, on the other hand, will be receiving equalization – $2.2 billion more than it is contributing. Most of that money will come from Alberta as Alberta is, on a per-capita basis, the largest net contributor to the rest of Canada – by far.
According to figures com-piled by Alberta Finance and Enterprise, in 2010, Albertans paid about $14.1 billion more to the federal government than they got back in the form of services. That works out to $3,785 for every man, woman and child in this province.
In 2008, the last year that figures are available for all provinces, Ontario was not yet a “have not” province and contributed $14.4 billion more to the rest of Canada than it received back in federal grants and services.
That is equivalent to $1,113 for every Ontarian. In that same year, Alberta made a net contribution of $20.05 billion to Confederation, or a total of $5,577 for every Albertan. B.C. was the only other net contributor in 2008, providing $4.4 billion or $1,003 per British Columbian to the rest of Canada.
So, not only was Alberta the biggest contributor on a per-capita basis, but in real terms. All other provinces were net recipients.
Since then, partly because of McGuinty’s disastrous policies and largely because of the global recession that struck in 2008, Ontario has become a recipient of equalization.
Most Albertans are happy to share with their countrymen, but it’s rather galling when not only doesn’t the province get a quiet pat on the back, it gets a kick in the teeth instead.
“If McGuinty is going to complain about equalization, shouldn’t he be complaining about the other recipients? Isn’t it bizarre to complain about the contrib-utors?” asks Fildebrandt.
You’d think. But McGuinty is fighting for his political life as he faces an election in the fall and his popularity is down thanks largely to his Clean Energy Act, which has caused hydro bills to soar.
McGuinty was basically calling on the feds to subsidize green energy projects in Ontario that are already being subsidized by ratepayers and taxpayers with very little to show for it.
“McGuinty’s green energy pet projects are bankrupting Ontario and its businesses.
Our hydro rates have skyrocketed as a result and it’s hurting our economy because energy is significantly more expensive now,” said Fildebrandt.
Facing an election in the fall, McGuinty is trying to “deflect Ontarians’ attention away from his disastrous record” and his Green Energy Act, said Fildebrandt, by attacking “the one region that’s keeping the entire country afloat.”
McGuinty’s hypocrisy is breathtaking when you consider the multibillion bailouts the Ontario auto-sector has received in the past few year.
Perhaps McGuinty would enhance his image in the eyes of the Ontario electorate if he defended the poor outcome of his policies instead of arbitrarily lashing out with fictitious accusations directed at the only region of the country that’s keeping him afloat.