The Equalization Scam: Ontario the “Have” Province Gets $963M

The School for Public Policy published a useful review of the 2018-2019 equalization payments.

Let’s take a look.

graph-4-1024x579

Looks pretty typical in a lot of ways. West (+Newfoundland) pays East.

Also, while Quebec gets a lot of flak for getting the biggest payment, they are far from the biggest recipient on a per capita basis.

table1-1024x174

But wait a second, didn’t Ontario just become a “have” province? Why are they getting a big cheque?

And that leads to the most interesting part of this year’s equalization:

This brings us to Ontario. The $963 million it will receive in equalization is entirely composed of adjustment payments. Absent these payments, the total equalization program would cost $17.2 billion and Ontario would receive nothing. But at $70 per person for receiving provinces, the adjustment payments add $1.76 billion, which brings the total cost of the program to the $18.96 billion dollars paid in 2018/19.

A Costly Quirk?

Why should adjustment payments be made at all? And why should they be paid to Ontario, a “have” province prior to this stage of the formula? The limit was put in place by the previous government in 2009 to keep costs under control and limit uncertainty. But why does it also act as a floor? And… must it? The Fiscal-Arrangements Act is somewhat ambiguous on this point.

Nope, this doesn’t appear to be a redistributive scam at all. It’s not like Canada already has the federal health and social transfers, or that the federal government already spends money in provinces at different rates.

central canada equalize

 

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