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B.C. considers legal action against Ottawa over equalization: Eby

B.C. Premier says province may join constitutional challenge launched earlier by Newfoundland
B.C. Premier David Eby and Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey Thursday, June 13, toured an affordable housing project in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. During questions with media, Eby doubled down on his criticism of Ottawa for failing to fund various projects in B.C.

David Eby has doubled down on his criticism of Ottawa over lack of federal support and B.C. may join legal action against the Liberal government over equalization payments. 

"We don't ask for special treatment, we don't ask for anything other than (what) any other province is getting," the B.C. premier said Thursday, June 13. "All we want is fair treatment between us and Ottawa and all the other provinces."

He made these comments at an unrelated event with Newfoundland Premier Andrew Furey. They come after he had slammed Ottawa's offer of $750 million to Quebec to help with temporary immigrants in that province. Federal Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marc Miller responded by saying that Eby appeared to confused about the purpose of the funding. But Eby did not back down while speaking to CBC Radio Wednesday and again Thursday, when taking questions from media. 

"I think it's critically important to recognize that my concern is not about migrant funding for British Columbia," he said. "I mean, part of it is, but my (larger) concern is about fair treatment for British Columbia from the federal government." 

Eby added that fair treatment means B.C. receives a fair share of any federal program based on its population.

"Could be migrants, could be economic development, could be housing -— you name it," he said.

Eby added that he has asked Attorney-General Niki Sharma to look into whether B.C. could join the constitutional challenge Furey's government launched in April over the equalization payments.  

"One of the things that shocked me was that British Columbia is sending money to the federal government, so they can send it to Ontario," Eby said. "We can't get money for dikes in (Fraser) Valley."

Eby was referring to Ottawa's recent decision to reject applications from Abbotsford, Merritt and Princeton for flood infrastructure through the federal Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund despite extensive flooding damage in all three communities from 2021's atmospheric river.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” Abbotsford Mayor Ross Siemens, said in a statement last week in echoing sentiments from Merritt Mayor Michael Goetz and Princeton Mayor Spencer Coyne. "For the first time in our history, we witnessed a (nine)-day closure of the key transportation corridor (the Trans-Canada Highway) through the Fraser Valley, which links Canada’s largest port with the interior and Alberta, and yet through this competitive granting program, we did not make it on the list of federal priorities.”

Eby said he was "deeply, deeply disappointed" by that decision.

"So immediately, I asked for a phone call with the Prime Minister. I am still waiting for that call. This is what I'm talking about. When (Quebec) Premier François Legault calls and says, 'I'm having problems with migrants,' there is the immigration minister with a three-quarters-of-a-billion cheque. But British Columbia calls and says 'we're having problems with flood mitigation in the Fraser Valley,' the Prime Minister comes and said, 'yeah, don't worry, we'll help you rebuild.' But when the rubber hits the road...we get zero and there is no federal minister showing up to explain why." 

When asked if B.C. might help out those communities in the absence of the federal government, Eby listed off a series of large infrastructure projects that have gone ahead without federal funding despite promises to the contrary.

"So we can't build everything the federal government needs to bring money to the table for," he said. "Taxpayers for B.C. can't afford to build everything for the federal government, so that they can just rain cash down on Ontario and Quebec. We need them to come to the table with their infrastructure funding, including support for (the Fraser Valley)."


Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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