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Politics Redford wants premiers to back Alberta's call for health-care transfers

Alberta's Premier Alison Redford takes part in a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa November 17, 2011.

BLAIR GABLE/BLAIR GABLE/REUTERS

Rookie Alberta Premier Alison Redford is asking that her oil-rich province get its fair share of health-care transfers – something it was denied in the last national accord on the matter.

Speaking to reporters Thursday after meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Ms. Redford couldn't, however, identify fellow premiers who might back her call for Alberta to be awarded its full per capita share of health cash.

Ms. Redford, who took office only last month, should be able to count on several premiers for support as Alberta tries to grab a bigger piece of the transfer pot, including Ontario's Dalton McGuinty and Saskatchewan's Brad Wall.

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Economists have estimated that Alberta would receive as much as $850-million to $1-billion more in annual health transfer funding if it received a full proportionate share.

Ms. Redford said she realizes not every premier will back her campaign, but she hinted at the fact that Albertans pay more in taxes to Ottawa than they get back in funding or programs.

"I think it's probably quite predictable that some won't be" supportive, she said of other premiers. "That's part of a wider conversation. We have a federation where everyone makes contributions to the federation and expects citizens to be treated equally."

Ottawa's 10-year health funding accord with the provinces is due to expire on April 1, 2014, and premiers are already girding themselves for a battle to preserve the gains of the last deal.

It will be hard for all premiers to agree on the way forward, but they are meeting in Victoria in January to discuss what they want in the next health transfer deal. Premiers are worried that even if Mr. Harper gives them what they want on health, he may claw support back in other areas.

Separately, Ms. Redford took the unusual step of calling on Canadian politicians to stop lobbying their U.S. counterparts regarding the controversial Keystone XL oil sands pipeline that would ship Alberta petroleum to the United States.

"It is not appropriate for us to be providing advice to American decision-makers in that context and be political activists," she said at a news conference in Ottawa. "I am not at all supportive of that and I'm disappointed about it."

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Her plea, made Thursday, just days after her visit to Washington, is addressed to proponents of the pipeline as well as those who have gone to the U.S. capital in an effort to kill the project.

The Harper government has criticized federal NDP MPs who recently lobbied U.S. lawmakers to block TransCanada Corp.'s proposed $7-billion project.

When Ms. Redford was asked about the NDP's trip to Washington, her criticism stretched to those working to convince the United States to approve the project.

Ms. Redford's call for Canadian politicians to stop lobbying Americans would appear to be a warning to the Harper government too, but her spokesman later backed off that notion – saying she was not talking about cabinet ministers.

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