ANDRUS: We need a Referendum on Equalization, and we need it now.
The mounting tension between the federal and Alberta governments has reached a fever pitch, and we are now entering of a full-scale national unity crisis.
While Alberta’s economic downturn has lasted years, the pressure has been building dramatically since last October.
First, Husky Energy laid off hundreds of workers the morning after the federal election, shortly followed by Encana announcing that it was packing up and moved to Denver.
Then, just as TransMountain construction finally got under way, it was announced that the pipeline is now way over budget – costing taxpayers billion of dollars and reigniting fears it won’t ever get built.
In the middle of all this, the Teck Frontier Project returned to the news.
Teck is a project that spent almost 10 years getting the approval of everyone you could imagine – First Nations, government regulators, independent panels, etc – everyone except the federal cabinet.
In a five-page letter to Justin Trudeau in early February, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney told the federal government to approve the Teck Frontier oilsands mine to avoid “roiling Western alienation rising to a boiling point.”
In an instant, disaffected Albertans – already fraught with frustration – looked to the Teck mine for salvation.
Teck’s decision to withdrawal its application represents nothing short of a total defeat for Alberta, and sends a clear message to investors: Alberta is closed for business.
Inaction is not an option.
Federal-provincial relations must be amended immediately, or Alberta’s economy could collapse.
The time has come to force open the Constitution, by whatever means necessary.
Alberta needs a legitimate platform on which to plead its case to the rest of the country.
As the Buffalo Declaration outlined last week, “constitutional change must happen within Confederation or a referendum on Alberta’s independence is an inevitability.”
In particular, three key constitutional changes were outlined – the exact same three constitutional proposals that we at Project Confederation began advocating for with the release of our “New Alberta Agenda” in October.
First, balanced representation in Parliament is the key to achieving equality in the federation. This includes our medieval Senate.
Second, reaffirming and clarifying the free-trade provisions of the Constitution that guarantee free movement of goods, services, and infrastructure such as railroads and pipelines, is an absolute necessity when it comes to national unity.
Third, and perhaps most urgent, is the question of Equalization.
Why should Alberta, a province being crushed by the thumb of a possibly deliberately indecisive government in Ottawa, be contributing over $20-billion a year to the rest of the country when all we get in return are rail blockades, layoffs, and project cancellations?
Premier Kenney campaigned on holding a referendum to abolish Equalization, and has recently indicated that could take place in conjunction with Alberta’s municipal elections in October 2021.
But this latest news about the Teck Frontier Project makes an Equalization referendum more urgent. We simply cannot wait that long.
Manifestos aren’t going to be enough to save us.
We need a referendum on equalization, and we need it now.