During and since last year’s federal election, we have been among a large number of Albertans have been discussing the future of our province.
Alberta is in the middle of an economic crisis – the likes of which we have never seen before – caused by a perfect storm of bad public policy, an overbearing federal government, rail blockades, major project cancellations, low oil prices, and a pandemic.
Alberta’s economy has been struggling for years, hundreds of thousands of Albertans are out of work or underemployed, businesses are closing, and capital is fleeing at an astonishing pace.
Instead of helping Alberta address these challenges, Ottawa has taken the opportunity to aggravate the situation and only made things worse.
Barry Cooper is a Senior Fellow with Frontier Centre for Public Policy. In this report, which can be found on the Frontier Centre for Public Policy website, was developed from remarks delivered on November 15, 2019 in Red Deer, Alberta at the 7th Essentials of Freedom Conference hosted by the Economic Education Association.
We have included some excerpts below:
Last night, together with our partners at the Alberta Institute and the Institute for Liberal Studies, we hosted Jason Sorens in Calgary for a completely free talk on "Alberta: Autonomy, Independence, or Separation?"
You can watch video of the event below.
It’s now more than 30 years since Preston Manning became the leader of the nascent Reform Party and began his quest to reform the Canadian confederation.
He and his supporters envisioned a new party that would fight for economic and constitutional reform that would bolster the influence of the western provinces while strengthening national unity.
The Reform Party came to represent the idea that “The West Wants In” at a time when many were questioning whether they actually did.
Manning knew that the centre of political power in Canada has always resided in Ontario and Quebec and that for the West to have any clout, the Canadian Constitution would need to reflect and respect regional interests.
By Ted Morton (Originally published in the Calgary Herald on November 30, 2019, published here with permission of the author)
We are at a pivotal moment in Alberta’s history. Once again, Alberta has no representation, no voice in a newly elected federal Liberal government. We are in in our fifth year of recession and unprecedented unemployment. Premier Jason Kenney has responded by creating the “Fair Deal” panel to consult Albertans on how best to respond to this crisis.
To make informed decisions, it’s time for Albertans to do a policy audit of the past 30 years. Where have we been? Where are we today? The results are not happy.
Alberta is worse off today than it was 30 years ago. Despite the considerable efforts of such exceptional leaders as Peter Lougheed, Preston Manning, Ralph Klein and others, Alberta is more vulnerable to destructive federal policies than we were in the 1980s. Here’s the balance sheet:
By Tom Flanagan (Originally published in the C2C Journal on November 22, 2019, published here with permission of the author)
In early 2001, six Albertans led by Stephen Harper published an open letter to then-Premier Ralph Klein advocating adoption of an “Alberta Agenda.” The letter was a reaction to the 2000 federal election campaign, in which Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chrétien had deliberately targeted Alberta as a bogeyman. This was partly because of Alberta’s growing economic and political prominence, but it was not least because Canadian Alliance Leader Stockwell Day, who had become a serious electoral threat to the Liberals, was an Albertan. Chrétien’s cynical ploy succeeded.
In expectation of years of further hostility from Ottawa, the Alberta Agenda proposed a number of policy innovations that were within the constitutional power of Alberta and that, if enacted, would reduce Ottawa’s power over the province. Equally important, adopting the Agenda’s items would signal that the province wasn’t simply going to accept federal abuse and that it had options other than remaining a compliant province. Publication of the Alberta Agenda triggered a lot of public discussion, but no serious political action. Influential Alberta political leaders such as Ralph Klein and Preston Manning were cool to it. A committee of the Alberta legislature dismissed it after perfunctory study that included serious errors of interpretation. The Agenda’s informal name, the “Firewall Letter”, also proved unfortunate by raising in some minds the imagery of burning buildings and scorched earth.
Ted Morton (Originally published in the Calgary Herald on October 26, 2019, published here with permission of the author)
Our news media is flooded with stories about the tsunami of separatist sentiment that has exploded in Western Canada since Monday’s federal election. Memberships for a “WEXIT” website soared from 2,500 to 125,000 in less than 24 hours. Signatures on an online petition to separate have surpassed 80,000 and more are being added every minute. (Google “Western Alliance Alberta Separation.”)
Mainstream media and commentators are reassuring readers that this disturbance will dissipate. Of course, the 70 per cent of voters in Alberta and Saskatchewan who voted for the Conservatives and now find their provinces with not a single MP in the new Liberal government are angry. But this is just a passing phase. Albertans will get over it, and we will be back to business as usual soon enough. But they are wrong. And they are wrong for two reasons.
The first is this is not just about anger. It is about fear. Fear of losing jobs and the ripple effect this is having. The day after the election, Husky Energy laid off 200 employees in its Calgary office. These are not the first layoffs in the western oilpatch and they will not be the last.
I’ve been saying and writing negative things about the Federal Equalization Program for over three decades. And for three decades, various economists have criticized my criticisms and asserted that I failed to understand the economic benefits of equalization. So, this Christmas, as I navigated my way through several weeks in Florida with the in-laws, I decided to remedy my economic ignorance and read the most recent book on this subject – Fiscal Federalism and Equalization Policy in Canada. Authored by a team of two economists and two political scientists, surely this book would cure me of my ignorance-based criticisms of equalization.
Well, it didn’t work. Indeed, it had the opposite effect. This book confirmed my worst suspicions about the Equalization Program. Politics, not economics, have driven the development of Equalization from the start. More specifically, federal political parties – mainly the Liberals – have habitually used Equalization to secure their electoral base in Quebec and/or to mute the siren call of the Separatists with this offer: why leave Canada and give up the generous transfers from the ROC? Of course, what begins as bribery, over time, becomes a form of blackmail, as the recipients learn how to play the game. But I digress.
As the Alberta government’s “Fair Deal Panel” begins its work and enters into a four-month marathon of public consultation, review and eventual report submission, the economic climate in Alberta continues to sour.
Just in time for the holiday season, Statistics Canada reported that Alberta lost 18,200 jobs in November.
This is not good news, and exasperates a situation that has seen hundreds of Husky employees sent packing in a post-election haze; Encana punching its corporate ticket south to Denver; and Pengrowth Energy’s Corp’s shocking acquisition by ConaResources Ltd. for a mere five cents per share.