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.
United Conservative Party AGM emcees Rajan Sawhney and Cynthia Moore introduced Alberta Minister of Children Services Rebecca Schulz, who introduced Laureen Harper, who introduced a video, that introduced Premier Jason Kenney for his keynote speech.
But once the “introduception” was over, what a speech it was. Attendees were treated to yet another Jason Kenney barnburner, with one line in particular bringing the capacity crowd to its feet.
“Come hell or high water, Alberta will get a fair deal!”
In a statement responding to the announcement of Justin Trudeau’s new cabinet, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said, “We have much to discuss with the prime minister and his new cabinet on these and other items we have already set out in letters and public communications since the federal election.”
Justin Trudeau is putting former foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland – his star diplomat – in perhaps her most difficult role yet: intergovernmental affairs. It’s a fitting appointment, as the West has apparently become foreign territory to a Liberal Party that elected a total of zero MP’s between Winnipeg and Vancouver.
Speech delivered to FreedomTalk’s “Essentials Of Freedom Conference 2019 - Meeting the Unity Challenge: An Agenda for Canada” Conference in Red Deer on November 15, 2019
Confederation is broken.
That is an undeniable truth that now lies exposed at the bitter end of an election campaign that saw Alberta used as a punching bag by four of the five parties that now comprise membership in the House of Commons.
As we head into the final stretch of the federal election campaign, certain truths about Alberta’s place in Confederation have become more apparent.
The sole English debate of the campaign clearly demonstrated just how minor of an issue the plight of Alberta’s economy is on the national stage with Alberta’s economic challenges barely rating a mention.