One Shot to Save Confederation
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.
“We’re shutting down the oilsands by 2030,” said Green Party leader Elizabeth May.
Jagmeet Singh, leader of a New Democratic Party that lost 15 seats, has vowed to continue to fight against development of the TransMountain pipeline, a vital piece of infrastructure needed for resource development in Alberta and Saskachewan.
Justin Trudeau – still the Prime Minister – has done more to ignite western alienation with Bill C-69 and C-48 than any other prime minister in recent memory.
And don’t forget Yves-Francois Blanchet, leader of the separatist Bloc Quebecois, who proposed revisions to the equalization system that would further cripple the Western economy, deepening a recession that has left the region reeling.
The electoral map shows a clear regional fault line in our country. Anger continues to simmer, remaining ever present like tension after a dramatic and intense argument that cuts deep into the soul.
Emotion is a part of politics - that’s natural - but in order to build a successful movement, individuals must be persuaded with rational, intelligent arguments and a message that doesn’t just spread fear and hate, but is built on hope.
There is one thing that is missing in all this madness.
It was almost twenty years ago that six prominent Albertans penned what would become universally known as the ‘Firewall Letter’. The letter outlined several key points that would create a semi-autonomous Alberta within confederation.
Twenty years later, none of the suggestions made by Stephen Harper, Ted Morton, Tom Flanagan, Rainer Knopff, Andrew Crooks and Ken Boessenkoel have been put into place.
They were dismissed at the time as too radical, despite being written in the shadow of Jean Chretien’s third consecutive majority government. At the time, “The West Wants In” was still driving the Reform/Canadian Alliance movement.
But the political climate has shifted. Never before has one region become so singularly outcast by the political elites, and Westerners have never had the favoured sons of the Laurentian Elite in Ottawa.
As investment capital has shifted out of the country and layoffs continue to roll through downtown Calgary, talk of Western independence has dominated the provincial landscape in the post-election fallout. With it, questions as to an exit strategy, vision and a clear lack of leadership litter the comments of the WEXIT Facebook group - 261 thousand members strong.
Too many questions, too few answers. There’s one missing ingredient.
Albertans may disagree on whether or not the ultimate goal should be independence, but there is one common element to this entire equation: the status quo is not acceptable.
There are concrete steps that the Alberta government could take immediately in order to wrest power back from Ottawa.
The proposals in Project Confederation’s Open Letter to Premier Kenney include three immediate referendum questions: one to abolish Canada’s equalization program; another to clarify Section 92 and Section 121 of the Constitution Act – allowing for unrestricted movement of goods, services and infrastructure across provinces. And third, to reform the Senate to include an equal number of elected senators per province while giving the upper chamber effective powers in order to act as a check on any federal government bent on encroaching in provincial jurisdiction.
Also included in the letter are initiatives to collect our own revenue from personal income tax; creating an Alberta Pension Plan and withdrawing from the Canada Pension Plan; establishing a provincial police force at earliest convenience; establishing an independent Alberta immigration system (as Quebec has already done); and resuming provincial responsibility for health care, social policy, and infrastructure.
It is time for Albertans to boldly stand up for our own future and seek – as much as possible – to be the masters of our own destiny.
This means resuming control of the powers that we possess under the Constitution of Canada but which we have allowed the federal government to exercise for too long.