Our Biggest Year Yet
When I sat down to write our 2023 Year in Review, I thought it was going to be a walk in the park.
But, early in the process, it became glaringly obvious that this was going to be a much bigger job than I'd originally planned.
That's because once you put it all down on paper, it's actually insane how much we’ve done this year.
We were in the trenches, fighting for every inch.
We had some wins.
We moved the ball.
However, as Winston Churchill once said:
"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts."
And continue we shall.
It would be impossible for me to go day-by-day and give you the full yearly summary of our entire gamut of activities.
If I did that, this year in review would take you the entirety of 2024 to read.
So, I’ll give you the highlights!
We opened the year by launching our campaign to stop the “Just Transition” - Ottawa’s insane, illegal, immoral, and unjust jobs transition designed to eliminate oil and gas jobs and retrain workers into less-available, lower-paying jobs in green energy.
We highlighted that Ontario, despite being a have-not province, was receiving $421 million in equalization transfers in 2023-24 because Western provinces were being way overtaxed.
We also pointed out that Justin Trudeau’s continued disregard of the Constitution was going to lead to deeper division across Canada when he spoke out against the use of the notwithstanding clause.
When Justin Trudeau rolled out his new 10-year healthcare funding plan, we pointed out that the $46 billion would be heavily subsidized by Western Canadian tax dollars - as is every federal program.
It was mid-February when we made big news, as our researchers uncovered that the “Just Transition” was an idea that was pioneered by the Alberta NDP in their 2015 “Made-in-Alberta” climate change strategy! The idea originally emerged in the NDP’s Climate Leadership Report commissioned by then Environment Minister Shannon Phillips.
Finally, the federal government rolled out the “Sustainable Jobs Plan,” which we pointed out was just another name for their industry-killing “Just Transition.”
In March, Grande Prairie City Council voted to transition from the RCMP to a municipal police force. This move brought the City in line with one of Project Confederation’s foundational principles - local control over policing priorities.
Later that month, we pointed out that pressure from the provinces can be successful at getting policy wins - as pushback from Alberta Premier Danielle Smith and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe led to the federal government backing down on its healthcare funding condition of having access to personal health care data. However, not to be deterred, Ottawa brought in additional funding conditions - despite health care being provincial jurisdiction.
We also provided commentary on the Supreme Court arguments heard on the controversial Impact Assessment Act, known as the "No More Pipelines Law," which grants the federal government extensive power to block energy and infrastructure projects, even those entirely within a single province. Seven other provinces joined Alberta in challenging the law, recognizing its potential harm to provincial jurisdiction. We noted that the law would completely undermine the constitution if ruled constitutional. There would be further developments on this file later in the year.
At the end of March, Saskatchewan passed the Saskatchewan First Act, which asserts jurisdictional control over natural resources and electricity generation. The Act also draws inspiration from Quebec by unilaterally amending the constitution to defend its economy from federal overreach.
We started the month by highlighting a theme that became consistent throughout the year - a three-pronged affordability crisis. In a commentary, we pointed out that loose monetary policy during COVID, combined with out-of-control government spending, compounded by energy policies designed to phase out the industry, are driving prices up and stretching budgets thin.
We also successfully pushed back against federal Minister of Justice David Lametti, who hinted that the federal government was considering nationalizing the natural resource industry. We pointed out the obvious logistical failings of the plot - that natural resources were provincial jurisdiction - and our opposition worked. Two days later, Ottawa backtracked.
Never content in their attacks on Western Canada, it was in April that the federal government announced they would be renewing the equalization formula for an additional five years - a full year before the existing formula was set to expire. We launched our End Equalization campaign, surpassing 8,000 signatures before the month ended. Our criticisms stemmed from the fact that the Liberals sidestepped consultation and buried the extension in a 400+ page omnibus bill.
Most importantly, however, in April we went on a six-stop Can’t Stop Alberta Tour with the purpose of setting the stage for the 2023 Alberta general election. We had the opportunity to engage with hundreds of Albertans and have a meaningful conversation about what the election meant for Alberta.
We spent the month emphasizing the importance of this election in shaping the future of the province and the country. We expressed our concerns about the direction of Confederation, and how important it was to elect a government that strongly stands up for provincial jurisdiction in the face of repeated attacks by a hostile federal government.
We raised concerns about the federal government’s plans to accelerate the transition to a net-zero electricity grid by 2035. We pointed out the high costs of the plan - as both the capital costs and economic loss would be devastating to provincial finances.
We noted that the Liberals were pushing forward with their “Just Transition” plans following their annual convention. A resolution titled "A Green Transition for the Prairie Provinces" reflected the Liberals' endorsement of a Just Transition framework. We emphasized that such policies were undermining national unity - especially in the backdrop of an election in Alberta.
However, we proved once again that pressure can yield results, as evidenced by the federal government backtracking on its controversial bail policies. Ottawa’s 2018 changes to the bail system were making it difficult to hold violent offenders in pre-trial custody, leading to a catch-and-release system. Pressure from the provinces - including Alberta - led to the federal government making some (slight) changes, and promising more.
Throughout the election campaign, we stuck to our guns, using our position to put out thoughtful policy pieces that highlighted the need for strong provinces in a country made up of unique regions with unique needs. We also had a large number of public interviews and editorials published throughout the campaign on radio, TV, in the papers, and online.
After being re-elected, Premier Smith wasted no time in issuing a stern warning to Justin Trudeau. She emphasized the harm of imposing the net-zero 2035 regulations on electricity generation, and the introduction of an emissions cap. We agreed, and assured you that we would fight the federal government tooth and nail when it comes to our economic future.
Also, the federal government’s renewal of the equalization formula passed through the House of Commons shortly after Smith’s re-election. Now we aren’t saying the timing was deliberate, but we aren’t saying it wasn’t. We renewed our opposition to the equalization program.
June was marked by wildfires across the country, and Justin Trudeau’s Liberals used them as an opportunity to force aggressive climate policies down the throat of Canadians. We stressed the need for responsible solutions that prioritize economic prosperity and doubled down on our resistance to policies that will decimate our natural resource industry.
Just as we warned, the federal government introduced the “Sustainable Jobs Act” (Just Transition) to Parliament in mid-June, using the wildfires as political capital. In response, Alberta and Saskatchewan pledged to assert their constitutional jurisdiction over natural resources - just as we have been pushing for since our inception.
Finally, the end of June was marked by the passing of the federal budget, as well as the equalization formula extension - without amendments. We pointed out how the lack of significant opposition in the Senate underscored the unequal treatment of Western Canada, and again argued that constitutional changes are required to address the systemic inequalities inherent in our national governing structure.
In between the barbecues and rodeos, Smith embarked on a mission centered around energy policy, engaging in critical discussions with political leaders. We were encouraged by Smith’s approach, and noted that disputes over ambitious federal climate policies were becoming more than just a “made-in-Alberta” issue. Following a (semi-contentious) meeting with Trudeau, she predicted that she had more allies in her opposition to the federal targets than many anticipated.
At the Council of Premiers meeting, she was proved correct. Premier Blaine Higgs of New Brunswick criticized the Trudeau government's approach, accusing it of aiming to shut down the energy sector. Even British Columbia's NDP government joined in, pointing out that LNG export opportunities are being lost as a result of these ambitious climate targets. We have long predicted that the federal government’s overreach would lead to backlash across the country, and these events proved us correct in our analysis.
Even in the face of growing provincial opposition, the federal government doubled down on their climate agenda - announcing a renewed commitment to end “fossil fuel subsidies.” Hilariously, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault's press conference was interrupted by climate activists - ironic given Guilbeault’s past in orange jumpsuits as a climate activist himself before politics.
The press conference, however, marked a watershed moment. It highlighted the unpopularity of the Liberals’ aggressive climate targets - even amongst their own base - and for the rest of the summer, the Liberals saw their poll numbers begin their decline into obscurity.
As August began, we sent you our full analysis of Ottawa’s announced elimination of “fossil fuel subsidies.” We raised significant concerns. First, the lack of a clear definition of subsidy in the regulations gives the federal government tremendous power in implementation. Secondly, we criticized the convoluted review process for each subsidy, calling for transparency and consistency in the evaluation process.
Later in the month, Steven Guilbeault and Jonathan Wilkinson (Minister of Energy and Natural Resources of Canada) marched out their ambitious net-zero 2035 electricity regulations in their draft form, and Project Confederation strongly asserted the unconstitutionality of the regulations. We noted, again, that electricity generation was provincial responsibility, and launched our campaign against the regulations.
September was our busiest month yet.
I was invited to speak on the second half of the Can’t Stop Alberta Tour, which extended through October and spanned 24 stops, drawing diverse and engaged audiences. I was joined by notable figures such as Lindsay Wilson of Alberta Proud, former MLAs Rick Strankman and Drew Barnes, and current MLAs Justin Wright, Angela Pitt, and Jason Stephan. The roster also featured influential voices like Kris Sims of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Jeff Park of the Alberta Parents' Union, Cory Morgan of the Western Standard, Gord Tulk from Libertas Alberta, Michael Binnion from the Modern Miracle Network, and Peter McCaffrey from the Alberta Institute.
I was blown away by the intellect and thoughtfulness of our audiences, who shared a vision for a robust and prosperous Alberta founded on principles of freedom and provincial autonomy. The tour went across the province, where I had the opportunity to meet over a thousand Albertans. I was also very encouraged by the spirit of collaboration, as each of the speakers I had the opportunity to share the stage with brought a unique and insightful perspective to the tour - something that I will forever be grateful for.
On the policy front, September also marked the release of the LifeWorks’ report on the benefits and risks of an Alberta Pension Plan - a key tenet of our foundational policy document, “A New Alberta Agenda.” We were pleased with the report's release, and were able to engage in robust discussion about the proposal with an engaged and enthusiastic audience across the province. As you'll see, we were just getting started on the Pension Plan.
In mid-October, the Supreme Court of Canada declared the Impact Assessment Act unconstitutional. The Court’s decision was a major victory, not just for Alberta, but for the country as a whole. It echoed Project Confederation’s ongoing efforts to stand up for provincial jurisdiction and underscored the effectiveness of our tireless approach.
A week later, it became clear that the federal government had no plans to repeal the Act, and we launched our “Repeal the Impact Assessment Act” petition designed to defend the principles of federalism upheld by the Courts and ignored by the federal government. Prominent figures, including Smith, Moe, Ontario Premier Doug Ford, and former Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, all spoke firmly in favour of the court decision. Our petition quickly climbed from 2,000 to 4,000, and by the end of the month had surpassed 10,000 signatures!
October also marked the end of the Can’t Stop Alberta tour; however, the 24 events had helped create amazing momentum, and we had no intention of letting that momentum slip away.
The hits just kept coming in November.
The federal Liberals, apparently just noticing their nosedive in the polls, did a bit of a pivot on the carbon tax - naturally leading to division across the country. By providing a carbon tax carve-out to home heating oils - mostly used in the Atlantic - Trudeau undermined the constitutionality of his signature policy, in which the Supreme Court ruled that regional exceptions could not be applied.
In the midst of these developments, Minister of Rural Economic Development Gudie Hutchings (herself a Newfoundland Liberal MP) suggested that the decision to carve out home heating oils was politically motivated, stating: "perhaps they need to elect more Liberals in the Prairies so that we can have that conversation, as well."
Amidst escalating opposition, we launched our petition to repeal the carbon tax, which very quickly reached our initial goal of 10,000 signatures. We were joined in opposition with strong reactions from provincial premiers, including Moe, Smith, and Ford. The federal Conservative Party's motion for a carbon tax exemption for all home heating sources gained support from unexpected quarters in Jagmeet Singh and the NDP, however it was defeated by the Liberals and Bloc Quebecois.
Shortly after, Singh called for a windfall tax on oil and gas companies, which would directly target Western Canada’s energy industry - something we've been warning about for over a year. This was deeply concerning, given the fact that the NDP is currently propping up the federal government due to its Confidence and Supply agreement.
In mid-November, I had the opportunity to speak at the Canada Strong & Free Network conference, where I was joined by Cory Morgan and University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe to talk about LifeWorks' pension plan analysis. I argued that Alberta’s young demographics, combined with our higher income levels and lower number of seniors than the rest of the country, created a compelling case for Alberta to create its own plan.
As we approach the end of the year, we dove into the ongoing discussions surrounding the Alberta Pension Plan. The issue has garnered considerable attention from the media, the opposition NDP and finance ministers from around the country. Our Pension Plan Town Halls were well-attended and instrumental in fostering meaningful conversations about the potential creation of an Alberta Pension Plan. These virtual events provided a platform for Albertans to voice their questions, concerns, and aspirations, and the response to our town halls has been overwhelmingly positive, with more than 2,000 attendees so far.
Oh, and I took the time (far longer than expected) to write this year in review for you to read!
Congratulations if you’ve gotten to this point - it’s been a journey!
This year, we witnessed continuous pushback against federal policies in the realm of environmental regulations and taxation. The struggle for provincial autonomy and fair treatment within Confederation has been a recurring theme throughout the year.
It was a year that included landmark Supreme Court decisions, a Liberal government fumbling its signature policy pieces, and a renewed interest in the protection of constitutional jurisdiction by provincial governments across the country.
As we conclude the year, the conversations sparked by these events will continue to shape the political and economic landscape of the entire country.
Your active participation, whether it be through petitions, town hall events, or in-person meetings, has been instrumental in amplifying the voices advocating for a prosperous Canada that respects the unique regional needs of a large nation brimming with potential.
Now, we have one more ask.
We know not everyone can contribute financially, and if you can't, we completely respect that.
But if you are in the position to be able to assist us with a donation, we could really do with the help.
Every dollar helps, and the money we raise in December determines how effective we can be next year.
So, if you can, please contribute $10, $25, $50, or even $100 to help us achieve even more wins in 2024:
Thank you for your continued support and commitment to building a better future for our country.