Right in the centre - What will Alberta do?


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

What will Alberta do in light of the recent federal election? They elected only Conservative Party of Canada MPs, except for one pro-pipeline NDP guy in Edmonton. Saskatchewan elected only CPC MPs. Manitoba and BC decreased their Liberal numbers. There has been a lot of discussion in Alberta.

Even before the election took place, there was a lot of rumbling about Alberta separation. After the election, a separation movement, called Wexit, really fired up. Some meetings have already been held and the one in Calgary reportedly had 1,700 people in attendance. Most, but not all, of those in attendance seem determined to take Alberta out of confederation. They are angry and with just cause. The federal Liberals have done just about all they can to destroy Alberta’s economy by stopping pipeline expansion and not addressing the huge inequities in the equalization formula.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column on the equalization formula, that showed that for many years now, Alberta, Saskatchewan, BC and Newfoundland have been subsidizing the other provinces. Quebec will get $12 billion this year and Manitoba $2 billion. The leader of the Bloc Quebecois, M. Blanchet, says that Alberta doesn’t actually cut a cheque to Quebec and technically, he is correct. The federal government collects taxes across Canada and takes some of those taxes and sends cheques to the “have-not” provinces. The point that M. Blanchet conveniently skips over is that if Quebec didn’t get that cheque, then federal taxes could be $12 billion lower in all provinces, but it would have a major impact in Alberta, Saskatchewan, BC and Newfoundland.

Manitoba is no angel in this whole process either, as it benefits to the tune of $2 billion per year as a “have-not” province. PC premier, Brian Pallister, has long said that Manitoba needs to become a “have” province. Pallister is correct and the PC policies seem to have the province headed in that direction. That Manitoba can’t yet pay its own way is a disgrace that must be overcome and it will only come by way of private investment. Manitoba needs more hog production, cattle production, mining, crop production and processing. It also needs an energy transportation corridor to Churchill that includes not only an upgraded railroad, but a highway, a power line and an oil pipeline, to get western oil to a deep sea port to supply eastern Canada and foreign markets.

I attended Economic Education Association of Alberta conference in Red Deer last week. Twenty or more speakers presented on their areas of expertise, from separation, to the constitution, to climate change. If the conference were to be summarized, one could say the feeling was, “Separation if necessary, but not necessarily separation.” It was a gruelling two days, but the collective opinion seemed to be that Alberta should have its own pension plan, like Quebec has had for years, and its own police force, like Ontario has had for decades.

Many Albertans are upset that the Canada Pension Plan invests in many foreign ventures, some of which are questionable, at best. The obvious desire would be that CPP invest in Canada, be it private or public ventures, for the good of Canadians. The overall feeling of the conference was that many steps, such as policing and pension plan, be put in place and “if” separation becomes the right or necessary option, a lot of things will already be in place. Alberta separation was likened to a marriage and divorce. As messy as a divorce can be, it’s best to have the conditions all agreed to and in place before it goes to court.

Whether Alberta separates or not, and whether Saskatchewan and Manitoba go with them, remains to be seen. One thing is for certain, the current situation is not sustainable from either an economic or political point of view. There will be changes coming.

Disclaimer: The writer serves as a volunteer chair of the Manitoba Community Newspaper Association. The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being  the view of the MCNA board or Banner & Press staff.