Diane Francis

Published: November 4, 2019

-Financial Post


Alberta must adopt Quebec’s playbook and become a “nation” within a nation or threaten to leave. The ballot box does not work and Alberta is Canada’s breadwinner, but is treated like a stepchild.

Step one is for Alberta to demand the immediate construction of the TMX pipeline and the scrapping of Bills C-48 and C-69. No delays.

Then Alberta should stage a referendum before Christmas 2019 on opting out of, or revamping, Canada’s unjust equalization system. (Since 2010, Ottawa has taken an average of over $20 billion a year out of Alberta; Quebec receives $13 billion, or two-thirds of every dollar in the federal equalization program.) It’s a bribe to Quebec with Alberta money which is why Justin Trudeau recently extended the system to 2024 — an extension which should be nullified.

Some say such a referendum won’t force renegotiation, but it cannot be ignored either. Referenda have provided Quebec with leverage.

Then Alberta must take steps toward autonomy: Withdraw from the Canada Pension Plan, subsidized heavily by the province due to its high incomes and youthful demographics. Quebec did this in 1966. If Alberta withdrew, its workers and employers would pay half the CPP premiums they now pay and the rest of Canada would have to pay at least 10 per cent more. Alberta would then get tens of billions from its share of the $440-billion CPP fund to invest in new projects.

Alberta should, as Quebec did, take control from the federal government of all tax collection, border control, policing and immigration in return for lower taxes. It should serve notice to Ottawa that it is opting out of any new health and social programs, thus keeping the money in Alberta. (In 2015, the NDP proposed to let Quebec alone do this).

Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba should warn the Trudeau government that punitive carbon taxes on provinces unwilling to go along with their draconian climate change policy, won’t be obeyed. This is in their “national interest” and could cost as much as $35 billion a year, bankrupting many of western Canada’s industries and farms. Ontario’s too.

Next, Alberta must sponsor two projects, initiated by First Nations: One carrying oil by rail or pipeline from the oilsands to Valdez and another carrying oil by pipeline from Alberta to British Columbia, then Alaska. Both projects would follow routes pre-approved by local First Nations, bypassing Ottawa’s meddling completely. Then Alberta must work with Manitoba to establish a pipeline and oil port in Churchill to ship oil to the east coast or Europe. All projects are viable that Alberta and investors could finance.

The election of 2019 illustrates that the current political system will never unseat the Liberals and the Laurentian elites of Ottawa, Montreal and Rosedale. They are smug and powerful and floating on a sea of oil and resource cash. Their operatives control the federal government, the Senate, its crown corporations, agencies, banks, regulated industries, corporate friendlies and the Liberal party.

Alberta is captive to a system that economically strangles and disenfranchises its enterprising people even though it is, on its own, the fourth largest oil producer in the world — after the U.S., Russia and Saudi Arabia. Its economy is the same size as Quebec’s, and combined with Saskatchewan is nearly 20 per cent bigger. It is Canada’s single engine of economic growth now and in the future.

Finally, the Tories should table in Parliament the following for approval which was approved on behalf of Quebec: “That this House recognize that Alberta and Saskatchewan form a nation within a united Canada.”

That’s what Stephen Harper did for Quebec as prime minister. It’s now what Trudeau must do for Alberta and Saskatchewan.

If not, then separation is inevitable.