I grew up in the West, and felt the full weight of its anger towards Ottawa. First as a child listening to my parents reel in horror at the second coming of Trudeau Sr. (1980-84). Later as a supporter of the Reform Party.
At that time, the West wanted in, and British Columbia was at the forefront of the new conservative movement of the 1990s as Reform dominated the Western federal landscape. It was often overlooked by those outside of B.C while the NDP ruled provincially, but the right was still coming together between the SoCreds, provincial Reform Party, and the ill-named Liberals.
Those now living in other Western provinces could be forgiven for writing off British Columbia as the ‘Left Coast.’ With ‘Cloud Camp’ on Burnaby Mountain in place to protest the Trans Mountain pipeline, Jagmeet Singh’s adopted political home, and one of David Suzuki’s houses.
However it may look to the outside world, the ‘Left Coast’ label ought only be applied to metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island. Even then, northern Vancouver Island – with its resource economy and blue-collar workforce – swings between NDP and Conservative in federal elections.
As Western alienation now moves towards Western independence, the media has focused almost exclusively on Alberta. Never mind that Saskatchewan premier Scott Moe has been the most outspoken of the Western leaders. But on the CBC, in the Toronto Star and other ‘national’ media, they assume that we are just speaking of Alberta when we talk about angry Westerners. In the Toronto Star, Calgary professor Ted Morton wrote a column entitled, ‘Does the West Have a Case for Separation?’ He speaks of the West, but goes on to write exclusively about Alberta’s grievances, only grudgingly admitting at the close of his article that the people of Saskatchewan might also be contemplating an exit from confederation. Even my colleagues at the Western Standard east of the Rockies can fall into this trap from time-to-time.
The cultural, or political West – as opposed to geographical West – is not confined to prairie farms and oilfields. Stockwell Day made B.C. his home after winning the Canadian Alliance leadership in 2000, successfully winning a seat in Okanagan- Similkameen. It is a mistake for Alberta and Saskatchewan to not see alignment with BC in their disputes with Ottawa.
Few commentators have considered that oil and gas driven northern B.C. might be tempted to follow a Western bid for independence, if it comes to that. Similarly, the agriculture based Okanagan Valley, the coal producing south-east, or the deeply Christian communities of the Fraser Valley were all core constituencies of the Reform Party’s crusade against Ottawa.
If put to a referendum, could B.C. vote yes to independence? It’s a tougher case to make than the Prairies, but it’s a plausible scenario if they are he last ones left.
The majority of Metro Vancouver would never agree to leave, but large portions of the province could make a move.
Even the Yukon only voted Liberal by the narrowest of margins (72 votes). That sprawling northern territory is probably the one seat lost by Conservatives due to vote splitting with the PPC. Still, the independent minded and conservative leaning Yukon Party held power in three consecutive majorities between 2002 and 2011. Leadership disputes have reduced them to the official opposition in more recent years, but there is a strong frontier spirit in that northern territory, and a spirit that could be sympathetic to western independence. Like BC, it may be forced to consider the option if the Prairie provinces moved first.
The idea of a prosperous and independent Western Canada is not a pipe dream, as many from Whistler to Winnipeg are waking up to.
That said, I am no separatist. Canada is better off as a whole, and united. But it can be said, it is the federal government that has already left Western Canada. To rectify this, Trudeau is considering Allison Redford and Naheed Nenshi to speak on its behalf.
Justin Trudeau fundamentally does not understand the West, and it could be said he comes by that honestly. His father Pierre so completely wrote off the West in his later years as prime minister he infamously gave the middle finger salute to protestors in Salmon Arm, B.C.
Pierre Trudeau relied on Western Canadians overwhelmingly patriotic sentiment to neutralize any Western independence movement. Today, his son Justin proclaims Canada a post-national state and flippantly changes the national anthem to conform with the latest campus crazes. At this point, what do western Canadians have to be patriotic about anymore?
QUESNEL: Northern B.C. Should Leverage the Buffalo Declaration
Alternatively, rocking the political boat with talk of redrawing provincial boundaries could be enough to finally awaken the British Columbia government to the seriousness of northern alienation in their province.
Talks about Western independence and the release of the well-timed Buffalo Declaration should be leveraged by marginalized northern regions in the West to place their issues front and centre in the national conversation.
Within the wider discourse of Western alienation exists the reality of northern alienation that has existed for quite a while without finding an appropriate vehicle. For example, northern British Columbia has long felt marginalized within British Columbia politics and ignored by provincial politicians. After all, only about seven percent of B.C.’s population resides in the northern half.
The province tends to prioritize the southern half of the province when it makes large infrastructure investments. Despite automation and changing technologies, the northern B.C. economy is still largely dominated by resource industries. Forestry, mining, and the energy sector still serve as a backbone for the rural northern economy, despite economic diversification efforts on the part of northern rural municipalities.
In terms of economic structure and attitude, northern B.C. residents are more like northern Albertans. People in Kitimat feel alienated from the latte-drinking urbanites in B.C.’s capital city of Victoria. Granted, however, that the B.C. Premier has stood up for major projects that would benefit the north, such as the Coastal GasLink project. However, this doesn’t change a basic alienation that the north feels from the core of political power in the province.
A similar situation has occurred in northwestern Ontario where large communities such as Kenora have felt ongoing neglect from a distant and unresponsive government in Queen’s Park and have seriously discussed joining Manitoba. Many felt that on issues such as the forest economy and on healthcare, Ontario seriously neglected them. At one point, a disgruntled community in southwestern Manitoba wanted to join Saskatchewan.
This might be the perfect time for northern British Columbians to raise the stakes in the discussion by raising the “S” word. The real possibility of separation might be what the out-of-touch B.C. provincial government needs to prioritize northern concerns.
In November of last year, the Frontier Centre for Public Policy released a major policy paper that discussed redrawing the provincial boundaries of Alberta and Saskatchewan to provide tidewater access to both provinces.
Residents of Northern B.C. – both from Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities – should consider and perhaps leverage such proposals, such as joining Alberta. First Nations in northern British Columba might have more success in forwarding their issues of self-government and nation-to-nation dialogue, especially with the focus on reconciliation.
If residents of northern B.C. entertained the possibility of joining Alberta, Alberta would need to extend an offer to northern British Columbia residents explaining the benefits of joining Alberta. Northern B.C. would need to inform the Alberta government of the problems they are facing which propelled them to leave British Columbia. Alberta could then address those problems and offer residents of Northern B.C. a better deal.
During the Quebec secession crisis, there were some Quebec Indigenous leaders who did not reject the sovereigntist cause completely, instead, asking the leaders of the Quebec sovereignty movement what they would offer them. Being pragmatic, they realized that if they could not stop or fight the secession vote, they would settle for a better deal from a sovereign Quebec government than the one they had with a united Canada. Both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in northern B.C. should adopt a similar attitude and posture.
A very attractive element of northern B.C. joining Alberta would be the promise of permanent coastal access for Alberta’s energy sector, which would greatly benefit many communities and First Nations of northern B.C.
Alternatively, rocking the political boat with talk of redrawing provincial boundaries could be enough to finally awaken the British Columbia government to the seriousness of northern alienation in their province. This could finally force the province to adopt a serious plan for the north, that includes investment in necessary infrastructure.
Mayors in northern B.C. communities should be able to get the premier on the phone and receive attention on pressing matters. Industries such as forestry, mining, and energy should receive as much attention as issues that concern Metro Vancouver and among suburbanites in the Lower Mainland.
Raising the spectre of redrawn borders might just be enough to force the province to deal with its Northern Alienation problems.
LETTER-ANGLIN: Buying KXL pipeline shares opens it up more legal troubles
Now that the UCP has blindly jumped into this project as the primary investor and guarantor of the XL pipeline, they may have doomed the project.
The absurdity of Alberta investing $1.1 billion in the [Keystone] XL pipeline and guaranteeing another $7 billion + in loans is nuts! TC Energy claims they will buy back Alberta’s equity interest after the pipeline is in service. However, no one has provided any specific details how that buy-back would occur. The announcement should set off alarm bells across Alberta. In the UCP announcement, Kenney claims construction will begin as early as April 1, 2020. This is absolutely not true! The latest court challenge that TC Energy inflicted upon itself has yet to make its way to the Court of Appeals. There are many more court challenges to come, and most all of these challenges are self-inflicted by TransCanada’s previous efforts to circumvent environmental laws. To be clear, there was nothing wrong with TC Energy’s strategy to prolong the project in the courts. They had every right to take that risk. Now come Kenney and the UCP!
By signing this agreement, Kenney and the UCP downloaded the project’s liability onto the Alberta taxpayers. If the project succeeds, TC Energy shareholders profit. If the project fails, Alberta’s taxpayers take the loss. Stated another way, Alberta practices capitalism in times of growth, and socialism in times of economic contraction, but only for the select few. Without getting into the weeds of the legalities, courts routinely disregard the separate legal personality of a corporate entity when a corporation is completely dominated and controlled by another (used as a shield) for an improper purpose. Whether it can proved or not, a logical argument can now be made accusing the Alberta government of hiding behind a corporate shield (improper purpose) to advance a pipeline project for its benefit in the United States. The insanity of thinking a foreign government – Alberta’s UCP – could through their proxy, TC Energy, expropriate or take by eminent domain private property in the United States for a pipeline to benefit Alberta is a constitutional sitcom that is too far-fetched to contemplate. Didn’t anyone in the UCP government even think to consult with a U.S. corporate and/or a U.S. constitutional lawyer before signing this agreement?
It is very likely, the first court cases to be filed will seek to pierce the corporate shield, and this may take years by way of state action in each of the states affected by this pipeline. Forget any environmental court challenges, which there are many. It will be seven years before the first “property rights” challenge reaches the U.S. Supreme Court. By signing this agreement, Kenney and the UCP opened a constitutional can of worms for opponents to challenge this pipeline. Politically, I can say with significant confidence there will be no Republican or Democratic politician in Nebraska, Montana, or the Dakotas that will support the expropriation of its citizen’s private property for the benefit of Alberta. Now that the UCP has blindly jumped into this project as the primary investor and guarantor of the XL pipeline, they may have doomed the project. If this agreement is reported correctly, TC Energy will receive a $1.1 billion cash injection, and should they default on their debts, Albertans are stuck with the bill. Is this what TC Energy intended all along?
The irony has not escaped me. For the last four years, Trump’s leadership – or lack thereof – has divided Republicans and Democrats like never before. With the stroke of a pen, Kenney and the UCP’s agreement with TC Energy may just well unite them. You just can’t write this stuff!
Joe Anglin is the former Wildrose MLA for Rimby-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre
NAVARRO-GENIE: Trudeau’s failed power grab an attack on democracy
Government without limitations is very rarely good government. The lack of limitations always opens greater avenues for abusing power.
The Trudeau government’s effort to transfer power temporarily from the House of Commons to the Office of the Finance Minister was an unconstitutional attempt to bypass the will of Canadians as expressed in the 2019 election. By stopping them, the opposition parties have done great service to the country.
The effort is puzzling because no such move is contemplated in the Emergencies Act. The Act was designed to transfer enormous ability to the federal sphere, including powers from exclusive provincial jurisdictions, for renewable periods of 90 days. But no previous Parliament considering emergencies had contemplated what Prime Minister Trudeau wanted: to relieve the House of Commons of one of its most significant constitutional features, and for along period of time.
Why would the House of Commons delegate to the finance minister the most important power it holds for a period that is seven times longer than the time the Emergencies Act contemplates for the transferring of lesser powers?
The 90-day requirement in the Act is a deliberate limitation on government power, placed in the understanding that power can be abused, and concentrated power can be abused the more.
Let’s ask what about the present situation is so radically unusual to warrant the deviation? What is so different about this government that Canadians should trust them seven times more than they have contemplated to trust previous governments with emergency powers in the past?
The wish to augment its influence was not about taxes and spending. This was about removing constitutional restrictions and a government wishing to free itself from limitations that voters recently placed on it.
To limit government power and to protect our individual liberties and property, our constitutional traditions place the power to spend and tax in the House of Commons. The lion’s share of the obligations to limit power and protect citizens falls on the shoulders of the House of Commons as a check on the executive power.
Emanating from the same tradition – and going as far back as Magna Carta in 1215 – governments may not appropriate the fruits of their citizen’s labour – of which taxing is one manifestation – without their consent. In our parliamentary democracy, only the House of Commons may grant such consent. What the Trudeau government wanted to do is not contemplated in the Emergencies Act because it is unconstitutional.
Nor can the consent to tax be farmed out. In Eurig Estate (1998), the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the principle that taxation must originate in the House of Commons and cannot constitutionally be delegated to any one government officer or department.
The full consent of the House of Commons to tax and spend is so crucial a piece in our constitutional tradition that losing the confidence of the House may trigger the demise of a government (and therefore an election).
And here is the core of the matter.
We have a minority government, intending to shield itself from the cornerstone principle of responsible government by dispensing with the confidence of the House, circumventing the oversight of Parliament for 21 months.
But why? Not many will believe that Justin Trudeau stealthily intended to start paving a road for Canada to become a banana republic.
The move simply sought to take advantage of a crisis to gain self-serving political convenience. It would have insulated the minority government from all possibility of losing a vote on a money bill for the subsequent 21 months, turning a minority government into an invincible super minority. In fact, Trudeau’s minority government would be even more powerful than the majority government he led before that.
It would have entirely freed the Liberal government from the annoyance of opposition, allowing them to govern in minority without having to satisfy the House on financial matters, and without having to make the compromises that are typical of regular politics.
The opposition parties (less the Bloc which rolled over) deserve good credit here. Government without limitations is very rarely good government. The lack of limitations always opens greater avenues for abusing power. And this government has already been repeatedly reluctant to follow rules and respect the law.
Last fall – with scant representation from Western Canada, and second place in the popular vote – Canadians sent the Trudeau Liberals back to Parliament to form a minority government, thus placing greater limitations on their power than before.
This week, we saw an attempt to shake lose from the inconvenience of that electoral outcome. What we witnessed was a bold attempt at usurping popular power.
Marco Navarro-Génie is a columnist for the Western Standard, the President of the Haultain Research Institute and Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.
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