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NAVARRO-GENIE: Western independence needs to consider winning conditions

After the near-victory in 1995, Bloc Québécois leader Lucien Bouchard spoke about the need for “winning conditions” before trying again. Albertans ought to consider what it takes to win before trying because losing would have dire political consequences.

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Whether one endorses or opposes the option of an independent Alberta, Albertans would do well to consider the option carefully. While Quebec went through two referendums in 15 years, it took decades for their sovereignty movement to develop.

After the near-victory in 1995, Bloc Québécois leader Lucien Bouchard spoke about the need for “winning conditions” before trying again. Albertans ought to consider what it takes to win an independence vote before trying, because losing would have dire political consequences.

Do Albertans have the winning conditions?

Bouchard never publicly outlined what the winning conditions for Quebec were – but analysing some elements present in that province, even if Alberta is obviously not Quebec, offers an idea of the conditions for their near-victory.

In 1980 and 1995, Quebec sovereigntists controlled the provincial government and enjoyed the leadership of a sitting premier who supported sovereignty. Alberta’s premier is undoubtedly a great Albertan, but all who know him know he is a Canadian patriot. Whether Jason Kenney would ever support the independence option for Alberta is a question best posed to Mr. Kenney. But it’s clear he does not support it now.

Quebec referendum sign (source: Wiki commons)

In the same vein, Quebec sovereigntists controlled the legislature and key institutions. Controlling government and legislature gave them control of the referendum agenda, the legislation needed to enable it, the question to ask and how to ask it, the timing of the vote, the rules for campaigning and campaign finance.

Quebec sovereigntists also possessed a secular myth-making machine. The history of Canada taught in schools is organised as a litany of hardships for Quebec, curated for one to conclude that the creation of a new state for the Quebec nation is the natural, liberating outcome. Alberta’s curriculum doesn’t even include history.

Quebec sovereigntists captured government by establishing an informal umbrella institution, the Parti Québécois (PQ), mandated to carry political water for the cause of independence. Albertans interested in the sovereignty option may be numerous, but they are far from coalescing into a single alliance and lack a leader with the requisite ability, gravitas, imagination and organizational skill. Three prominent organizations merged to form the PQ in 1968 under René Levesque’s leadership. From there, a rocky road followed. It took them eight years to capture the government and 12 years to hold a referendum on their terms.

Quebec sovereigntists today have a base and steady support among about one-quarter of the voters on any given day. They enjoy strong support among trade unions and the intellectual class. Right now, over a third of Albertans support independence, but it has not been sustained and steady. It remains to be seen if it can last, and whether it has room to grow. In Alberta, left-wing trade unions and the intellectual class favour the federal option, but a good deal of the entrepreneurial class supports independence.

In 1995, Quebec sovereigntists had supporting representatives in Ottawa (the Bloc). This is not a necessity, but it gave the independence option credibility and visibility, inside and outside Quebec. Alberta’s and Saskatchewan’s representatives were all elected as federalists. Some might harbour sympathies with the sovereignty movement, but they’re not going to voice them openly, and many will naturally oppose it.

source (Flickr)

Quebec sovereigntists had a less Ottawa-centered media. Radio-Canada workers had favourable biases toward Quebec and less allegiance to the CBC masters in Toronto. The same for TVA and the local radio stations. Most of the traditional media and some of the alternative media in Alberta are based in Toronto. The recently resurrected Western Standard may be one of the few exceptions.

Among the many disadvantages for Alberta sovereigntists, there are a couple of advantages their Quebec counterparts did not enjoy. The federal governments at the time of the Quebec referendums had relatively strong leadership. Similarly, Canadians then possessed an emotional attachment to Quebec that in most parts of Canada does not exist for Alberta today. Their respective ineptitude and indifference may be assets.

A cold analysis shows that Albertan sovereigntists face a significant battle. They do not have three-quarters of all the favourable elements that Quebec sovereigntists had, and still lost. For Alberta to achieve winning referendum conditions, it will take more than angry demonstrations.

Speeding toward a failing referendum on independence next year would almost ensure a loss, which would leave Alberta weaker and less able to protect itself from a predatory anti-oil Ottawa and the destructive eco-nirvana movement.

If independence for Alberta is the right path, rushing too quickly can be the fastest way to kill it.

Marco Navarro-Génie is a Columnist for the Western Standard, President of the Haultain Research Institute, and a Senior Fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

Opinion

LETTER: Stop repatriating ISIS fighters to Canada

A reader says that Canada must shut the door on returning ISIS fighters.

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RE: Calgary man charged with terror crimes after allegedly training with ISIS in Syria

The arrest of a Calgary man by the RCMP on terror-related charges linked to his time with the Islamic State should be a stern reminder to Canadians that the old foe of Islamic extremism hides beneath current tensions. The RCMP say there are 190 Canadians linked to Islamic terror groups. Sixty have returned to Canada. The most notorious organization, Islamic State, butchered its way across nations and conquered sizable territory and resources.

We should never forget that these groups intend us harm. ISIS, more than any other, seduced many individuals into committing crimes for them – many of these persons were never officially linked to Islamic State. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is right to counsel Ottawa to never allow the repatriation of ISIS fighters back into this country. Last month, Human Rights Watch accused Canada of abandoning some of these people inside prison camps variously controlled by the Kurds and the Turks.

The problem of terrorist repatriation is a global one. The Kurds and the Turks, by turns, have demanded their return and an end to their unwanted global responsibility. Britain’s appellate court has been lambasted by critics for allowing its former citizen, dubbed the Jihadi Bride, an ISIS member, to return home. Shamima Begum left Britain for Syria and stayed with the terror group for three years. Now sitting inside a refugee camp, she apparently begged to be repatriated. Britain’s Conservative MPs argue her return sets a dangerous precedent. They are correct in saying so.

Global, indeed Middle Eastern, security has always depended on a powerful alliance between the U.S, Israel, and a few Arab nations. States like Egypt and Jordan share military and economic partnerships with Israel. The American withdrawal from parts of the Middle East like Syria was a mistake. They enabled the Taliban to rebound and Hezbollah to resume attacking Israel. The China-Iran alliance could enable the tracking of Western forces. 

Christopher Mansour
Barrie, ON

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Opinion

LETTER: There won’t be any accountability for WE in this Canada

A reader says that Canadians shouldn’t hold their breath that any accountability will come in the wake of the growing WE Scandal.

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The Kielburger brothers are like the prime minister; they think most people would believe the WE charity along with the founders wouldn’t benefit from administering a near $1 billion dollar program. The Conservative’s have called for a RCMP investigation of WE and Trudeau’s involvement. I can’t see that happening.

Brenda Lucki, the RCMP Commissioner in the SNC-L affair, could have applied to the courts for release of cabinet documents, but she chose to hide behind the PM’s cabinets privilege. The Ethics Commissioner has no teeth to impose any real penalty on these ministers who again, abuse Canadian finances. This is a failed federation, lead by a corrupt PM and finance minister along with the PMO that has its head in the sand.

On another point.

WEXIT is sounding better, every day, for Albertans, but I don’t think Premier Kenney had any intention of taking the next step to give Albertans a say. Premier Kenney changed his tune after he was elected to the Premiership. I am not impressed with him as he was all fire and brimstone prior to the election, but now I feel he is just another politician who pulled a bait and switch on his real intensions. To bad I didn’t hear him tell Albertans that he was a committed Federalist prior to saying he was fighting for Alberta. I would have changed my vote for sure. 

Steven Ruthven
Calgary, AB 

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Opinion

BARNES: Time to replace the RCMP with an Alberta force

Drew Barnes writes that Alberta should immediately begin the process of creating its own police force.

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Guest opinion column from Drew Barnes, MLA

In the Fair Deal Panel report, it was recommended that Alberta create its own police force. It is what we heard loud and clear from Albertans across the province. It is imperative, now more than ever with the overreaching policies of Ottawa, that we have control over policing in our own land. Premier Kenney – in the government’s response – has committed to conducting a further analysis of the panel recommendation to move to an Alberta Provincial Police. This analysis will support why we should have our own police force that is overseen by a directly elected Alberta Chief of Police. An Alberta Provincial Police force is a constitutional right that we have, and it should be exercised. 

Historically, Alberta had its own police force from 1917 to 1932. During that period, Alberta saw an increase in arrest rate and conviction, and a decrease in movement into Alberta by those with criminal intent. The reason for this increase has been attributed to the institutional difference in focus and priorities of a national vs an Alberta entity. 

This history serves to underscore why we need a police force that is familiar with the Alberta experience. One of the issues the RCMP have that makes it difficult for them to effectively police the province is the constant in-and-out of its members in communities, which nullifies the benefits that come with being familiar with an area and its particular challenges. An officer raised in Jasper, Ontario will be less familiar with the issues and concerns of Jasper, Alberta, than an Albertan. While some RCMP recruits may be from Alberta and may land a position in Alberta, that is too often not how it works. The lack of familiarity with community, and short-term posting protocol of the RCMP is an ongoing, acknowledged hinderance, for both the officers and the community.

The costs to operate the RCMP increase at a higher rate than provincially run police forces. A study comparing these costs found that over the span of eight years, the cost of operating RCMP detachments rose an average of $44.50 per capita. The costs for the Ontario Provincial Police force rose only $37.10 per capita on average during the same period.

We can cancel the contract with the federal government and the RCMP with two years notice. Providing notice that we will cancel the contract can take place as early as March 31, 2021. This would allow us to terminate the contract as of March 31, 2023 at no cost. Within that two-year gap, we can work out the details, such as settling accounts over buildings and equipment, which the current contract provides a road map for.

As a province, we even have a basic template in place that make this easier. The Alberta Sheriffs already perform many police duties in our province with 950 sworn members and 16 stations. We would simply need to look at expanding them into the areas that presently utilize RCMP service. 

The RCMP is a proud and iconic symbol of Canada, made up of proud, hardworking members from across Canada, however, it is time for Alberta to consider taking back it’s policing, to create local ownership, accountability, and to hire Albertans to police Alberta. Albertans should determine their own policing priorities based on their particular needs. It is time to bring back the Alberta Provincial Police.

Drew Barnes is the UCP MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat

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