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LITTLEJOHN: Dependence, or Independence

Albertans have a choice: stay in Canada and be systematically destroyed, or accept reality and leave.

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The withdrawl of the Teck Frontier mine is not surprising. The writing was on the wall and companies like Teck have got the message: Western Canada isn’t open for business. Albertans need to face reality and the existential threat to their livelihood.

Canada is stuck between a rock and a hard place. While it is tempting to blame this entirely on Trudeau, no matter who is in power, they will face the same devastating choices. In order for Eastern Canadians to maintain their lifestyles, they must suck more and more out of Alberta and Saskatchewan. In order to get elected and remain in power, politicians must espouse the apocalyptic climate policies. 

In order for Alberta and Saskatchewan to avoid being gutted, they need to leave. It is a lose-lose scenario, but it is reality, and the sooner faced, the better.

As Peter Zeihan explains, “The NAFTA-integrated manufacturing and agriculture that makes Ontario and Quebec hum were sectors that specifically benefited from NAFTA1, and which now face far steeper competition from the United States and Mexico under NAFTA2.”

“Functionally, that restricts economic dynamism to the demographically young provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, a pair of entities whose economies depend upon old-school oil and natural gas production. For years now, funds transfers from the pair – quintuple so from Alberta – to the center is what has enabled Canada to enjoy its much-lauded social welfare state.”

Over the last century, power has been steadily centralized in Ottawa, making it easier to siphon off wealth from Alberta and Saskatchewan, even as the West’s population proportionally rises. 

In an absurd twist of fate; Ottawa is pursuing ever more draconian environmental policies, which are strangling the Prairie industries at every turn, but also relies on them to pay a disproportionate share of the federal treasury. The carbon tax, the no-more-pipeline act (C-69), the west coast tanker ban (C-48), the Northern Gateway cancellation, Energy East cancelation, and now, finally, the end of Teck Frontier mine, are all examples of Ottawa’s systematic destruction of the economic engine of the country. And these examples are all within the last four years.

Zeihan points out, “If you think hamstringing a region’s economic growth while depending on its tax payments is a less-than-tenable long-term strategy, you’re not alone.”

However, there is a method to the madness. Seventy-seven per cent of Canadians believe, “The world is facing a climate emergency and unless greenhouse gas emissions fall dramatically in the next few years global warming will become extremely dangerous.” 

About half of Canadians say they would support politicians looking to cut emissions and nearly half believe politicians put the interests of oil companies ahead of citizens. Politicians have accepted this reality. To be re-elected, the Liberals cannot risk losing crucial seats in urban centers such as Toronto and Montreal to the even more radical parties. Environmental policy which hurts Easterners would be electoral suicide. The solution has been to enact policies that disproportionately affect the West, while allowing Eastern Canada to feel morally superior without giving up their energy intensive lifestyles. The tanker ban one coast but not the other, is one example of the disparity.

By contrast, Quebec has major environmentally sensitive projects overlooked by federal regulators, and is allowed to implement a “cap-and-trade” system as an alternative to the carbon tax, which the Prairies have shoved down their throats.

The United Conservative Party won in Alberta vowing to get rid of (a portion of) the carbon tax, build pipelines, renegotiate equalization, stand up to Ottawa, and get the economy back on track.  

Albertans were anticipating a positive shift in the provinces’ fortunes. But that’s not going to happen.

Zeihan predicts that Alberta will not get rid of the carbon tax and the Trans Mountain Pipeline will not be built due to endless delays and protests. Far from renegotiating Equalization, transfers from Alberta and Saskatchewan will increase as Canada’s population ages, regardless of the state of their economies. Alberta will attempt to gain more policy and fiscal autonomy from Ottawa. But attaining a truly fair deal would mean the end of Canada as we know it. Without Alberta money, Quebec would walk. Politicians aren’t willing to accept this, because Quebec votes count, and Albertan votes don’t. 

There are two possible outcomes to this impasse. The first is an Alberta collapse.

Without the ability to get oil to market and with investors fleeing the province, Albertans will face an ever worsening economic depression, while simultaneously having more money transferred to the rest of Canada.

The only thing needed to guarantee this depressing outcome, is for Albertans to ignore reality and hope.  Hope that someone can beat Justin Trudeau and convince the protestors to go home. Hope that Premier Kenney holds a referendum on Equalization (and Ottawa accepts), hope that the recommendations of the Fair Deal Panel go far enough and are adopted, and hope that the rest of Canada starts being nice. Hope that things get better.

The other option would be to accept reality, and move toward independence. 

Leaving isn’t easy, but given the existential threat facing Alberta, it is the logical thing to do. Alberta and the West must now choose: dependence, or independence. 

Tessa Littlejohn is a Columnist for the Western Standard 

Opinion

STRANKMAN: There’s a new Wildrose blooming in Alberta

This new Wildrose doesn’t appear content to merely reform Alberta, but to radically alter its relationship with Ottawa.

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As my son and I finish spring seeding on the farm, it’s had me stop to consider some of the new and growing movements sprouting in Alberta and across the West right now.

Alberta’s self-professed “servant leadership” has quickly reverted to some of the PC habits of old. Those of us who fought in the trenches of the old Wildrose can only stand by in shock as we see the Premier’s Office staffed with dozens of nepotistic six-figure salaries, and local representatives muted. Government it seems, is still at the trough.

If Albertans stand idly by and continue only to be political spectators rather than active participants, then they are only complicit in the famous words of old Premier William Aberhart:

“If Albertans haven’t suffered enough, it’s their God given right to suffer some more.” 

I’m fortunate to have assigned chores in front of me, helping my son get our crop in the ground in some sort of proper and timely fashion. There is no lockdown on the farm, but many Albertans are not so fortunate. In every farmer`s heart, hope springs eternal this time of year. It`s our motivation to move forward, but this year it isn`t without some reflection on the fate of others.

About a decade ago, I joined a group of Albertans who would not stand idly by as government did whatever it wished; the Wildrose. From the political discourse emerging in today`s Alberta, it tells me we are destined to repeat a more serious and comprehensive quest; only this time it’s one with strong nationalistic overtones.

Like the first Wildrose, the fledgling Wildrose Independence Party is emerging from two smaller parties, and I’m paying attention. They are tapping into a sentiment that contains the same underpinnings of freedom and democracy we as a group of Western farmers set out to gain in the mid 90’s.

As with the first Wildrose Party and our farmers revolt against the Wheat Board, the new Wildrose Independence Party resembles our fight against the same brand of stale bureaucrats. Like then, they referred to us as “fringe,” and somehow our fight and our existence was unimportant. Of course, it wasn’t without the smattering of “Ottawashed” politicians chiding, “It’ll never work. They’re too dumb to sell their own wheat”

We need less government beyond these physically and fiscally unhealthy times. If the overpaid, under-skilled nepotistic bureaucrats and political staffers are allowed to continue their places at the trough, Alberta will bare the societal carnage like those desperate days of the 1930s.

The second Wildrose Caucus after the 2015

Alberta must create the opportunity to be the custodians of our own future. It’s becoming painfully clear that Ottawa does not share the same dream for Alberta as most Albertans do. 

Elected representatives should heed the distant and deep rumblings from the unwashed masses, or they themselves will be destined to a form of extinction by their own hand. It’s happened before in Alberta; more than once.

The two big parties that dominate Alberta right now both share a fundamental commonality: that they are smarter than everyone else, that their partisans deserve the financial spoils of war, and that they are quite comfortable without other, new players on the scene. 

This is not that unlike the political scene in 2009, when all of the establishment parties took for granted that the upstart Wildrose was’t about to upset their apple cart. 

Unless they change course quickly, the same might be about to happen again. But this new Wildrose doesn’t appear content to merely reform Alberta, but to radically alter its relationship with Ottawa. 

Rick Strankman is the former Wildrose and UCP MLA for Drumheller-Stettler

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Opinion

MCALLISTER: Alberta’s Red Tape Reduction Ministry isn’t living up to the hype

It’s time to scrap the Calgary Regional Municipal Board.

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Alberta has sailed right into the perfect storm of economic instability; and there probably isn’t a forecaster anywhere who could have predicted this bruising set of circumstances. Covid-19 arrived like a Muhammad Ali haymaker on top of the gut punch we already received with crashing oil prices. 

The result has been devastating with thousands of jobs lost, thousands more on the brink of losing it all, and countless businesses clinging to survival.

And the last thing we need as a province is to contribute to our demise with bad policy that stunt economic growth. But this is exactly what is happening in the Calgary region, and it’s perplexing given the province established a red-tape ministry to address this very thing. 

Whatever happened to Alberta’s highly touted and much celebrated Ministry of Red Tape Reduction? Remember when Premier Kenney announced there would be a ministry devoted to cutting the bureaucratic nebula of regulation? It was a winner on the campaign trail, and how could it not be? In a province full of creative thinking entrepreneurs, getting government out of our way is music to our ears. Next to cutting taxes, cutting red tape is a sure-fire way to fire up conservative minded Albertans and gain their support.

This year, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) gave Alberta a B- grade for red tape reduction. This is the second lowest score in Canada, scraping the bottom ahead of only Newfoundland. Even the big-spending federal Liberal government scored better. 

In fairness to the UCP, this is the highest score Alberta has received in years. It is a noted improvement, but it looks like there is still a long way to go.

There remains some obvious low hanging fruit that needs to be picked, and fast because it is turning rotten.

Why is the province allowing the job killing, unelected fourth layer of government known as the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board (CMRB) to chug along, chasing investment dollars out of Alberta? Investment is finding greener pastures in jurisdictions where over-regulation and nimbyism is being rolled back.

Case in point is Western Securities, who announced the scrapping of a planned three billion dollar investment, citing the untenable headwinds of the CMRB. They saw no point in pushing ahead with a project that would be vetoed by anti-competitive protectionists. Why throw more money at a project that could be killed by urban-centric politicians that don’t approve of what they see growing beyond Calgary’s boundary? There are more large projects about to pull the ripcord. This is disappointing. Alberta desperately needs fewer restrictions on job creators.

The Ministry of Red Tape Reduction led by Grant Hunter, was given a mandate to cut anything that unessesarily got in the way of job creation and the economy. If it exists just because it always has, get rid of it.

We don’t need a focus group or a special cabinet committee to take action on a board like this. It is pushing jobs out of Alberta for greener, more friendly economic pastures. It’s time to scap the CMRB. Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and his central planning bureaucrats won’t like it, but raise your hand if you think putting Calgary City Hall in charge of the entire region is a good idea. (I didn’t think so)  

This government celebrates its economic recovery plan by touting the creation of government jobs through infrastructure projects. That helps, but government jobs are not the savior. If the government really wants to help, it will eliminate any policy that weakens investor confidence and stifles free enterprise.   

If we created a Ministry of Red Tape Reduction, it should be working overtime to fulfill its mandate. And if government ministers in any department catch even a glimpse of red tape, they should have 24 hour access to the machinery needed to cut it out. If we took the same bold approach to the job-killing red tape virus as we did with Covid-19, we would create a thriving province once again. It takes courage and every minister should be making that call. Municipal Affairs Minister Madu has a simple decision to make regarding the CMRB; eliminate it and restore investor confidence.  

It makes you wonder, what would Ralph do? Former Premier Ralph Klein announced his intentions, and then, whether popular or not, went ahead and followed through for the good of the province. It seemed he carried a red-tape chain saw and took a run at anything that choked out the Alberta Advantage. 

And for the record, Ralph got rid of these very same central planning, anti-investment, competition killing boards back in the ’90s. Today’s political leaders would be wise to follow Ralph’s lead. We created the red-tape ministry, so put it to work. 

Bruce McAllister is a columnist for the Western Standard, Executive Director Rocky View 2020 & is the former Wildrose and PC MLA for Chestermere-Rockyview

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Opinion

WAGNER: How early American immigration shaped Alberta’s cultural distinctiveness

The large numbers of American immigrants in the province’s early decades, as well as during the post-war oil rush, helps to explain why Alberta is a culturally distinct region within Canada.

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The question of whether Alberta is a culturally distinct region has been raised recently by the authors of the Buffalo Declaration, and by others in the past. Over the years, a number of scholars have written about this issue, attempting to explain how and why Alberta differs politically and culturally from the other provinces. 

For the most part, these scholars do not approve of Alberta’s uniqueness, since a common theme in their work is the influence of religious and political conservativism on the province. 

What is it about Alberta that makes it different? One answer would be the people that originally settled here.

That is to say, a key influence on the culture of any newly settled community – such as Alberta – is immigration. Early in its history, the province’s identity was shaped by the cultures of the early settlers who founded it. With this in mind, it is significant that Alberta welcomed a particularly large number of American immigrants, much more so than other provinces.

Nelson Wiseman, a political scientist at the University of Toronto, has probably written more about the political effect of American immigration on Alberta than anyone. Wiseman specializes in the study of “political culture.” He has carefully studied the political cultures of Canada’s various regions and provinces, and he has highlighted the impact of American immigration on Alberta, especially during its formative years. 

The effect of American immigration according to Wiseman, has been substantial. As he writes in his 2007 book In Search of Canadian Political Culture, “In 1911, American-born Albertans (22 per cent of the population) outnumbered the British-born, Ontario-born, and European-born. Almost certainly, this was the largest concentration of Americans in any jurisdiction outside the US.” 

He adds that, “Americans and their ideas helped shape provincial politics because they settled in the politically determinative rural areas. Their influence was particularly pronounced in the south.”

After the discovery of oil in 1947, more Americans came north to help in the development of the province’s petroleum industry. According to Wiseman, “Between 1955 and 1970, nine of the fifteen presidents of Calgary’s exclusive and influential Petroleum Club were Americans. In no other province were Americans so prominent as captains of industry.”

Besides the over-sized influence on the oil industry, something similar occurred in the realm of religion. Wiseman writes that, “Alberta has been the province most receptive to Christian evangelicalism. As early as 1908, the Calgary Daily Herald reported that American and central Canadian ‘evangelists seem to have a grip on the city.’”

To a certain degree, this religious influence has carried over into politics because “Alberta resembles the US” in that “evangelical Christians have played leading political roles there.” 

Wiseman points out that the connection between religion and politics is not just a phenomenon of the distant past, either: “That conservative religious influence lingers in Alberta can be seen in the federal party leaders recently produced by the province: Preston Manning, Stockwell Day, and Stephen Harper are all evangelical Christians.”

Wiseman is not alone in emphasizing the crucial role of immigration patterns on the province. In 1990, historians Howard and Tamara Palmer published a one-volume history of Alberta entitled Alberta: A New History. Among other things, the Palmers wanted to explain Alberta’s conservative political culture, and like Wiseman, they root their explanation in immigration. However, their analysis differs somewhat from his because they suggest that, besides the Americans, certain Europeans also contributed to the right-leaning orientation of Alberta’s political environment.

As a general point, the Palmers argue that the post-World War Two wave of immigration that flowed into the province, “contributed to the rightward shift in Alberta’s political culture.” In particular, they write that the political perspectives of eastern and central European immigrants escaping communism, “were among the many factors that helped to shift Alberta’s political culture to the right during the 1950s and 1960s.”

But movement in the conservative direction didn’t come just from eastern Europeans. Besides that group, there were also, “British immigrants fleeing socialism, conservative rural Dutch Calvinist immigrants, and the small-business oriented Germans, Austrians, and Scandinavians, who were usually leery of government regulation.”

Like Wiseman, however, the Palmers also note the disproportionate influence of Americans in the post-war period. Although their numbers were not large, a considerable number were prominent oilmen and, “Like their counterparts in the United States, they often held strong right-wing views.”

It should not be surprising that the culture of early settlers – and even the arrival of later immigrants – can have a profound impact on the culture of any society. The fact that Quebec was originally settled by people from France affects Canadian culture and politics every day.

Although Alberta was not founded by Americans in the way that Quebec was settled by the French, Americans constituted a disproportionate number of early settlers – and later pioneers of the oil industry. Their cultural and political influence helped to make Alberta different from the other provinces to some degree. In other words, the large numbers of American immigrants in the province’s early decades, as well as during the post-war oil rush, helps to explain why Alberta is a culturally distinct region within Canada.

Michael Wagner is columnist for the Western Standard. He has a PhD in political science from the University of Alberta. His books include ‘Alberta: Separatism Then and Now’ and ‘True Right: Genuine Conservative Leaders of Western Canada.’

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