A fundamental change occurred in Alberta in 1980. On February 18 of that year, Pierre Trudeau’s Liberals defeated Joe Clark’s Progressive Conservatives, restoring Trudeau to the office of prime minister. Consequently, on October 28 – a day that will live in infamy – the National Energy Program (NEP) was unleashed as a blatant attack on Alberta and its oil industry. These historical events generated a credibility for Alberta’s independence movement that had never before existed. After 1980, support for independence was no longer a tiny fringe phenomenon.
Until the fateful events of 1980, polling data measuring support for Alberta independence were generally in the low single digits. This can be seen in the early polls on sovereigntist sentiment that were reported in a 1979 article by political scientists David Elton and Roger Gibbins entitled, “Western Alienation and Political Culture,” in the book The Canadian Political Process. As Elton and Gibbins noted, a 1969 provincial poll found that only 5 per cent of “respondents expressed interest in even discussing the merits of separation.” Five years later, a 1974 survey conducted in Calgary found less than 4 per cent “expressed even the most cautious support for separatism.” And in a 1977 survey commissioned by the Calgary Herald, only 2.7 per cent said yes to the question, “Would you like Alberta to separate?”
Clearly – at least as far as polling data suggests – support for independence was disappointingly low before 1980.
But then Canada experienced the second-coming of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau – who can rightly be called the father of the Alberta independence movement because his policies gave the movement its original credibility and momentum.
The effect of Trudeau’s aggressive anti-Alberta posture was immediate. Data from a number of post-NEP polls are presented in an article entitled, “Separatism and Quasi-Separatism in Alberta” by sociologist Edward Bell in the Fall 2007 issue of Prairie Forum. On November 1, 1980 (shortly after the NEP was announced), the Calgary Herald reported on a poll indicating that 23 per cent of Albertans were in favour of Western Canadian independence. A subsequent study – undertaken in Edmonton from February to April 1981 – found that “about one in four respondents either supported Alberta independence or were willing to give their provincial government a mandate to negotiate it.”
Surprisingly, in a March 1981 poll conducted by the Canada West Foundation, 49 per cent of Albertans agreed with the statement: “Western Canadians get so few benefits from being part of Canada that they might as well go it on their own.” That question did not measure outright commitment to independence as such, but it does seem rather high. Nevertheless, it is not inconsistent with some later polling.
Sociologist Trevor Harrison, in his 1995 book, Of Passionate Intensity: Right-Wing Populism and the Reform Party of Canada, reports on a 1992 poll with a question very similar to the one from the Canada West Foundation. Harrison writes, a “poll of 710 Westerners conducted by Environics Research in March 1992 found that 42 per cent of respondents agreed with the question: ‘Western Canada gets so few benefits from Confederation the region might as well be on its own.’” At that time, of course, Brian Mulroney was prime minister, and like Pierre Trudeau, he catered to Central Canada at the expense of the West. In fact, Mulroney’s policies led to the rise of the Reform Party.
Edward Bell adds one more poll result to fill things out. In 2005, a poll found 35.6 per cent of Westerners agreed with the statement: “Western Canadians should begin to explore the idea of forming their own country.”
More recently, on August 1, 2014, Insights West released a poll of Albertans that found, “Only 23 per cent of residents believe the province would be better off as its own country.” “Only” 23 per cent? Actually, 23 percent is rather high, especially considering that Stephen Harper – an Albertan – was prime minister at the time.
Two years later, on July 28, 2016, Insights West released another poll noting that “23 per cent of Albertans say the province would be better off as its own country.” The percentage remained the same as before, but the harmful effects of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s anti-Alberta policies were not yet fully realized. Things have since changed.
On May 25 of this year, in a poll conducted for the Western Standard, “45 per cent of decided Albertans surveyed said that they would defiantly vote yes or were leaning yes if there was a referendum on Alberta’s independence.” That is to say, support for independence is likely higher in 2020 than at any previous time. The more moderate position of supporting independence if proposals for constitutional reform were first rejected by Ottawa, was just shy of a majority at 48 per cent.
The point is this: before 1980, polls showed support for Alberta independence to be in the low single digits. After 1980, polls show support in the double digits, usually a quarter of the population or more. This suggests that a fundamental change occurred in 1980 as a result of Pierre Trudeau. Before Trudeau, Albertans really weren’t interested in thinking about independence – but he made it respectable and credible. Support for independence never seems to have returned to the low single digit range.
Support for Alberta independence is not going away. It is not a passing fad. Under the current Liberal government – with its agenda of phasing out Alberta’s key industry – the independence movement will likely continue to grow. The question is whether a leader will emerge to articulate the Alberta cause and gather Alberta patriots into a coherent and effective political body.
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.’
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.
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
GEROW: Canada is a freer country than most, but still not free
Darcy Gerow writes that while Canada scores well on the Human Freedom Index, many important freedoms are still denied Canadians.
A Canadian, in North Vietnam, asks if they can drink their beer outside the hotel on the street, the host says: “Of course you can, it’s a free country”.
It’s a bad joke, and like all bad jokes we need an explanation.
Every year, The Human Freedom Index ranks 162 countries from most free, to least. Canada has consistently held a high ranking on the list and is apparently the 4thfreest country in the world as of 2019 despite the enduring threat of violence for drinking beer in the street. Vietnam ranked 117 on the HFI, barely out outside of the least free quartile.
The Human Freedom Index – published by The Fraser Institute, The Cato Institute and the Fredrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom – is well written and its methodology is well explained. At over 400 pages it’s an easy and interesting read.
However, Canadians who hold liberty as paramount have a hard time reconciling the fact that something as simple as drinking a beer on the street is not permissible in a place which is among the top 1 per cent of most free nations, while it is permissible under a flag bearing the hammer and sickle in countries that rank barely outside the bottom quartile of least free countries. And beer drinking is the least of their concerns.
Guns? They’re not on the list. Nor is there an indicator for self defense and the definition of property rights is too vague to assume it extends to firearms.
What about heavy taxation? The Fraser Institute also released studies in 2019 that show how the average Canadian family will pay 44.7 per cent of its income in taxes, an amount considered oppressive by any humane standard. This is acknowledged in the HFI under the “top marginal tax rate” portion in the economic freedom group of indicators. Canada scores a 5 out of 10, or roughly the same as the average Canadian family’s net revenue. But the top marginal tax rate only makes up approximately 2.5 per cent of the total HFI score.
In the personal freedom group, women’s safety and security receives a score of 10/10. Which seems high for a country that has been globally lambasted for its record on missing and murdered indigenous women. Disappearance is measured in a category with conflict and terrorism and receives a 10/10 also. So, something doesn’t add up. Is the data incomplete? Or are facts being sensationalized?
The personal freedom category is split into two sub-groups. The first is legal protection and security, to which the two former indicators belong. The second is specific personal freedoms, such as movement, religion, association, etc. It is a fine line when it comes to balancing these ideas as legal protection and security are generally considered a prerequisite for maintaining specific personal freedoms.
Yet when protecting those freedoms, the state has a tendency for its hand to grow heavy and its will to grow strong, such as imposing restrictions on free speech hidden behind the guise “hate” laws. The HFI does not have a provision for over-protection and it doesn’t appear to measure free speech specifically, although it is inherent in measurements of religious freedom, association and expression.
The thing to keep in mind is that The Human Freedom Index measures one country against 161 other countries. It is comparing relative freedom and only from data which is comparable from one country to another. There is no agorism yard stick. So Canada is freer than most other countries, and still not actually free.
The metrics and analysis in the HFI should be taken with a grain of salt, but let’s not discount the value of the index. It’s a gold mine for free market policy wonks. Income per capita in the top 25% of the freest countries is 3 times that of the average lower 75%. Even allowing a heavy contingency for improper weighting of indicators, minor data faults and loose interpretations of freedom, it is a very impressive statistic in defense of free markets and personal liberty.
In measuring up the Human Freedom Index, we should consider the words of Rousseau.
“Man is born free, but he is everywhere in chains.”
Darcy Gerow is a columnist for the Western Standard and the former Deputy Leader of the Libertarian Party of Canada.
MORGAN: Injunction against inquiry shows anti-oil groups have something to hide
Cory Morgan writes that the 11th hour injunction by EcoJustice shows that the group has reason to fear the report’s release.
Alberta’s resource sector has been besieged by an organized campaign to shut it down for well over a decade and that campaign is working. Well organized protests backed by slick advertising campaigns have created the illusion that there is a strong base of support for an anti-energy movement in Alberta. Court challenges to energy projects seem endless and activist groups seem to just spring up like daisies to file them. Letter writing campaigns target investors and insurance companies demanding that they divest from Alberta energy projects, and it is working.
While political parties have had their means of fundraising and expenditures greatly limited in the last few years, activist groups appear to have no controls and their resources appear to be bottomless.
It is not beyond reason for Albertans to ask where the money is coming from for all of these campaigns against our core industries. It is well beyond reason to believe that the funding for these initiatives is coming from Albertans. We have a segment of the population who are inclined to self-loathing flagellation who would indeed would donate to such initiatives, but their numbers are low and tend to be folks working as artists and baristas. Where is the big money coming from?
Vivian Krause did some fantastic investigative work on tracking where the funding for the anti-energy movement in Western Canada was coming from. Krause made many clear and stark connections between foreign funders and domestic activist groups which usually used Tides as an intermediary for the dispersal of the funds. The organized and hysteric reaction of the anti-energy set to Krause tells one that she was clearly on the right track. They try to dismiss Krause as a conspiracy theorists but the connections are simply too clear to deny.
The Kenney government formed The Public inquiry into anti-Alberta energy campaigns in July of 2019 and tasked them with answering the questions many Albertans have about the real source of funding for these activist groups. The inquiry should be producing some results soon and this appears to be making some environmentalists very uncomfortable.
Ecojustice is an activist law firm that is opposed to energy development in Alberta and they have just filed for an injunction to get the courts to stop the inquiry and block the release of it’s work.
This of course simply begs the question, what have they got to hide?
What could the inquiry be finding in order to trigger such an anti-democratic and desperate court action from an activist firm?
If there is nothing to be seen as the anti-energy groups claim, then why aren’t they looking forward to the inquiry releasing a big nothing-burger in a report? It would give the anti-energy set a fantastic “I told you so” opportunity and would allow them to easily dismiss any more claims of foreign funding being used to target Alberta’s industries.
The left in Alberta loves to claim a love of fiscal transparency and accountability, but they turn a blind eye when it comes to applying those principles to their pet activist groups.
Many of the groups who are working to shut down Alberta’s energy sector have charitable status. As we are seeing with WE, that is hardly a guarantee that these groups are principled or spending money with the interests of citizens in mind. The public has a keen eye for accountability among charities right now and it sure would be nice to see organizations cleared in this inquiry.
The attempt by Ecojustice to shut down the inquiry at the 11th hour demonstrates just how important this inquiry really is. Something stinks and it appears that Public inquiry into anti-Alberta energy campaigns chaired by Steve Allan is getting close to the bottom of it.
Let’s hope that the Court of Queen’s bench tosses the application for an injunction into the trash where it belongs. We need to see what these groups are trying so desperately to hide.
Cory Morgan and a columnist for the Western Standard and a business owner in Priddis, Alberta