In the early 90s, I resisted any thoughts of Alberta separating from Canada. I had thought about separatism and found the ideas attractive. The economics and political implications seemed attractive. Though difficult, separation also seemed practicable. Easier achieved than Czech and Slovakia. But I resisted them. That has changed. I am no longer inclined to resist those thoughts as enthusiastically as before. They are gaining ascendency in my soul.
Why did I resist them assiduously before? In days past, it seemed important to preserve political and constitutional connectivity with Canada, important enough to outweigh the resentments felt about the antipathy demonstrated to the west of Canada, and our province in particular; the massive fiscal imbalances paid by our province under the equalization program; and the grinding sense of second-class membership in confederation. I felt an emotional kinship with the nation of Canada. I felt that we had common values and interests across the country. I was very active in the early Reform Party days, and we were all loath to speak anything about Separation from the rest of Canada. We did not want out, we wanted in. Any talk of separation was considered toxic to the young and vulnerable party.
I knew that we had differences with the rest of Canada. I believed that we were treated badly. But I believed that politics would and could resolve those differences in a sound manner. We would not always have our way. But the political calculus and operators of Canada would, over the long term, work for a good result. Some sort of Wisdom of the Crowds, which for Canada would be reframed as the Wisdom of the Regions, would prevail. Everyone would take a little water with their wine.
But something happened to my political soul when I saw Quebec and Maritime politicians dancing a jig of happiness and victory over the death of the Energy East Pipeline. Something broke in me. I had, like many in the West, endured so much, but this straw broke the camel’s back.
Maybe it was that this was on top of the snarky remarks from fellow Canadians during the Fort McMurray fires over a year ago. Canadians who thought that it was appropriate to castigate the victims of the fire. Canadians who thought that it was the right time to suggest that bad things happen to those who supply oil to the rest of Canada.
Maybe it was that this was on top of the decades of asymmetrical equalization payments Alberta has paid with the asymmetrical government services provided in Quebec and other areas of the Rest of Canada. Watching our fellow Canadians enjoy gold-plated government services at no cost while we struggled to maintain our levels of care and service.
Perhaps it was that thought that if we are going to have to pay our way to gain pipeline access through other provinces I would just as soon not have to pay equalization as well. If we paid what we already pay in equalization and got pipeline access, we would be farther ahead (as would the Rest of Canada).
The recent moves by Horrible Horgan and his band of BC Green Dippers has amplified this sense of acceptance and determination.
UCP’s idea of holding a vote on a constitutional amendment dealing with equalization, can, with my blessing, be backed by a threat of separation. I will not resist the idea. I can now hold it as a possibility that the rest of Canada should reckon with in dealing with us.