Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan is advocating that Alberta become its own nation within Canada, much like Quebec.
Being “a nation within a nation” would entail “having our own police force, having our own pension plan,” said Stephan. He added it would also mean challenging some federal laws that intrude on Alberta’s jurisdiction.
Stephan was appearing at a virtual town hall on Monday night with a group advocating for Alberta to become a sovereign region in Canada. He likened this to the special status enjoyed by Quebec and also proposed for Saskatchewan recently by that province’s Premier Scott Moe.
Stephan and Rob Anderson, the executive-director of the Free Alberta Strategy, were inviting “regular, hard-working Albertans… who deserve so much better from their country” to hear more about their plans at the town hall.
The Free Alberta Strategy was launched in September to advocate for this province “to declare itself a sovereign jurisdiction within Canada, protect ourselves from Ottawa’s relentless attacks, and end the federal equalization transfer scheme robbing Albertans of billions in critical resources annually.”
Before Monday’s meeting, Stephan said Alberta has contributed $600 billion more than it gets back from Ottawa. “We are a net payer,” said the local MLA, who believes it’s time “to slow the subsidization of the rest of the country” at Alberta’s expense.
Stephan believes in distancing Alberta’s relationship with Ottawa since “the less you need another party, the more leverage you have.”
When asked if this could mean separating from Canada, he said, “I don’t know. I hope not. I would hope we could deal with each other in a principles and fair manner.”
But Stephan stressed that he wants “whatever provides the most prosperity for Albertans.”
He feels the federal government isn’t doing enough to help Alberta get its resources to foreign markets. Several provinces are halting pipeline projects, creating “self-inflicted wounds in our own country,” he added.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked an economic Treaty signed in the 1970s between Canada and the U.S. to protest the American decision to stop Canadian pipeline projects, so why isn’t he willing to step in to stop inter-provincial trade disputes, questions Stephan.
“We really need to be willing to increase our self-reliance. I really want to position Alberta to better look after the needs of Albertans more.”
Stephan said he hasn’t “specifically asked” for UCP leader and Premier Jason Kenney’s permission about whether he can ally himself with the Free Alberta Strategy. But the MLA believes the UCP and Free Alberta share similar concerns. “I think we can all agree on fair deal principles and that it’s valuable to have these discussions.”
Stephan noted several other UCP MLAs are attending Free Alberta Strategy town halls across the province.