Opinion: It’s too soon to talk of separation

By David Marsden

Albertans have good reason to be dissatisfied with their treatment by the federal government, but it can’t be assumed that separation is the answer.

Since the Oct. 21 election, which resulted in the province electing all but one Conservative MP, interest in fringe groups has exploded.

It’s clear that Albertans have cause for discontent. All the political parties, with the exception of the Conservatives, have made no secret of their desire to shutdown the oilsands.

All but Tory Leader Andrew Scheer are transparent in their determination to abandon fossil fuels, despite the important role they play as a generator of national wealth and employment.

The politicians pay no attention to the fact that renewable energy, while contributing to our needs today, is still very much a work in progress when it comes to fuelling a modern, industrialized economy.

The Liberals bought the Trans Mountain pipeline after they scared private investors away, but they show little interest in the project. When the pipeline’s expansion was challenged in court, they didn’t bother to hire lawyers to represent Canadian taxpayers’ interest.

The Liberals have banned tankers carrying Canadian bitumen from the B.C. north coast, while allowing other fuels to be transported without restriction in the same region. They have shown no desire to stop oil tankers from plying the waters off the East Coast, where a number of aquatic species are at risk.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau undermined the justice system in an effort to help the Quebec engineering company SNC-Lavalin, but throws western Canadian energy corporations under the bus. The movement of Encana’s headquarters to the United States is a national shame.

Encana was once the pride of the nation, with roots extending back to the oilpatch’s earliest days, but Trudeau’s attack on the industry proved too much. The company’s executives have decided to move its head office south of the border, where investment is welcomed.

Still, despite all of this, the argument for separation hasn’t been made. Alberta has representation in Parliament today, just as it has always had. And more Canadians voted Conservative last month than cast ballots for the Liberals.

Those who argue in favour of separation may have emotion on their side, but they can’t rely upon the facts.

Every Canadian pays the same amount in federal tax. So when people talk about Albertans contributing more to Confederation than other Canadians, such as Quebecers, they are referencing the reality that our incomes and the number of hours we work exceed the national average.

As a result, Albertans deposit more in the federal treasury than workers in other provinces do. Equalization payments, which have been wildly twisted for political purposes, are an attempt to ensure public services are equally funded across the country.

There is clear reason to be chagrined at our treatment in Confederation, but creating an independent state wouldn’t provide access to tidewater for our energy exports, which is usually cited as the biggest grievance.

If Alberta wants to do more than complain, it should exert its authority in areas it already has control over. It could collect its own income taxes, form a provincial police force and establish its own pension fund.

As other commentators have pointed out, these measure are attainable and would demonstrate a determination to better control our destiny.

That’s a good place to start to test the political will of Albertans.

David Marsden is managing editor of the Red Deer Advocate.

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