By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on September 11, 2018.
Alberta separatism is on the rise, at least according to UCP Leader Jason Kenney.
Although he proclaimed himself a “Canadian nationalist” in an interview with CTV’s “Power Play,” Kenney warned that a growing number of Albertans are having doubts about confederation.
In the same interview, the UCP leader suggested he would challenge Canada’s equalization payment formula, which provides funds from wealthier provinces, such as Alberta, to ensure equal access to social services across the country.
If the courts don’t succumb to his (and Premier Rachel Notley’s) insistence that the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion get built, which is now up in the air due to a ruling by the B.C. Superior Court that the federal government didn’t consult sufficiently with Indigenous groups, Kenney threatened a provincial referendum on equalization.
“I think that’s Alberta’s ultimate leverage in the federation, according to the Supreme Court’s Quebec secession reference, that would force binding negotiations with the federal government,” he told CTV.
This is clearly a dog whistle from Alberta’s leader of opposition to provincial separatists, particularly given the explicit comparison to Quebec’s role in confederation.
Kenney treaded the same water in an interview with the News, when he was in Medicine Hat for a UCP fundraiser Thursday, saying on the one hand that Alberta’s separation would leave it stranded between two provinces.
However, he repeated his suggestion on CTV that Alberta, like Quebec, should hold a referendum in order to pressure the federal government to give it what it wants.
And Kenney is, of course, not alone on this insinuation in the UCP.
As the leftist website PressProgress reported, UCP critic for economic development and jobs Richard Gotfried tweeted in June, “Time to learn from PQ and change name of our legislature to the national assembly.”
“PQ” is, of course, the widely-known acronym for Quebec’s separatist Parti Quebecois. But Gotfried claims he was referring to the Canada Post acronym for “Province of Quebec.” However, the abbreviation has been “QC” since 1991.
To be fair to Gotfried, Quebec legislature’s name was changed to national assembly prior to the Parti Quebecois’s existence.
Not knowing that is just as likely as Gotfried not knowing QC is the official mail abbreviation for Quebec.
Kenney’s former federal Conservative caucus-mate Jay Hill wrote explicitly in favour of Western Canadian separatism, with a particular emphasis on Alberta and Saskatchewan in the Calgary Herald this summer.
His reasoning included many of Kenney’s favourite talking points – an equalization formula that purportedly puts Alberta at a competitive disadvantage, the “massive” carbon tax to be imposed by the feds on unwilling governments, more pipeline routes and enhanced “property rights.”
Is Kenney a closet separatist? No. But there is significant overlap in his worldview and those of Alberta nationalists.
And one cannot forget the factor of Alberta politics bad boy Derek Fildebrandt, who after being booted from Kenney’s caucus took over the openly separatist Alberta Freedom Party to create his Freedom Conservative Party.
FIldebrandt obviously wants to stay close to that party’s base, describing his vision for the FCP as “an Alberta patriot party, or autonomous party.”
He clarified that an “Alberta patriot” is someone who believes the province ought to play a strong role in confederation, while at the same time decrying the western provinces’ “colonial” status within confederation.
Like his former leader, Fildebrandt is clearly talking out of both sides of his mouth, trying to reach out to separatists without alienating federalist voters, of whom there are far more.
Kenney doesn’t want too many of his potential voters moving over to Fildebrandt’s party, so he’s echoing his former caucus member.
This could work electorally within Alberta, but Kenney is setting himself up for a battle with the feds he isn’t likely to win.
An editorial from the Medicine Hat News
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