By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on October 29, 2019.
By Peter Heffernan
Fellow Conservative, Western Canadian Premier Brian Pallister of Manitoba urges caution, particularly to Premier Jason Kenney of Alberta, but also to Premier Scott Moe of Saskatchewan, regarding fanning the flames of western separatism espoused by the not-too-originally-monikered, follow-the-populists Wexit movement.
He might also have urged his fellow citizens and neighbours in Western Canada to take a deep, collective breath and decompress a bit. Is politicizing national unity the honourable or even most effective way to go? Fights in sandboxes followed by the vanquished taking both their bucket and their leave are hardly novel things in human conduct nor indicators of mature thinking or behaviour.
Let’s take a calm look at things and assess whether damping down political rhetoric and stage-filling grandstanding so as to bring more balance and reason to this brief moment we are now going through in Canada are warranted. Are the federal election results of 2019 so catastrophically different from those of, say, the past 35 years or more? Some bask in victory (occasionally mitigated as is currently so); others represent the voice of those who are undoubtedly disenchanted and disappointed. This is how imperfect, but at least so far, better than other alternatives democracy works (though it is not a suggestion for any to just “get over it”).
As for the election results of Oct. 21, Alberta chose to send 33 out of 34, or 97 per cent, of its MPs to Ottawa as Conservatives. This is lower than the 100 per cent of Conservative MPs Alberta sent there following the elections of 2006 and 1984. Indeed, the results of October 2019 are much in keeping with those of 2015, 2011, 2008, 2004, 2000, 1997, 1993 and 1988 in which Alberta sent, respectively, 85 per cent, 95.5 per cent, 95.5 per cent, 93 per cent, 88.5 per cent, 92.3 per cent, 84.6 per cent and 96.2 per cent of its seats allocation to Ottawa as Conservatives and/or Reform or Alliance MPs. The trend persists (as does Albertans’ persistence).
Looked at from another albeit related perspective, as a percentage of the popular vote in each of these elections, Albertans’ collective support of Conservatives and/or of conservative-leaning parties in comparison with that of other Canadians in each of the same elections is and has been in a ratio of (source: Elections Canada):
Year Canadian % of popular vote with Conservatives (centre column) and Alberta % of popular vote with Conservatives (righthand column)
2019 34.4% TBD
2015 31.9% 59.5%
2011 39.6% 66.8%
2008 37.6% 64.6%
2006 36.25% 65%
2004 29.6% 61.7%
2000 33.1% 72.4%
1997 38.2% 69%
1993 35.3% 66.9%
1988 45.1% 67.2%
1984 50% 68.8%
When separatism has reared its ugly head in the past, which has occurred in the wake of some previous federal elections, big-thinking female and male premiers of Alberta to whom Albertans have granted temporary occupancy of that office have generally, indeed virtually always, assiduously avoided stoking the flames of separatist sentiment. Why then is Premier Kenney now addressing differently Albertans’ periodically quite legitimate and what appears also as being sometimes irrational sense of disconnect from the main?
He needs to articulate in clear terms why he is acting as he is and thereby legitimizing national disunity. Why now? How is flirting politically with separatism better for Alberta than being a strong player within the Confederation both promoting and defending more broadly Albertans’ interests? While the trend lines above suggest he can do whatever he wants and feel more or less secure, whether in the federal or provincial arenas, still national unity is a bigger matter than his or any other government’s fleeting popularity and their constantly seeking success at the polls.
When Albertans confront big, confounding issues, they need big, clear-thinking leaders. Opportunism and swaggering are no friends of Alberta at this time nor is developing one’s skills in the art of compromise and one’s capacity for genuine negotiation the enemy. In family life, children know instinctively how parents really value them by the time they spend with them. The Alberta family also knows instinctively that it needs a full-time premier, even during federal elections.
Thirty million Albertan taxpayers’ dollars have been assigned to what has recently been otherwise more euphemistically re-named but is still Alberta’s “war room” directed against those who are environmentally concerned and are not instinctively anti-regulatory about virtually any and every thing. Now, with national unity in the mix, as it appears we still have money to spare for politicians’ whims, why not more purposefully invest in an Alberta “peace room” to bring both solace and meaningful solutions to those afflicted in Alberta who are still open-minded and different inspiration and light to those who would apparently with the wave of a wand propose severing a nation seemingly only for spite? Canada the peacemaker is bigger than all of us.
Peter Heffernan has lived in and been a concerned citizen of Alberta for most of his life and is a proud citizen of Canada for over 70 years. He empathizes with fellow Albertans’ sense of disenfranchisement but also contends that messing with national unity is not the solution but rather will lead to more intractable problems for all Albertans of good will.