by Michael Binnion – Canadian Energy Network
The current situation facing Alberta is intolerable and cannot be allowed to stand. Like his father, Justin Trudeau believes in weak provinces and a strong Ottawa. And like his father, he is willing to push the constitution far beyond past convention to make Ottawa supreme over the provinces.
No wonder Alberta Proud has convened a conference of experts on January 18th in Calgary to discuss a credible plan for what Alberta can do.
Justin Trudeau has allied with ENGO’s to impose a blockade on Alberta. To effectively landlock its resources and strangle its revenues. His ultimatum is that Alberta must transition off hydrocarbons and beef. However, his true goal is a weak Alberta who can’t stand up to Ottawa. Trudeau wants to continue the history of laurentian elites in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa calling all the shots in Canada.
The constitution is clear that resources and cattle ranching come under provincial jurisdiction. It’s just as clear that Canadians have a right to transport goods freely across the country. But you won’t see Trudeau enforcing those parts of the constitution.
Instead, Trudeau Jr. has invoked federal powers over waterways and pipeline approvals to achieve indirectly what he cannot accomplish directly. In doing so, he has in effect imposed a blockade on Alberta to choke its revenues.
Potentially worse, he is seeking to expand the meaning of the “Peace Order and Good Government” clause in the constitution to mandate a national carbon tax scheme that mainly targets Alberta. This tax has different rates for different parts of the country depending on the arbitrary judgment of Ottawa bureaucrats — also known to favour centralized power. Adding insult to injury, the carbon tax targets resources and agriculture. Affecting less than 10% of the Canadian economy overall, this tax targets 30% of Alberta’s economy. The Conference Board of Canada found in two separate studies that Ottawa’s environmental tax will cost the economy over $500 per tonne of global emissions reduced. It is a but an environmental fig leaf for another attack on Alberta.
Imagine if the Supreme Court allows Ottawa to impose a tax that falls arbitrarily and unevenly on some regions over others. Future federal governments, or even this one, will find this an irresistible loophole for buying regional votes. It is far from good government and virtually guaranteed not to encourage peace among the confederation. If the Supreme Court allows this perversion of the “Peace Order and Good Government” clause it could very well sow the seeds of the end of the Canadian experiment.
The last time an unbridled attack on Alberta happened with Trudeau Sr., it was Alberta and Quebec who led the fight back with some success. The Quebec – Alberta coalition ended the National Energy Program and brought in the political shifts that eventually led to NAFTA, enduring changes both.
That attack on Alberta, led to the Reform Party and the ‘West Wants In’ drive to reform Ottawa from within. It disrupted Canadian politics as usual for almost two decades. In spite of peace and mostly good government in the confederation for more than a generation, it led to no enduring change. It was a failure, a worthwhile failure but nonetheless a failure. Justin Trudeau is remounting his father’s anti-Alberta agenda and anti-provincial rights agenda. The consequences are that national unity is threatened in a way that Canadians have not seen in a quarter of a century.
If “the West Wants In” won’t end the blockade, then will the alternative of “the West Wants Out” finally make a difference for Alberta? Something has to give because the current situation is intolerable.
Albertans are ever more frustrated that their own federal government is leading a movement to prevent the sale of Alberta’s resources to a world that wants to buy them. It is a threat to Alberta’s future and its prosperity, and it prevents Alberta from contributing to a more prosperous Canada.
The blockade must end. Something must be done.
Michael Binnion is a CEO with a Canadian energy company.