Albertans are talking about The Wall. It's not a new idea. This time around, Jason Kenney is leading the charge. Tom Walkom writes:
In early 2001, six notable Alberta conservatives penned an open letter to Premier Ralph Klein, urging him to build “firewalls” around the province that would protect it “from an aggressive and hostile” Liberal government in Ottawa.
Labelled the firewall letter, it came in the aftermath of a federal election that Jean Chretien’s Liberals — in spite of being almost shut out of Alberta — had won handily.
The six, including a young Stephen Harper, argued that the Liberals had won that election by marginalizing Alberta and its needs. The answer, they said, was to withdraw into Fortress Alberta and “take greater charge of our own future.”
Kenney says he wants to collect his own income tax, have his own pension plan, and his own police force. All of these ideas are also not new. Quebec has all of these things. And the provinces have always had the ability to opt out of federal programs:
Provinces have always had the power to opt out of shared-cost programs. Like most provinces, Alberta refused to join medicare when it came into force in 1968. It signed on eventually only because universal public health insurance proved popular.
But Walkom notes that:
It’s a little weird to see the old firewall ideas resurrected. None of the measures the Manning panel is being asked to examine have much to do with the real problems facing Alberta. These centre on the oilsands.
Albertans are caught in a classic resource trap. The oil sands are a stranded asset. Their value continues to diminish. Albertans face the same fate as the residents of Cape Breton, Scheffreville, and Asbestos Quebec and those who earned their living from the Canadian fur trade. And they have been put in that position by decisions that were made in Edmonton, not Ottawa.
Having their own police force may make Albertans feel better. But it will do nothing to solve the problems they face.
Image: Exploring Off the Beaten Path