In a rather stunning development, Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel has found himself ineligible to run for his own party on the eve of a general election call due to his filing of his nomination expense forms too late.
This is nothing less than a disaster for the nascent Alberta Party which had been dearly hoping to pull themselves from single digit support into being a viable alternative in the general election. Mandel is trying to appeal the Elections Alberta sanction, but time is short and it appears that he broke the rules. Even if Elections Alberta lets him off the hook, the embarrassment to his party won’t be going away. How on earth can they convince voters that they will govern the province well when their own leader can’t file his expense forms on time?
Let’s be clear, I am no fan of the Alberta Party. They are a group of liberals wearing a thin coat of blue paint peppered with a number of disenchanted red Tories left over from the defunct Progressive Conservative Party. They talk a big game on social media but fail dismally when faced with actual elections. Former Leader Greg Clark won Calgary Elbow but he won that constituency on his own merit rather than the party’s. As a reward, he compatriots within the party kicked him to the curb in order to bring in Stephen Mandel as a new leader. Hardly looking like a wise trade today.
I also understand just how easy it is to fill out a zero expense form for Elections Alberta after running in a nomination race. I did that very thing last fall and it took me about twenty minutes.
What I question is the need for parties to answer to Elections Alberta at all when it comes to nomination races. Political parties are private entities. They have their own constitutions, they have their own memberships. Nobody is forced to join or support political parties. Nomination and leadership races are entirely within the domain of these entities and they should be able to run them however they damn well please.
Rachel Notley has grossly abused the Alberta electoral process since becoming our accidental Premier almost four years ago. The Alberta Elections act has been amended at least 4 times since she took power and it has become a quagmire of over reaching rules and controls. Even Elections Alberta themselves have difficulty in giving clear answers to questions on how spending and campaigning work when we have this bizarre “election period” leading to a formal campaign at some unknown time while essentially banning campaigning before this nebulous “period” comes into play. All parties have spent countless hours scratching their heads in trying to figure out how to promote their brand while remaining legally within the ever changing constraints of the Elections act.
One of the traps that the NDP planted into nomination legislation was in having all people register publicly with Elections Alberta if they are even considering running for a nomination. The intent was to embarrass parties as undesirable candidates appear on a list associated with the party while the party had utterly no mechanism to keep that from happening.
This strategy backfired when I registered as a candidate for the NDP for Banff Kananaskis.
After I released a few embarrassing campaign planks in my run as an NDP candidate, parties suddenly became able to put an annotation in the listing to label a candidate as having been rejected by the party. Rest assured though, had I not done that the NDP would have happily been using the nomination listings as a hammer to beat the UCP up with as every crackpot who takes the time to fill out a simple form suddenly becomes listed as a nomination candidate.
While other parties wrestle with this legislative mess, Rachel Notley and gang happily have been in full campaign mode for months as they advertise and make spending announcements while being immune from the act as they are claiming to be acting on government business. It helps that the NDP rarely actually holds democratically challenged nominations.
Now Albertans are stuck in this election campaign that isn’t an election campaign. Vitriol is rising as parties and voters become frustrated in this electoral purgatory. Electoral discontent and apathy is surely growing as this hyper-partisan environment dominates the news and a date for an actual election still hasn’t actually been set.
Gross fundraising and spending constraints added to the Elections Act have only served to spawn numerous PACs which are even less transparent than the parties were. Lets face it, if people want to promote a party they will find a way no matter how hard the government tries to prevent it. Now the poor souls at Election Alberta are scrambling to try to track the actions of a bunch of “independent” groups on top of all the party tracking they are tasked with. It is an utter mess.
We need government to get the hell out of party business and elections.
To begin with, we need truly set election dates. None of this “election period” bullshit which gives the Premier months to play coy and mess with the election call for the benefit of their own party. We need an election date set and I mean the actual day of the vote. Nothing less.
I understand that with our constitution that any law for a fixed election date can be repealed by a majority government. We saw Prentice do that very thing. How well did that work out for his government though? A fixed date would put some pretty heavy pressure on the government to abide by it and if they decided to break it they had better damn well have a good reason or the electorate will be certain to apply punishment at the polls.
Nominations and leadership races should be completely left out of electoral legislation. It is up to parties to set their own rules. If the public doesn’t like how they do it, they simply don’t have to support those parties.
Aside from a degree of disclosure requirements and perhaps a very high upper limit, parties should not have their fundraising ability restricted as well. As long as we know who donated and how much, we need little else. It would be true transparency.
Party politics do indeed run on money but money is hardly a guarantee of electoral success. Notley and Nenshi both won elections while spending far less than their competitors. We don’t need to try to strangle party fundraising or spending. Let voters be the judge.
It is rare that an incumbent party has the will to change laws in favor of other parties. The window will be short but I think it is important that we all pressure the next government of Alberta to reform the Elections Act yet again. This time though, we need to look at how we can strip it to its bare minimum. Let grassroots democracy take care of the rest.
This is it. The very last active major energy project in Canada is the Coastal GasLink pipeline in BC which if ever completed, will transport natural gas to Kitimat where it can be converted to Liquified Natural Gas and exported overseas.
Every other major energy project in Canada the last few years has either been shut down by government whether through unreasonable legislation as with Energy East, or through activist judges who move the regulatory goalposts as with the Trans Mountain expansion or with an outright ideological based shutdown direct from government as we saw with Northern Gateway.
Coastal GasLink is the last one standing. TransCanada did every requisite study. They did every requisite consultation. They cut every requisite deal with impacted communities. They applied for and received every one of the seemingly endless permits to operate.
Coastal GasLink played by all of the ever changing, convoluted rules and roadblocks that Canada put before it yet it still is finding itself stalled by protesters and pending court challenges.
Yes, after months of delays and countless thousands spent in the courts an injunction to clear a handful of protesters who had set up a fake “healing lodge” and illegal blockade on a bridge out of the way so that crews could do preliminary work in order to build the pipeline.
After way too many generous warnings, 14 idiots were arrested and removed from the site by the RCMP and the bridge was opened.
Protests from the extreme were held across Canada in support of the handful of pipeline protesters. Hundreds of thousands have been raised to fight this legal project and Canadian musicians and celebrities have jumped on the bandwagon in trying to shut down this legal project.
Within weeks, work was shut down as extremists placed trap lines in the work zone and put workers and “trappers” at risk. The placement was purposeful of course. With literally hundreds of thousands of acres wide open for trapping, the protesters just happened to choose the small work zone for the pipeline. While the traps have been cleared and work is resuming, I have not heard of any charges against these illegal trappers yet.
More protests are coming and more court challenges are pending.
The bottom line is that if we can’t get this pipeline built we will never get a single new large energy project done in Canada again.
This isn’t even an oil line. No evil bitumen or “tar” sands products. No risk to whales. No chance of an oily leak into a water body. We fart the same product that the pipeline will carry and like our personal flatus, any accidental release of natural gas from the line will simply dissipate.
As far as energy projects go, this is low hanging fruit.
There will always be protesters. There will always be fake chiefs among them such as the travelling loon “Chief Grizzly Mama”. Nothing we do will stop these extremists from opposing developments. There is no negotiating that can be done with these people. There is no reasoning that can be had with them. They are crazy and if we want to get something done these people will have to be arrested and charged.
It remains to be seen if government has the will to follow through and facilitate the construction of this pipeline. It took months and many court injunctions before a small collection of drug addled bums could be removed from “Camp Cloud” in Burnaby and it was clear that the authorities would rather have left the protesters where they were if they could have gotten away with it.
It is little wonder that extreme protesters feel emboldened when we see so many displays of cowardice from government in the face of law breaking. Even when those nutcases from Greenpeace put dozens of first responders in danger by forcing them to do a rescue and arrest operation at high heights, not one of those criminals got so much as a ticket. Aside from the risk they put the police and others into, how many thousands of tax and private dollars were wasted as these idiots hung from a bridge? If we fail to come to a complete halt at a stop sign on a deserted rural road the RCMP will not hesitate to hand us a heavy ticket yet we can’t find it in ourselves to charge Greenpeace extremists.
This simple pipeline is the litmus test. Shutting down the protesters and getting the Coastal GasLink will be a veritable cakewalk when compared to what will have to be done to ensure that the twinning of the TransMountain line is completed.
I have little faith that Trudeau has the will to get any of these projects done. The international investment community clearly feels the same as incoming dollars to Canada plummet. Who in their right mind would invest here when the most basic of legal projects can’t get done?
Watch the construction of the Coastal GasLink project carefully. Even if it does get done, things don’t look promising for TransMountain. If Coastal GasLink doesn’t get done, we can confidently say that nothing will. The construction season is passing. We will know in the next few months if Canada is open for business or not. I am afraid that I am not terribly optimistic.
In what really wasn’t a surprise move the most opportunistic member of the Alberta Legislature put out a short statement, deleted her twitter account and ran away from Alberta politics. The bottom line is that Sandra Jansen had burned every possible political bridge in Alberta with her crass opportunism and rather than face a pending electoral loss with dignity, she chose to toss her party and constituents under the bus as she chooses not to run mere weeks before a potential election call.
It wasn’t all that long ago that Sandra Jansen was in the headlines claiming she would fight to keep that seat for the NDP until the bitter end.
The reason that Jansen’s apparent willingness to run again made headlines was that few people expected her to show the strength of character to run in what was sure to be a tough race to say the least. Clearly the critics were right as Jansen pulled the escape hatch without warning.
When the going gets tough, Sandra gets going indeed. Jansen waited until the very last day before the deadline to run for the leadership of the PC party before dropping out. The reality was that she was actually still scrambling to get her nomination signatures in order to enter the race and it became abundantly clear that she didn’t have nearly enough support to make a respectable bid for the leadership of the party much less win it.
Rather than bow out with dignity, Sandra claimed she had been bullied out. Not surprising from her of course as Jansen has long had a pattern of playing victim when things don’t go her way.
I don’t doubt for a second that some nasty things had been sent to her and said about her on social media. Like it or not, that is simply a factor in public life whether one likes it or not and she knew that.
Sandra Jansen does indeed draw more vitriol and ire from political opponents than most MLAs do. That is because she invites it. Sanda Jansen has always been one of the most vocal attack dogs on social media and has a habit of claiming to be the victim when the shit inevitably comes flying back at her. That only draws more vitriol of course.
When not claiming victimhood, Jansen is also well known for hiding from her legislative duties when she finds herself in trouble. We saw this when Jansen did a disappearing act after having insulted every tradesperson in Alberta with her dismissive, elitist statements about electricians. She is rather cowardly when she gets herself into the soup.
While Jansen tried to rebrand herself as an advocate for gay rights, we can’t forget that she was the MLA who tabled Bill 10 on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party in 2014. That bill was designed to undercut a Liberal private members bill which would have entrenched gay straight alliances. Bill 10 was so odious in its intent and content and Jansen blew her own bill so badly that it had to be pulled from the legislature and re-written for the next sitting. Jim Prentice had to essentially take over the job for Jansen as can be seen below while she stands meekly aside. It was a low point in that administration.
I don’t think Jansen is anti-gay by any means. I don’t think she really supported that bill and I doubt that she had much to do with the writing of it.
What Jansen’s being willing to table Bill 10 demonstrated in spades though was that pure self-serving opportunism which has always been the prime driver in Jansen’s career. It got her into the spotlight that she loved and kept her in cabinet potential. Being on the front bench was far more important to Jansen than personal principle ever was.
That utter lack of principle was on full display yet again as a petulant Sandra Jansen crossed the floor to Notley’s NDP. Sandra wanted back in cabinet at all costs and truth be told, if the Social Credit Party had won the election Jansen would have crossed to them, donned a crucifix and led pro-life rallies in hopes of endearing herself to the party leadership.
My biggest beef with Jansen is that utter lack of principles. I am still an idealist to a degree. I respect people who stay consistent to their beliefs even if those beliefs are not ones that I share. Socialists dedicated to the NDP at least have an ideal albeit a flawed one. Jansen had no ideals aside from charting her own personal course. Pragmatism is essential at times and people change views but flipping from PC to NDP was based solely on opportunism.
I guess it is fitting that in going out that Jansen screws her own supporters the most. Volunteers were lining up to help Jansen get re-elected. Donors coughed up funds to Jansen’s constituency. The NDP dedicated all sorts of resources to Jansen’s constituency along will giving her profile at all major announcements.
In the end, it didn’t matter how many people put their necks on the line for Jansen. When it was clear that her chances of winning the election were slim, Sandra abandoned them. Sandra is in it for Sandra and she just couldn’t see the benefit of putting in all that work only to no longer be in government.
I am looking forward to many positive changes in the Alberta Government in 2019. One of those changes came early in that one of the worst politicians to have graced the Alberta Legislature in some time has decided to leave earlier rather than later.
Goodbye Sandra Jansen. You won’t be missed but you will be remembered.
Back when I started in the oilfield I was struck by how many oddballs I encountered and worked with. Strange views, strange habits and just general weirdness seemed to infect every person I met on an extended field program.
For my first few years in the field I wondered: “Does my industry attract lunatics or does it take normal people and turn them into lunatics?”
In time I figured it out. Both of my questions were wrong. The true answer is that everybody is damned weird. The difference was that when you worked in my part of the field, you would have the pleasure of literally spending 24 hours per day with people for months at a time. At the start of the 1990s it wasn’t uncommon to be stuffed into a 10×12 foot camp room with the same person you worked with during the day for months. The only way to get to know a stranger more intimately in a condensed period of time would be to be incarcerated with them.
When working in the normal 9-5 world you never really got to know just how weird your co-workers were. You didn’t see what they did on the weekends. You didn’t see what their bedtime rituals were or what odd things they did with themselves in the mornings. These people seemed perfectly normal and you lived in blissful ignorance of their weekend hobby of slathering themselves with tomato sauce while playing twister with fellow unicycle enthusiasts.
As with the oilfield which brought the oddness of people into sharper notice to co-workers, the internet has given lunatics a new platform to spread noise and let the world know just how crazy they are.
Twenty years ago you didn’t have to look far to find a self styled political expert who would work themselves into a lather until they said utterly inappropriate or even threatening things. You just had to go to the local bar. Every bar has one or even a number of chronics who will expound at drunken length about what is wrong with the world and how to fix it.
These drunken philosophers would be ignored by patrons and any slurred calls for hanging politicians or calling public figures offensive names would not be taken seriously. Eventually these folks would pass out, be carried home and would repeat the cycle in a day or so.
What is different today is that these annoying and offensive though usually harmless nuts have a whole new platform to use in order to spread their rambling. The internet has given the fools who couldn’t gather more than three people at a time to listen to their inane ramblings a tool where they can annoy and offend potentially thousands at a time. Even better, nutcases with foresight can create anonymous accounts so that they never have to face the consequences of anything they may say.
A glance at Facebook or Twitter is all one needs to see just how many of these keyboard cowboys are out there and how vocal they are. A glance at your own settings shows you how easy it is to block and mute these people as well.
Quit playing victim if you see something offensive online. Just block it for crying out loud.
As for actual threats, yes they are never acceptable and should never be totally dismissed. How many internet threats have actually ever translated into a real confrontation though? The reality is that the number of peckerheads to type out online threats who will actually leave the safety of their own basements in order to act upon them is miniscule.
Politicians do love using internet vitriol as an excuse to get out of things however. Career victim, Sandra Jansen is a great example. When it became abundantly clear that she couldn’t even meet the bar to enter the leadership race for the PC Party much less win it, she used internet vitriol and bullying as an excuse to drop out of the race. I don’t doubt that some abhorrent things were said about her and even sent to her. I don’t condone that kind of idiocy but really, it isn’t that tough to ignore and block it. Like it or not, enduring some of that is part of the job. People were just as bad 30 years ago but they rarely took time to put a pen to paper to send their thoughts out.
Shannon Phillips used the threat of fictional threats in order to get out of public consultation meetings that she didn’t want to hold. She lied repeatedly about RCMP involvement only to greatly embarrass herself. Supporters have since been screen capping online tweets of apparent threats in order to try and justify the cowardly cancellation of meetings. If any of those threats were of merit, we can rest assured that the RCMP will follow through and investigate these things. They don’t have time to track down every dolt who drank too many JagerBombs and tweeted out something stupid while seated on the toilet and the RCMP know these are not credible safety risks. All the same, increase security a bit and carry on. Mean tweets are not enough reason to cancel important meetings.
The internet is a wild west of commentary and information. There is some witty stuff, some deep stuff, some weird stuff and unfortunately some threatening and offensive stuff. The people who put that stuff out there have always been with us. They are among those co-workers who you work with 9-5 and that neighbor who you see watering his lawn. They are odd and annoying but present no real danger to you. The internet has exposed just how rude and disturbed some thinking is but it hasn’t created any more of it.
The world is no worse or dangerous than it ever was so click that mute button and get on with your life. It is much more respectable than playing victim.
Duncan Kinney runs the group “Progress Alberta” which is essentially a PAC with a mandate to attack all things conservative. He has run it very aggressively and it appears that he has finally crossed the line and gotten himself into some legal soup.
Kinney issued a letter of apology and retraction to Dr. Neil Webber and the Webber Academy on Christmas eve. It has the hallmarks of a legal obligation and it looks good on him.
All the same, we need not let this apology languish lost on twitter with such temporary and narrow reach.
That is why I am publishing it here so that folks can reference this apology in perpetuity.
Mr. Kinney would be well served to read it now and then before considering spreading mistruths about others online in the future.
Albertans have finally had enough and they are pushing back. We are no longer passively sitting back and taking it while politicians on all levels throughout the nation use our prime industry as a convenient whipping boy for political virtue signalling. Due to years of lobbying by foreign funded activists followed by utter inaction on the part of the federal government, Alberta has found itself under a virtual pipeline embargo. Our economy is crippled while Trudeau actually increased equalization payments to Quebec. Meanwhile the Premier of Quebec boldly states that he will not allow any new pipelines through Quebec & Trudeau sits back and lets Quebec have this veto.
We can’t change the constitution right now. We can’t force BC to stop hindering our energy projects much less Quebec. We can’t make Trudeau understand or care about the gravity of our situation. One thing we can do that we have not been doing before though is to speak up and speak up in numbers.
Rallies in support of Alberta’s energy industry have been held in different cities throughout the province for months now. Over a thousand people gathered outside of the hotel where Trudeau was speaking when he last visited. While it may not have changed his mind on anything, there is no doubt that he could see that we are here, we are active and we are coming out in defence of our province.
Yesterday in Grande Prairie over 1500 people came out on a Sunday afternoon to express support for the energy industry while hundreds of trucks led a convoy through the city. It was an impressive display of unity and concern in a Northern community usually prone to quietly going about their business.
In pushing back, Albertan’s have had a measurable impact even if the victories are small at times. The Mayor of Whistler BC signed a letter addressed to CNRL which could almost be considered outright extortion. He demanded that CNRL give his town money to pay for the perceived impacts of climate change. It was a ridiculous demand but it was one of hundreds of such initiatives spearheaded by environmental groups over the years who are trying to kill Alberta’s industries in a death by a thousand cuts.
A rare demonstration of unity emerged from Calgary’s traditionally dysfunctional city council as they all expressed support for Alberta’s beleaguered energy sector. A number of councilors were scheduled to speak to the crowd along with Mayor Nenshi. Then things went poorly.
After a couple somewhat short, benign speeches were given by councilors, Peter Demong took the podium and gave a short and catastrophic address which infuriated the crowd.
While spirits had been high with such a great turnout, people are hurting and are sensitive. Clearly Demong didn’t have a clue as he began to lecture the crowd on gender equality and telling us to ensure to go out of our way to support Quebec’s dairy industry by buying their cheese. The exact quote is below as it is almost too obtuse to be believed.
Demong: “We need to be spreading the word about how this industry is a world leader in gender equality. We should be talking about how to support Quebec’s dairy industry by buying Canadian cheese. ”
The crowd of course went wild with shouts, jeers and booing. These people are in economic distress because of Canada’s ridiculous regulatory process which is being remodelled to include among other things, gender equity. These are people who just watched Quebec’s leadership callously dismiss Alberta’s needs while greedily accepting billions in equalization from us. Demong really thought that they wanted to buy Quebec’s damned cheese and accept the loaded gender terms that Trudeau mindlessly blathers at us?
Before being pulled from the microphone, Demong petulantly spat to the crowd: “Wow. Really? And you guys call yourselves Canadians? Wow,”
Yes you jerk!
Most of the people in that crowd call themselves Canadians. It is in calling themselves Canadians that they passively let hundreds of billions of tax dollars leave Alberta to be poured into Quebec for decades. It is in calling themselves Canadians that they are trying desperately to make the needed changes to our nation’s practices in order to preserve their economic well being within Alberta and to maintain national unity. Albertans are clearly the most patient and giving Canadians in the country and they certainly don’t deserve to have their status as Canadians questioned by a myopic twit like you Mr. Demong!
Nenshi quickly took the stage and only managed to make tensions even worse. He spoke shortly before beginning to speak in French. As the crowd erupted into boos again, Nenshi condescendingly chided the crowd on both the rationale for speaking French and on climate change concerns. He made few friends today.
Such a great rally was organized only to be ruined by the truly tone deaf ruminations of the Mayor and one of his councilors. How could they have possibly thought that their speeches would be well received by this crowd? It was made abundantly clear that they had no understanding of the gathered people or of their concerns. They showed no interest in learning as they hustled back into city hall at the first possible opportunity.
The Mayor and his councilors could quite easily have gone and mingled with the group as it gathered before the event. They could have chatted with people and gained some clearly much needed insight into the minds of these gathered Albertans. Alas, in their arrogance they assumed they knew it all before taking the podium and demonstrating in spades that they didn’t know much at all.
The rallies will continue. The events and pushing back against eco-groups and the politicos that support them will continue. I suspect however that we will not be seeing more invitations expended to the ivory tower elites of Calgary city hall in the future as their cloistered and comfortable world within the world of municipal government has made them incapable of understanding what is making thousands of Albertans come out to these rallies much less speaking to them.
Albertans will take the reins and take us where we need to go with true populism. After the display we saw today from Calgary’s municipal leadership, we should be thankful that this movement remains grassroots in nature. Reaching out to existing political leadership hasn’t proven fruitful.
Ever since Pierre Trudeau raped the West with his NEP we have seen Alberta separatism ebb and flow as one federal incursion or another earns the ire of Albertans. Canada’s constitution and geographic layout pretty much ensure regional alienation as federal parties and their leaders work the system to ensure that they maintain that ever critical political support in Central Canada. With Alberta’s relatively low population and large amount of resources, we have always had a large target painted on our back.
While Albertans become enraged periodically to the point where separatism begins to rise in the polls, we inevitably will calm down and settle grudgingly back into our role as confederation’s milk cow as soon as a possible escape hatch is presented.
In the 1980s separatism was becoming relatively mainstream as Alberta elected a separatist MLA in Olds in a by-election. Doug Christie led the Western Canada Concept into some popular Western support and they were gaining steam.
The showdown between Lougheed and Trudeau led to hope however and popular support for separatism dropped as fast as it had risen. Alberta’s lone elected separatist, Gordon Kesler crossed the floor to the party in power and quickly faded into political history.
In 1986, Brian Mulroney reawakened separatism in the West as he awarded a lucrative CF-18 maintenance contract to Canadair in Quebec rather than to Bristol Aerospace in Winnipeg despite the western bid clearly being the better deal. It was gross and typical political pandering to Quebec and it infuriated the West again.
Just as Western separatism was gaining steam again, Preston Manning appeared on the scene with the Reform Party in 1987. The battle cry was “the West wants in!” and Western separatism faded yet again as people put their hopes into a EEE Senate and having a strong regional voice in Parliament.
After more than a decade of effort, the Reform Party had pretty much gotten nowhere. The initial principles fell by the wayside as Manning moved into Stornoway and MPs en masse chose to take part in the gold plated pension plan that they previously had shunned. The concept of a EEE Senate was proven to be a pipe dream and the party morphed into the Canadian Alliance in order to contest Eastern seats. Our regional voice was lost.
In the late 1990s oil prices dropped below $10 per barrel. Thanks to high natural gas prices, the effect was not as catastrophic as the 2008 crash or today’s pressures. It did hurt Alberta though and as an oilfield worker at the time I remember quite well seeing our contracts literally being shut down mid progress. Many of us were tossed into unemployment and the response from our federal government was typical. We were told to suck it up and they continued to milk us through over taxation while pouring the money into Quebec through equalization and other transfers along with huge subsidies to companies such as Bombardier.
While oil did recover by 2000, the political situation did not. Jean Chretien had been in power for quite some time and he did little to hide his disdain for Albertans, even outright stating that he didn’t like dealing with them. In the fall of 2000, a very divisive federal election was held. Alberta was demonized while Quebec was catered to and as usual it worked. Chretien won another majority and Alberta was left yet again without representation while footing the bill.
We were furious and felt helpless. Separatism began to rise yet again.
At this time a dashing young separatist entered the scene with the Alberta Independence Party.
We were something different. Most of our board was 30 or under. I turned 30 while leading the party into the 2001 provincial election. We weren’t mired on social issues. We didn’t care about same sex marriage or religious matters. We simply wanted out. We were political types who had concluded that it was time for Alberta to pull the plug on confederation and that we needed a provincial political party in order to do so.
We exploded onto the scene as we held a packed founding convention in Red Deer which was attended by a couple MPs and a senator in waiting. We made national headlines as pundits alternated between calling us selfish assholes or a visionary young group. We sold thousands of memberships which was quite a task when one considers that we had no formal party organization and only perhaps 20% of our members had email addresses at that time.
We knew what we wanted but we really didn’t know what the hell we were doing.
Ralph Klein called the provincial election weeks after our founding convention. While we had gathered a great deal of attention and momentum, we hadn’t organized well enough to get the required petition signatures in order to register as a political party. We entered the election race with 14 independent candidates and while we made a relatively good showing as far as independent candidates go, we didn’t even come close to contention in any seats.
Our party then fell apart within a year due to infighting and yes, my inexperienced leadership. I just couldn’t hold it together.
The other thing that killed our support was the “Alberta Agenda” which was a plan released just as our party was formed. This was a plan for incremental provincial autonomy which was hatched by Stephen Harper, Tom Flanagan, Ted Morton, Rainer Knopff, Andrew Crooks and Ken Boessenkool. The plan called for Alberta forming its own pension plan, police force, collecting our own taxes and pursuing more health care autonomy while pushing harder for senate reform. This was packaged into a letter which was sent to Ralph Klein. The letter was later coined as the “firewall letter”.
Separatism was quelled yet again. I remember the frustration of calling supporters only to hear: “We don’t need the Alberta Independence Party now. We can make change from within with the Alberta Agenda”.
It should be noted that while the primary author of the Alberta Agenda became our Prime Minister for years and while 17 years have passed, not a single goal of the Alberta Agenda has been achieved.
Unless the goal was indeed to kill separatism and in that it succeeded in spades.
What I learned then and have learned since is that Albertans are reluctant separatists. They are furious with our abuse within confederation. They see the futility of change from within. They will speak out in favor of secession and will begin to poll favorably in support of it for a time. When given any possible lifeline however whether through the Reform Party or the Alberta Agenda, Albertans will quickly cling to it. Most folks really don’t want to go.
I saw this when the Alberta Independence Party held its founding convention. A motion passed to embrace the phrase “separation if necessary, but not necessarily separation”.
We neutered ourselves right out of the gate. This was akin to trying to bluff in poker while showing your opponent your cards.
I don’t think for a second (nowadays anyway) that we would have succeeded had we stuck to a pure separatist platform. At least though we would have shown we were serious. It means nothing if you don’t really mean it. Myself and our board were ready to go. We were sorely disappointed with the watering down of our goals. It was clear though that while hundreds were willing to pack a hotel in Red Deer on a cold January day to form a separatist party, most of them didn’t really want to separate.
I think Alberta is in the same place today. Oh I have no doubt that there are many committed separatists who truly want out of confederation. I believe that this number of true separatist is growing too. Every time Alberta tries and fails to make change from within, we create more lifelong separatists. I just don’t think we are at the tipping point yet.
Albertans still want a lifeline. They still want to explore every avenue before taking the path to full independence.
Right now that path lies in holding a referendum on equalization as Kenney has promised. Along with that, we need to pursue and implement the Alberta Agenda. I expect that the federal government will fight and stop most of these efforts. In doing so though, they will create those true separatists who can tip the scale.
For those who are committed to secession, I suggest that they form an advocacy group for that cause. Do the research. Put out the numbers. Lay out the path. In such a group you can maintain focus on the end goal. You can reject all efforts to water it down. Pursue Alberta’s independence and mean it. Nothing less will be taken seriously.
For a party to embrace secessionism would be political suicide and wouldn’t represent nearly enough Albertans. Don’t ask them to.
Forming a separatist party will come with all the complications and dilution of the message that the Western Canada Concept and the Alberta Independence Party tried to deal with. We don’t have the cultural & linguistic unifiers that Quebec does which lets them keep parties together while purporting to support secession.
Alberta and perhaps other provinces may indeed eventually secede. They will only do so after every other avenue of change has been explored. Lets start checking those avenues off our list now.
As for those who want nothing less than secession, get a group going, make that the mandate and stick to it
Kenney made the promise to do this over a month ago. It really didn’t gain the traction that I would have expected at that time. It was of course pooh poohed by the usual pundits as they loftily explained that this isn’t how equalization works yadda yadda yadda.
Our equalization system is indeed complex and it is indeed constitutionally entrenched. Equalization is often mischaracterized as being some sort of system where Alberta literally cuts a cheque directly to the federal government as well which is not the case. Equalization does however give the federal government a mechanism with which they can keep shorting Alberta on return transfer payments from revenues taken from the province and use those dollars to buy Quebec’s love. It is a system of interprovincial economic welfare and it has long stunted the natural development of our nation.
Despite Alberta languishing in a protracted economic downturn due to the federal government essentially allowing us to have our main industry embargoed by pipeline cancelations and despite Quebec doing rather well economically lately, the federal government still milks Alberta’s economy by billions per year and gives it to Quebec where their premier is still shitting on the prospect of Alberta getting a pipeline to the East.
It is a gross system of economic theft for political gain and it has to end at some point.
Listen below to Jason Kenney at the 15 minute mark on this. He is pretty clear on this and I am thrilled to see this kind of political clarity from a leader for a change.
Kenney understands that an Alberta yes vote to end equalization may still not lead to an end to equalization. Holding such a referendum sure would shine a bright light on the regional disparity and unfairness that our confederation has to offer Alberta right now though.
While a lot can change in a short time in politics, the good money right now is on Kenney becoming Alberta’s next Premier while Trudeau unfortunately is later re elected as Canada’s Prime Minister.
Even if Andrew Scheer miraculously finds the leadership ability to win a federal majority within the next 9 months, he has made it clear with his repugnant capitulation to the dairy cartels that his lips will remain firmly locked on the collective asses of Quebecers,
Whether Alberta is looking at Prime Minister Scheer or Trudeau, it is pretty clear that we are on our own.
As Kenney mentioned in the interview, there is some precedent that can be applied through the Supreme Court reference on Quebec secession and with the Clarity act.
Our constitution is not written in stone. Referendums can be a valid tool in working towards constitutional change and we dearly need it.
Alberta as a province has few tools enabling it to take on the federal government. Referendum however is a powerful one and we should apply this as soon as possible.
Lets put equalization on the table and start a true national discussion on its merits.
If a Alberta votes strongly to end equalization and that vote is completely rejected by the federal government, then perhaps it will be time to hold a second referendum on exactly what the Clarity Act has addressed.
Confederation is broken right now and nothing less than a national shakeup can possibly fix this.
Kenney’s promise of a referendum may be exactly what our province and nation needs. I am looking forward to the campaign already.
I have to admit, I had never heard of Lush cosmetics until recently. I don’t wear a lot of makeup.
Lush has been making the news on social media lately as Albertans have noticed that they have been actively campaigning against Alberta’s energy industry for years while still maintaining a number of outlets throughout the province. They want us to spend our oil money on their cosmetics but they want to shut down the source of the money.
This is typical of so many of the ideologically driven. Leading by example is not a consideration while virtue signalling through the attack of important industries becomes a marketing hook. I am sure that the Alberta bashing serves them well in their Oregon and California outlets. It is galling however to think that these jerks are selling their product in our province while using us as a marketing whipping boy in order to sell their makeup elsewhere.
Hey, their company is free to take whatever political stance they like. They are also free to set up shop wherever they like.
Consumers are free to spend their dollars wherever they like. I most strongly suggest as this Christmas season hits that people do not give Lush cosmetics a single nickel and to seek out comparable products from companies that do not practice such destructive and insulting hypocrisy.
A Lush rep responded to an inquiry just the other day and rest assured, they have no interest in backing off in their anti-Alberta stance one bit.
There are a number of good local alternatives. I will list a few below and I invite any readers to add further links to companies in the comments.
Lets save Lush Cosmetics from our dirty oil money.