The best way Jason Kenney could shut down the Alberta independence movement would be to hold a separation referendum within a year. Once Albertans vote over 75 percent in favor of remaining within confederation, it would take at least a decade before an independence movement could gain steam again.
Support for separation is hot right now and it isn’t cooling quickly. No matter how eager one is to go however, one has to step back and have a look at just how strong that support is.
A recent poll showed that 33 percent of Albertans think that “my province would be better off if it separated from Canada”. That is not saying that the province should separate or that they would support the separation. They just feel that the province would be better off. This is not the sort of support which will get over 50 percent of the province to vote to separate.
I have run in two different elections under an independence banner. I knocked on countless doors and the trend was clear. Albertans are always pissed off with Ottawa but very few are ready to actually pull the trigger on secession even if it looks like a better deal. One of the main things aside from sentimentality which keeps people from pursuing secession is the utter lack of a solid, coherent plan as to what would happen. They asked many questions to which I didn’t have answers then and I still don’t have them now.
Right now the independence movement is essentially a loose collection of groups holding rallies and shouting buzzwords but not building any sort of solid organization or plan. They are demanding a referendum yet can’t tell people what the West would look like after a “yes” vote. This will fizzle over time if a solid and rational foundation isn’t built.
Many questions are repeated over and over again. Some have ready answers and some don’t yet. Until those answers are developed nobody will be going anywhere.
I am going to list the most common ones.
WHICH COMBINATION OF PROVINCES WILL GO?
Is it an Alberta independence movement or a Western independence movement? Will it include Maniboba and Saskatchewan? What about the territories?
Some people have proposed taking part of British Columbia but leaving the Southwest portion out.
How could that be organized?
If we are going further into partition, what if Edmonton clearly votes to stay while the rest of the province votes to go? Could Edmonton become a small Canadian territory within an independent Alberta?
I am not asking these things simply to be difficult. I think they can be answered but it won’t be easy and these are things that people have and will ask before considering separation.
WHAT ABOUT FIRST NATIONS?
This is a dicey area. There were treaties signed with the Crown. I am assuming an independent West will be a republic. Will those treaties be then considered void? Will they be honored within a new nation?
This is one area where I can see the most justification for an outside nation to intervene whether Canada or otherwise is if there is real or perceived abuse of First Nations.
Unrest from people residing within reserves will need to be addressed as well.
WHAT SORT OF POLITICAL SYSTEM WILL BE ADOPTED?
I mentioned a republic but that is still pretty broad. Will it be bicameral? Westminster Parliamentary based? Unitary? Decentralized?
At the very least some sort of draft constitution needs to be created.
WHAT SORT OF CURRENCY WILL BE USED?
Will Canadian dollars be retained? American dollars used? Shekels? Will any country be willing to facilitate that?
Perhaps an Alberta dollar? Bitcoin?
Creating a new currency and integrating it with the world markets won’t be easy.
WHAT ABOUT ASSETS WITHIN AND OUTSIDE OF ALBERTA?
Many Albertans own property and assets outside of the province. Many Canadians own property within Alberta. Many companies are integrated with assets throughout the country. How will that be addressed?
This sort of thing could take decades to sort out if there isn’t a detailed transition plan.
Will there be a military? Will it be a large one? Small? Will it take part in NATO? UN?
What about current military assets within and outside of Alberta?
What about military personal stationed within and outside of Alberta?
IS THERE A PLAN TO JOIN THE UNITED STATES?
Would the USA want us? Would we want to join?
Would existing officers be able to join a new force?
How open will the borders be? Will we welcome a large number of immigrants? A few? None? Will Canadian immigrants be prioritized over others?
ACCESS TO TIDEWATER?
There are still many more questions out there but I think I have made my point. I may as well end this list on a big and constantly pressing one.
Alberta and most of the independence proposals mean being landlocked. That in and of itself is not necessarily bad but it is a challenge. Switzerland, Austria and Luxembourg are among the richest nations on earth yet they are landlocked. Some of the poorest nations are landlocked too.
The point is valid that we are having our product blocked from port access right now so there is little to lose in becoming independent.
Some folks keep pointing to the UN policies on landlocked nations. These are often the same people who say that the UN is an invalid organization though so which is it going to be?
The international conventions on access to tidewater don’t explicitly cover pipelines and they still require negotiation. There are nations that have blocked other nations from tidewater for decades as well. If they want to ignore orders from the UN there really isn’t much stopping them from doing so.
A rational plan has to be developed and published on this or it will be one of the biggest question marks killing a potential independence vote win.
Many are willing to attend the rallies and make the noise for independence. That is the fun part.
The reality is though that if Western independence is ever to happen, it will only come about with years of hard work and planning. Meetings, fights over policies, negotiation and late nights along with some really tedious conventions are required. That is not the fun part but it is the essential part.
My advice for those impatiently calling for a referendum on secession is to cool their jets for a bit here. Look at what needs to be done first if you are serious about this.
Secession if it ever is going to happen is going to be years away yet. In the meantime lets start building the foundation for it. Bring home our pension assets. Take control of immigration. Form our own police force. Build new relationships with First Nations independent from Ottawa. Always stand up to the federal government and develop provincial alternatives to every service that they provide when possible.
Along with pursuing all of the “Alberta Agenda” sort of policies above, plan, meet, think and answer those questions. If you don’t you will never get a “yes” vote no matter how badly you want it.