Let's Get While the Gettin's Good
By Leon Harold Craig
This year, Alberta is celebrating a century of existence as part of the Canadian federation of provinces. What better time, then, to take stock of Alberta's place in this arrangement, of how well it's been served in the past and what are its prospects for the future? The moment is especially propitious, since the whole country is being treated to a rare public exposure of how corrupt the federal government, historically dominated by a Liberal party centred on Ontario and Quebec, actually — routinely — is.
AN INDEPENDENT ALBERTA
To be sure, the $250 million of graft involved in the Adscam racket is but a small portion of Alberta's annual donation to keeping Quebec tenuously tethered to the rest of Canada, barely a week's contribution of the $12 billion Ottawa sucks out of Alberta every yearin "equalization" payments (which the Liberal party then uses to buy votes east of Cornwall), a mere $60 of the almost $3,000 that every man, woman and child in Alberta pays per year for the privilege of remaining in a federation governed for the benefit of Ontario, Quebec and cronies of the Liberal Party of Canada.
Kept here, that same money would provide every family of four a $35,000 car every three years. I'd rather have the car. Better still, use the $12 billion to reduce the taxes on Alberta's citizens and businesses by that amount; let people spend their earnings as they please, and transform Alberta, already the most vibrant part of Canada, into the most attractive economic environment in all of North America.
True, the population would double within 10 years, but Alberta is a big place, of almost unlimited potential. However, to realize thatpotential, we have to do one small thing: Declare our independence —withdraw from the Canadian federation, become an independent commonwealth with our own sovereign government, directly answerable to no one but the people of Alberta. The political reality Albertans need to face is that the sponsorship scandal is not an aberration, but the epitome of the Liberal party's secret of perpetual success; it is its norm, and unusual only in the combination of brazenness and clumsiness that allowed it to come to the public's attention.
However, it is the reaction of that public that reveals the depth of Canada's sickness. For as is now clear to even the meanest intelligence, the problem is not merely one of an arrogant, cynical ruling party that uses every unscrupulous and several criminal means to maintain its grip on power; nor that the bloated federal bureaucracies are thoroughly politicized, led by careerists who understand their self-interests to be wedded to Liberal party fortunes; nor that something similar is increasingly true of both the national police and the military establishments; nor that the opposition parties offer no credible alternative (as has become painfully obvious).
All that is true, but what makes Canada's political sickness practically incurable is that a substantial majority of the citizens east of Thunder Bay are essentially debased. Like many hard truths people would prefer not to face, this bears repeating: a majority of eastern Canadians are not worthy of their civic heritage, as is shown by their passive acceptance of the revelations of the Gomery commission and their casual indifference to the Liberals' squalid shenanigans in Parliament.
Doubtless many Albertans naively presumed that the vast majority of eastern Canadians would be thoroughly disgusted by Liberal partyhacks skimming and outright looting public money under the guise of promoting national unity. Or at the very least, that they would ashamed to admit to pollsters that they would still vote for a party led by people who should be in jail.
But obviously they are not. Thoroughly propagandized in the fantasy that Canada is the greatest country on earth, they are too cowardly to admit the fact that it's become a third-rate nation, a disgrace to its own history and traditions, and is governed like a banana republic. And so they haven't the gumption to throw the rascals out.
If ever there was a people that got the government it deserved, Canada is the place. But it doesn't have to include us: we are not like them, and have no wish to become like them. An independent Alberta would be every bit as politically and economically viable as Norway, Finland, Denmark, New Zealand and several other advanced countries of comparable population (but of far less natural resources).
Begin with the economical considerations, which fall into two broad categories:
(1) First, what is the cost of remaining within the present Confederation? The costs are very high.
(2) And what is the money we pay for the privilege actually being used for (besides Adscam and other Quebec payola)?
Gun registry, bilingualism, aboriginal affairs mismanagement, the Kyoto scam, etc. In the short run, the savings in transfer payments — to say nothing of the enormous expense of supporting another whole level of unnecessary government — could be used to defray the costs of our transition to independence. But shortly thereafter, the saving applied to tax reduction would make Alberta the most economically attractive locale in all of North America. This bears directly on the second set of considerations, the viability of an independent Alberta.
Professional economists have repeatedly shown that it would flourish, which our being able to offer the most attractive tax regimein North America would only further enhance. Even now north-south trade is as important to the Alberta economy as east-west trade. Among other consequences, our population would increase dramatically withinthe first decade, as disaffected Canadians of enterprise and sensible social views moved here, replacing several times over the incorrigible Liberals sentimentally attached to Canadian Welfare Nannyism — who (one hopes) would move to Ontario, where they would feel right at home.
You can't beat that: a perfect "win-win" outcome. However, the economic benefits would not be the most significant advantage of independence. Far more important is the fact that wewould gain effective control over the social and political culture in which we live our daily lives. We would no longer be subject to the dictates of Liberal appointees to the Supreme Court of Canada pursuing a political agenda Albertans would reject were they given the chance to vote on it.
Instead, as what could then be a genuine democracy, the laws and policies of a sovereign Alberta government would reflect the views of the people who live here — on crime and punishment, on marriage andother family matters, on environmental protection, on religious freedom, on wildlife management, on firearm regulation, on narcotics, on immigration, on relations with the U.S. — all without regard forwhatever "higher enlightenment" happens to be in fashion among Toronto's pontificating class and the mandarins of Ottawa.
We can establish a social environment that will nurture the qualities of character that we naturally admire — self-reliance, enterprise, honesty, fairness, attachment to liberty, loyalty to friends — and thus belong to a country we can be justifiably proud of, one that is tolerant but principled, that actually stands for something positive, governed by one primary concern: the common goodof Alberta. That is, our legislators, in framing laws and policies, would no longer be saddled with the necessity of keeping one eye on the feds, on their use of our money and absurd Charter interpretations to manipulate our affairs.
We could leave the problems of Canadian federalism and its endemic corruption behind us, once and for all. Whereas, if we remain subject to the decadent cultural and moral influence of central Canada for another generation, we will ourselves become increasingly infected with the qualities that since the Trudeau era have come to define Canadian "national" character — sanctimonious, resentful, whining, spiteful, hypocritical, preening, cowardly, feckless, weak. Some basis for pride. And what a contrast to the Canadian character of the preceding century, now sadly forgotten and even mocked by a majority of the population elsewhere in the country.
Recently in a column for the Western Standard, Mark Steyn argued that the socio-political collapse of Europe is imminent, and thatCanada — "an honorary member of the EU" — may soon suffer the same fate. I wouldn't bet against it. As a ship of state, Canada is structurally unsound, sailing aimlessly in a perpetual fog, captained by an endless succession of faux-genteel poseurs, pilferers, con artists and outright crooks.
Sooner or later, it is bound to end up on the rocks and founder, and there is nothing we Albertans can do about that.
But there is no reason for us to go down with it. Any naive hope one might have placed in the reconstituted Conservative party has been short-lived. The depressing spectacle of its desperate efforts to avoid doing or saying anything that might upset the welfare mentality of the Maritimes, or provoke the wrath and ridicule of the so-called national media (actually the public voice of the Toronto-Montreal axis), while vainly pandering to thesensibilities of Quebec, simply confirms for the umpteenth time that nothing short of regime change can salvage political decency in Canadaas a whole. But there's no chance of that.
One can hardly blame the Conservatives, for they've done the math: two-thirds of the seats in Parliament are at the disposal of voters in Ontario and Quebec, people cowed and corrupted by two generations of degenerative Liberal maternalism and endless streams of self-righteous propaganda. And being politicians, the federal Conservatives wish for success now; they have no stomach for spending years in the wilderness vainly striving to reform the moral posture of that decisive sector ofthe Canadian electorate.
The basic facts determining the distribution of political powerwill not change, hence the "me, too" character of their public policy positions. And, hence, the practical impossibility of structurally reforming the Canadian regime, wherein the Liberals have every reason to regard themselves as its natural rulers in perpetuity, and so can and do treat the whole country as their fiefdom.
For anyone who understands the political reality of Canada as presently constituted, "The West wants in" is a foolish irrelevance; our slogan should be "the West wants out!"
Why stay? Why fritter away our resources to remain in association with eastern provinces so alien to us that demonizing Alberta —portraying it as rustic, benighted, intolerant, selfish — is theLiberals' most effective electoral strategy (as the recent federal election once again clearly showed).
Why stay? Consider Canada's position internationally: it has become such a non entity that there is no advantage in remaining a part of it, and some serious liabilities resulting from the souring of our inescapable relationship with the United States.
The federal Liberals have done enough stupid things of late to attract all the wrong kind of attention to Canada. Nor were these merely temporary lapses on their part; the gratuitous, and largely ignorant abuse of the U.S. issues out of a petty, resentful mentality that has been long and deeply cultivated, and is now the permanent mind-set of a majority of eastern Canadians.
Simply compare Canada's standing in the world right now, repeatedly disparaged by its NATO allies for its feeble contribution and despised by the nation it relies on to protect it. Compare this with the status of Australia, a robust, loyal, and active ally of the most powerful nation on earth — and as such, respected by all nations.Were we on our own, would we not be able to have a far more productive and wholesome relationship with America?
Why stay? This is a serious question, and it deserves a serious answer — not vacuous platitudes and emotional rhetoric, but sober, solid, rational analysis addressing the economic, moral, cultural, andpolitical advantages of staying.
I do not believe a case for staying can be made. And whatever temporary dislocations would attend separation are negligible compared to what we risk by doing nothing, allowing ourselves to drift further into the morass of contemporary Canada. Our province, having been a distinct political entity of a hundred years existence, with an established institutional and geographic integrity, our focus must be on achieving independence for Alberta. We should not, that is, become mixed up with some amorphous "Western separatism," which to succeed would require creating an all-newpolitical entity, a prospect subject to endless practical difficulties. If other provinces similarly opt for independence, that is their business, and we would wish them well. Or, if other provinces, or parts of provinces, should later wish to join an already sovereign and flourishing Alberta, that would be a matter for subsequent negotiation. In the meantime, our personal relationships with friends and family elsewhere in Canada need not be in the least affected by our becoming independent.
We should undertake a move toward independence with a whole-hearted intention of achieving it, not as simply a tactic whereby to get (temporarily) a "better deal" from Ottawa (i.e., get some of our money back, provided as a sop to assuage "western alienation").
What Albertans have to understand is that the present Canadian reality is profoundly prejudicial to the interests of our children and grandchildren — economically, culturally, morally, politically — and that there is no realistic prospect of it ever getting better in their lifetime.
Quite the contrary: there is every likelihood that it will only get worse, as Canada goes the degenerating way of Old Europe: stagnant, corrupt, spiritless, impotent. Independence is not an impossible dream. It would take time and planning. The first step should be enactment of something like the "firewall" agenda: establish our own provincial police, collect our own taxes, take charge of our retirement and health care systems, etc.
Equally important would be a sustained effort of public education to get the Alberta populace used to the idea (overcoming anxiety about its consequences, appealing to pride and a sense of enterprise and adventure, detailing ad nauseum the incorrigible moral bankruptcy of Canada as presently constituted and governed). Ultimately, success will depend on the emergence of some committed, shrewd, attractive political leadership. But if the ground is sufficiently prepared, someone of suitable political qualification and ambition will see the opportunity it presents, and seize it. Alberta has produced such leaders in the past, and can again. Build it, and they will come.
The single greatest obstacle to our declaring independence is sentiment. As the whole contemporary world bears witness, sentiment, and emotions, generally, are of massive importance in politics. Hence, rationality in politics depends on people coming to feel what their reason indicates they ought to feel.
We ought to feel indignation. But for now, Albertans' sentimental attachment to Canada remains very strong. A succession of polls have shown that Alberta is the most patriotic province in the country; this is part of our virtue, and we should be proud of it. But we could as easily — and far more justifiably — be proud, patriotic Albertans. For the Canada that Albertans love is partly one of an illustrious but (sadly) bygone history; mainly, however, it's the Canada we know firsthand, and that is Alberta — truly a distinct society unto itself in the alien context of the New Canada fostered by the political establishment of the central provinces.
We need have no fear of what could be a great adventure: founding a new country. Think of it. Think of the adventure of becoming masters of our own political house. Is this not an enterprise that could engage the spirit of Albertans, young and old? The only real obstacleis in ourselves: our misplaced sentimental attachment, which must and can be transferred from a weak and pacifistic Canada to a sovereign Alberta, strong and free.
Leon Harld Craig is a Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Alberta.