Election of 1911
The main issue in the election of 1911 was free trade. At the time, the
Liberals were actually liberals in the original sense of the word, and
they were proponents of free trade. While Laurier supported the
proposed U.S. / Canada Reciprocity Agreement, Borden and the
Conservatives condemned it.
The support for free trade in Alberta (and Saskatchewan) was based on
the elimination of a U.S. imposed 25 cent per bushel tariff on wheat.
This was a U.S. response to MacDonald's 1879 National Policy, a
protectionist piece of legislation. In an all-too-familiar story, the
"National" Policy was designed to protect Ontario and Quebec
manufacturers from products imported from the U.S. or Great Britain.
The result was that Albertans were forced to pay high duties on
imported farm machinery, or buy the more expensive competitors' goods
from Ontario or Quebec. As has been the case with so many federal
government programs, Albertans gained no visible benefit from
protectionism, while Easterners did gain.
The results of the election were typical. The Liberals nearly swept
Alberta, grabbing 6 of 7 seats. Meanwhile, Borden's Conservatives
achieved a strong majority government, gaining 134 seats to the
Free Trade Agreement & NAFTA
Free trade has always been somewhat of an anathema to Canadians, yet
strongly supported by Albertans. As was the case in 1911, Albertans
strongly supported free trade by supporting the Free Trade Agreement
between the U.S. and Canada in 1988.
The catalyst behind the election of 1988 was when the Liberal appointed
Senate refused to ratify the Free Trade Agreement passed by the
Conservatives. Left with any other alternative, Mulroney called an
There were only two provinces that supported the Progressive
Conservatives (and thus free trade) in 1988 to such an extent where the
Progressive Conservatives received a majority of the popular vote:
Quebec and Alberta. In every other province except Manitoba, the
Conservatives weren't even the most popular party, indicating the
contrasting views of free trade in Alberta versus the rest of Canada.
Let's look a little closer at those results. Albertans not only voted
51.8% in favor of the Progressive Conservatives, but also 15.4% to the
emerging Reform Party, indicating a massive majority of 67.2% of
Albertans supported parties who supported free-trade.
Quebec voted 52.4% for the Progressive Conservatives, but I posit that
this majority was the result of two factors:
1. Brian Mulroney was a francophone, and
2. John Turner wasn't.
If anyone doubts the propensity of Quebec to strongly favor francophone
candidates, consider that only one anglophone , John Diefenbaker, has
held a majority government in Canada in the past 50 years. Quebec
didn't vote for free trade; Quebec voted francophone.
Alberta simply got
lucky that the FTA was adopted. As was the case in the 1911 election,
Alberta voted strongly for free trade, while the rest of the country
opposed it.. Alberta (and the rest of Canada, the U.S. and eventually
Mexico) benefited from the coincidence that Mulroney happened to be for
free trade and a francophone.
|BSE: Protecting Alberta's Economy
Protectionism nowadays typically doesn't take the form of tariffs.
Rather, protectionists typically resort to non-tariff barriers to
trade, for example: import standards, subsidies, certifications, or
The mad cow disease incident has resulted in such protectionism. Note
that this protectionism threatened against Alberta was from Ontario. Also note that this form of protectionism
did occur in the United
States and other countries, and
is still problematic.
Why would it be considered as protectionism? Consider the actual health
risk that BSE poses to consumers of beef in the United States: more
people have died from eating green onions in the U.S. than
BSE-contaminated beef. Have we
seen similar apoplectic fits over the export of green onions as we have
with beef? No.
And what has been the response of various levels of government to
re-opening the U.S. market to Albertan ranchers? The Canadian
government has been powerless to really do anything. However, Ralph
Klein was able to meet with Dick Cheney to discuss the issue. Chretien had to wait before George W. Bush
would even pick up the phone for a 10
minute phone conversation. Who
demonstrated more ability to open up U.S. markets, the Alberta or
Canadian government? Undoubtedly, the Alberta government had more
efficacy in the matter.
|Softwood Lumber: Protecting
Alberta's Economy from Protectionism
Softwood lumber is a contentious trade issue between Canada and the
U.S..While Alberta exports softwood lumber to the U.S., so does B.C. as
well as the darlings of Canadian Confederation, Quebec and Ontario.
Thus, the Canadian government has no problems threatening Alberta's
economy to save Canada's. The threat to Alberta's economy came from
Chretien trying to blackmail the U.S. by threatening
to cut off Alberta's oil and gas exports.
Obviously, this harms the Albertan economy more than anything. Where is
the threat of an embargo of hydroelectricity from Quebec and Ontario?
|Free Trade and Alberta
Free trade has been
an important issue since Alberta's infancy. Albertans have strongly
supported freer trade throughout our history, especially when compared
with Canadians. With such a divergent viewpoint, Alberta's interests
would be served better as an independent country, where free trade
could be embraced rather than be rejected.
Ironically, independence may actually open up various markets in Canada
to Alberta due to the litany of interprovincial trade barriers.
Given the latest trade disputes over cattle and softwood lumber, we not
only have evidence that the Canadian government is able to do anything
to help the Canadian economy. On the contrary, the Canadian government
seems hell-bent on making tactless attacks on Americans. The Albertan
government has already been more effective than the Canadian government
in helping Albertans realize the benefits of freer trade, although that
is damning with faint praise. And the Albertan government's case would
be made stronger with independence.