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Autonomy that Insults the West
Calgary Herald, April 26, 1905

"Sir Wilfred kept the Territories struggling for years before he would seriously consider the autonomy question. Being forced to grant a measure of home rule, he goes into committee of the whole with Mgr. Sbarretti [sic], and offers the country the most sinister piece of legislation that political intrigue ever produced.

Deprived of the right to adopt an education system of their own choosing, all natural resources administered from Ottawa, the immense coal royalties preserved as a Dominion asset, the control of the irrigation system of the West maintained as a party privilege to be farmed out to Liberal supporters, and many private awards  made to strong partisan friends in different parts of the Territories, Sir Wilfred audaciously extends the naked counterfeit to the west as the substance of provincial rights.

Could anything be more mendacious?

Was there ever a more hateful exhibition of the leader of a great party in the closing days of his splendid career, lending himself to such a policy of coercion?

The new provinces can have little patience with the policy that seeks to denude them of tremendous natural resources, and infinitely less with the idea that proposes to deprive the people of the right to frame their educational system....

It is idle to talk of harmony when everything indicates an unalterable determination to coerce the west.

If Sir Wilfred is so confident the west is satisfied with his policy, dare he submit the autonomy bills in a plebiscite to the people so much concerned?

This would disabuse his mind on that score if the Premier really imagines that his policy resembles a popular measure today.

By the use of the barest party intrigue, and the tremendous power at his disposal, Sir Wilfrid is in a fair way to force bills on the country but the dissensions in his own party ought to warn him of the storm he is stirring up. Mgr. Sbarretti [sic] may have his ear, but the popular discontent threatens to reach such propositions as to engage his attention, in spite of his apparent surrender to the ecclesiastical forces.

Albertans were in favor of throwing off the shackles of Territorial government, which gave them no rights. The argument for becoming a province was one of Provincial autonomy and home rule. As the Calgary Herald notes, just months before Alberta is admitted as a province, Alberta's colonization continued. This unfair treatment led to Clifford Sifton resigning from Laurier's cabinet and sparked the seeds of pro-independence sentiment in Alberta.
Alwyn Bramley Moore, Alberta's First Patriot

Alwyn Bramley Moore was a ferocious defender of Alberta's rights from the beginning.
1930-1968: the Quiet Years

After 1930, Alberta finally got equal treatment with the other provinces in terms of owning Alberta's natural resources. This
Trudeau Sparks Election of WCC MLA

Trudeau's oppressive policies sparked a lot of resentment in the West and most notably in Alberta. Equalization and transfer payments grew dramatically, as Trudeau expanded the welfare state and this forced Alberta to pay a larger share to the rest of Canada. As a side-effect of that, debt and taxes ballooned. Trudeau forced bilingualism on Alberta, with its 3% francophone population. Trudeau's xenophobia led to the FIRA, which killed a lot of American investment in the oilpatch. His price controls and export taxes on oil again sought disproportionate funding from Albertans. But until the National Energy Program, Albertans for the most part did not seek redress for our grievances. The NEP simply looted the Alberta economy, and it became obvious to most that Alberta was simply a de facto colony of Canada. And Trudeau's arrogant attitude further annoyed Albertans.

In this context, it is easy to see how Albertan separatism became popular. In fact, the NEP served the purpose of adding fuel to the fire of Western independence, which created a movement out of sentiment.
From Conservative to Reform and Back Again

After Mulroney was elected, he ended the NEP. However, Albertans support of the Progressive Conservatives was short-lived, as Mulroney desired to get Quebec into Confederation. In order to do this, Mulroney offered short-term trade-offs with Getty and tried to push special status for Quebec. Meech Lake failed. The Charlottetown Accord was offered as another method of trying to get Quebec into Confederation. As this process began, the Reform Party offered itself to Albertans as a means to reform the Canadian political system. Reform started as a so-called fringe movement and found itself taking all the Progressive Conservative support east of Ontario after the Charlottetown Accord failed. Then, in order to get elected and gain power, the Reform Party watered down their platform of reform and became the Alliance Party. Then they watered down their platform again and became the Conservative Party. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Recent Attempts to Capitalize on Alberta's Independence Sentiment

The Alberta Independence Party, led by Cory Morgan, promoted independence for the province of Alberta either on its own, or in union with the other western provinces. It is now defunct, never having achieved party status. Cory Morgan was certainly a separatist at the time, stating that "It's time to cut off the lifeline [with Canada]" and that "An independent nation looks better to me than what we're looking at right now." Since that time, Morgan has gone back against his own ideals at one time, presently stating that supporting separatism is like "pissing in the wind."

The Separation Party of Alberta nominated candidates in the 2004 Alberta provincial election, but they haven't been successful in their attempts to capitalize on Alberta secessionist sentiment.

Failures and Success of Secessionists to Date

We have failed, to date.
Success is easily measured, by the existence of an independent Alberta. Why have we failed? If we look at history, I think we can look at several reasons why the independence movement has failed.

1. Multiple Goals of Independence. While independence is very much an either/or proposition, it hasn't stopped the offering of less concrete "solutions." For example, the phrase "Separation if necessary, but not necessarily separation" is a meaningless platform to advocate. First, it doesn't offer any policy advice. If someone were to advocate "Tax cuts if necessary, but not necessarily tax cuts," you wouldn't really know if they supported tax cuts. Moreover, the "not necessarily" aspect lends itself to multiple litmus tests among multiple people that will all have differing viewpoints on when secession actually becomes necessary. The result of that will be a directionless movement.

2. Uncertainty About Who Should Become Independent: At times, we have seen people favor Alberta independence, Alberta and B.C. independence, Western Canadian independence (excluding the Territories), Western Canadian Independence (including the Territories) and the formation of Cascadia, a group of Pacific/Northwest states and provinces along the Pacific coast.

It should be very easy to see why this is a recipe for failure - bringing people together supporting different things, and expecting them to support one thing that they do not support is a failure.

Another reason why this leads to failure is that some approaches are feasible, while others are not. One can easily see how, for example, Alberta independence can be accomplished (achieved through a plebiscite in Alberta). It is unclear how, say, Cascadia could be achieved. Even with separate plebiscites in Alberta and BC, how would N. California first secede from California (unconstitutional) and how would any of Washington, Oregon or N. California secede is quite unclear.

Another consideration is that the rationale for independence in Alberta is different than that in other locales. Our issues are our issues. Our grievances will not be the same as BC's, or Saskatchewan's or Washington's.

3. Attaching Partisan Goals to Independence: Independence isn't a conservative vs. liberal ideological fight. Simple mathematics tells us that a healthy amount of Alberta's portion will need to agree with independence - and this will draw from people from every walk of life. Arguably, Alberta's grievances - and rectifying them - are something that could appeal to all Albertans. You wish to see less government in your life, with you being able to keep more of your property? An independent Alberta can offer that. You wish to see the government begin to support generous social programs? An independent Alberta can offer that as well. Everybody has a stake in Alberta becoming independent, and this must be communicated.

4. Support of Federalists:Federalists are not the friends of Alberta independence. Seems like a fairly obvious point, but many federalists are seeking to address the same problems that secessionists are, so there may be a tendency for a unified effort to address those problems. That is as silly as capitalists and socialists combining their forces to fight poverty - which is an issue for both. The policy they advocate to solve it is quite different, and therein lies the difference between nationalists and federalists: we seek a different path to solve similar problems. Nationalists may mock the federalists for their failure to learn from history and the failure of reform efforts, but nationalists should learn from history as well. Federalist support of independence movements ensures the independence movement will fail. For example, federalist Jack Ramsey was the last leader of the Western Canada Concept before it became irrelevant. He had no problems resurrecting his career as a Reform M.P.. Cory Morgan's lack of integrity can be seen in his initial rejection of Reform/Canadian Alliance, then his rejection of independence for Alberta in favor of the Alliance.

5. Susceptibility to Snap Elections: Peter Lougheed caught the forces of independence off-guard by calling a quick election in 1982. While secessionists received almost 12% of the popular vote, no seats were won in the legislature. Future nationalists must be very wary of this happening in the future. Part of this depends on how feasible it is for the government to call an election, given when the past election is or how well-funded they are. Nationalists must seek to form a political party, have strong constituency associations, and be prepared to run candidates in every constituency at any time.
What Should Be Done