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Interview with Calgary Congress Speaker

On the weekend of September 29, Calgary played host to a remarkable national event called the Calgary Congress. It’s a special assembly open to the public to debate and resolve better federal principles for governing Canada.

Though all other speakers at the Congress are firmly federalist, University of Alberta political philosophy professor emeritus Leon Craig will argue the case for Alberta independence. On two valid opinion polls within the past year, over 40% of Albertans expressed interest in (though not necessarily commitment to) separation. Dr. Craig will present economic, cultural and political reasons for Alberta -- and perhaps other western provinces - to exercise their constitutional right to secede from the Canadian federation.Danielle Smith

He was interviewed recently on this subject by Calgary Congress co-chair Danielle Smith.

The full interview follows:

Q: Let’s begin with that column you wrote in the Calgary Herald last summer advocating Alberta separation -- indeed an Alberta republic. It got a lot of support at that time, but in the meantime there has been a major change in government at the federal level. Has that or anything else changed your view about the need for Alberta independence?

A: I want to make what might seem a minor clarification. I never called for an “Alberta republic.” I favour an Alberta Commonwealth. Many of my friends who favour independence go for the republic version, but I like the Queen, so I would prefer to stay as a Commonwealth. It’s part of our tradition. If we were to have our own police force I think it would be nice if we could call it the Royal Alberta Mounted Police.

With respect to your main question, has anything changed my view about the desirability of independence? No, it hasn’t, but I am less optimistic about the prospect of it in the immediate future.

On the one hand, rationally, this would be the time to go. We’re prosperous, everything is going well for us, we can afford the transition costs and so on. But it seems to me that most people would be even more reluctant to take a chance. This is generally the case when you’re enjoying great prosperity, you don’t want to rock the boat.

We now have a Conservative government led by a Westerner doing several things that most Albertans would approve of. We are pleased to see a more serious interest in beefing up our military, improved relations with the U.S. and so on. My own suspicion though, is this simply arouses false hopes about the long run.

When you watch what the Conservatives are doing, they are a minority government and, of course, they want to be a majority government. They are not going to get that from the West; they have already pretty much sewn up the West. So their behaviour is going to be what any government in their situation would attempt, and that is to go all out to woo Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes – that’s where there’s votes to be won. So, sure enough, the structural character of the Canadian regime will assert itself and nothing essentially is going to change. That’s my prognosis.

So, it was rational for us to be independent before, it continues to be rational for us to be independent now.

Q: Let’s talk then about why you say it is rational for us to be independent. What are some of the big problems?

A: There is simply, first of all, the economic argument: what we are paying in order to remain part of this federation. That’s not negligible -- in fact, the bill has gone up, not down, since I wrote that essay last year.

My concerns are not primarily material, in terms of how much more money we could put in the pockets of Albertans; I’m concerned about the effect of eastern Canada on the moral and cultural environment of Alberta in the long run.
We have to realize the amount of subsidization we provide to the rest of the country has been used in the past primarily to finance a corrupt Liberal party. Upon recognizing that, it is not just that we are being nice guys and generous, we are in fact morally complicit in the corruption, and we have to put a stop to it. So, the money factor has a moral dimension to it.

Second, almost all economists agree that the kind of subsidization the so-called have-not provinces have been enjoying is really not in their interest, either: Undermining their own self-sufficiency, retarding the development of productivity and so on.

But inasmuch as we believe in democracy, I think we get something more approaching the benefits of democratic government if we keep our government closer to home. An independent Alberta with its capital in Edmonton is within one day’s driving distance of any place in the province. It is manageable for Albertan politicians, if they apply themselves, to go out and meet the people. It takes time, but I’m sure all the provincial [Conservative] leadership candidates right now are traveling all over the province meeting with groups and hearing what people have to say. This opens up the opportunity for something like genuine democracy. There are some real downsides to democracy, but in our present federal system we have the downside and none of the benefits.

With a country as large as ours, and with government as large and as remote as Ottawa is from Alberta, there would be real advantages to our being able to actually rule ourselves. Because as things stand right now, our voice counts for virtually nothing, and it really doesn’t matter which party is in power. If we vote for a party that is not in power, then we have negligible influence. But even if we vote for a party as we have, that is actually in government, that party is going to be dominated in its caucus by the eastern section of the country. So, it really doesn’t matter whether we vote for the winners or the losers, we have very little control over national policies. Whereas if we were independent, we would potentially have very effective control over cultural and social and economic and educational policies, and particularly over the courts, and there are real advantages to our doing so.

Q: Is this a problem of all large countries, or is it unique to Canada? In the U.S. they don’t seem to have nascent separatist movements.

A: You’re right. The whole background of my objection to our remaining is what I see as the defects of the Canadian regime. In the United States, when a person from Wyoming or Alabama votes for his local representative or senator, those people that are elected are answerable to their own constituency. Their fate does not hinge on whether their party achieves a majority in Parliament, as in Canada. Consequently you have an entirely different political system.

Local representatives or local senators actually have independent power. They are answerable to their local constituency. Almost all elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives are determined by local issues. As such, that returns a certain amount of democratic control to the electorate and that is what we lose here.

As has been the case now for several elections, the national Liberals can, in effect, run against Alberta, they can treat Alberta as the bogeyman. And once again it doesn’t matter who we elect.

So, it is a great difference in our two regimes. Though I think it remains the case that the scale of polities that one finds in the modern world does make democracy something of a charade.

If you are going to have a democracy and you want to enjoy the benefits of a democracy, where people are actually able to exert some control over their common lives, a smaller polity allows for that much more than a larger one, for obvious reasons.

Q: How would you answer people who say, “My father or my grandfather fought for this country and now you want to tear it apart”?

A: It’s already been betrayed since the Trudeau era. The Canada that people like to hearken back to – Dieppe, and that sort of thing – Central Canada has turned its back on that, it seems to me.

But there are competing moral claims having to do with obligations to future Albertans. We have what could be a land of great promise, and it will be, if we don’t allow it to be bled white.

I would add, it’s a land of promise to enterprising Canadians everywhere. As we know, they are flooding into our province right now. Alberta is not going anywhere. There’s no reason at all why we can’t have continuing ties with the other Canadian provinces, and very amicable ones. But there is no reason why we should be supporting a whole other level of government, and a bloated one at that, that doesn’t really serve our interests.

Q: The purpose of the Calgary Congress is to try to find a federal alternative; to put forward constitutional amendments that would mitigate against this culture of entitlement by moving toward an equalization and transfer system that encourages productivity and self-sufficiency. In your view, is there any realistic hope of this actually happening?

A: When you say is there any hope, yes. The question is, is there much hope? I think probably not a lot. International factors will impinge upon the whole country in a way that’s going to pressure it in that direction to some extent. But there’s an awful lot of inertia. There’s a lot of vested interests against the kind of changes that would have to take place.

I would go on to say there is almost no hope of Alberta being able to promote such changes, unless we are genuinely prepared to declare independence. Because if we’re not, why would the rest of Canada pay any attention to us? Why would they care what we think?

There’s only one stick that we can wave, such that our words would be listened to, and that is our independence. If we’re not prepared for independence, psychologically prepared and materially prepared, our protests aren’t going to carry significant weight.

Q: Do you think the Quebec strategy would work in Alberta: They have always threatened separation to get what they want – more transfers from Ottawa. Don’t you think Albertans would reject that hammer approach, having seen how Quebec has essentially been able to blackmail the country?

A: As I said in the essay I wrote last year, I don’t believe in that kind of strategy: bluster, get paid off, be quiet for a little while, bluster some more. I genuinely would prefer independence and I think that we ought to be genuinely committed to it as the only alternative to very significant constitutional changes to the Canadian regime.

As your use of the word blackmail indicates, that sort of Quebec strategy is not morally attractive. I certainly wouldn’t be framing it in those terms, to say the least.
I’m in favour of us being serious about independence. If as a consequence of our seriousness, we got a significantly different Canada, then I think anybody would say we would have to reassess the situation.

But even a fixed Canada isn’t as attractive to me as an independent Alberta. So there is still the case in favour of a government that’s closer to the people, that is more in tune with the social and cultural views of its people, and none of that is touched by reforms of Canada.

Q: One of the things Preston Manning talks about is focused federalism. Isn’t there some value in having Ottawa focus on defence, international trade, foreign relations, and immigration, and for provinces to focus on delivery of social services? Or do you see value in Alberta having its own army, and undertaking its own trade relations, and having independent foreign relations with other countries?

A: Yes I do, because our interests are not identical with the interests of Quebec. I was just reading of a poll on the war going on in the Middle East, and how different the Quebec electorate responds from the rest of country.

But with respect to material interests: We have our own independent interests and we could pursue them vigorously without any need to compromise with people whose interests are really at cross-purposes with ours, so there are real advantages.

The one thing that causes me the most hesitation is international terrorism. Could we have an intelligence operation that is as potentially effective as CSIS? I think that is a tougher question to answer. But as far as us having an effective military? Yes, we could.

We are already a province of four million, it is easy to conceive of Alberta as a population of 10 million. The province of Alberta is geographically as large as France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium and Luxembourg combined. We are as large as the Iberian Peninsula. This is not a small place and it’s very lightly populated as it stands right now. It has a great deal of potential. Could we be a middle power in the world within 20 years? Yes, I think we could.

Q: Is our success, our independence, predicated on having a larger population?

A: I think our long-term success is predicated on our population increasing, and this leads into a very, very dark subject, and that is demographics. All of the Western representative democracies have wedded themselves to a welfare state which requires a large working population to support it. What is happening to Europe, it seems to me, dooms Europe. Their birth rate has fallen so low they can’t reproduce themselves, so they’ve got an aging population and a shrinking workforce.

Given the demographic statistics on Canada generally, right now, we’re in the same boat. It takes roughly 2.1 children per woman to maintain the population. Canada-wide our actual figure is about 1.5. There are enormous problems on the horizon and Alberta can avoid those, but it does require that our population grow.

Q: What would make Alberta such a beacon that we could end up doubling or tripling our population?

A: First of all, we offer, as things stand right now, the possibility of an improved standard of living for a lot of people. If we were independent and no longer had to support this bloated federal government, again as I said in my essay last year, we could have the most attractive tax base for both individuals and business in all of North America. Consequently, we have an educated population, we could be attracting corporations and businesses of all kinds and truly have a diversified economy.

And Lord knows Alberta is an absolutely wonderful place to live. We are blessed with our natural resources, and our natural resources include our wonderful recreational areas. Our climate is not to everyone’s taste – but we live here, we cope! – and the summers are generally pretty nice.

Q: But perhaps the perception that Alberta is a limited-government, low-tax regime is almost mythical. Our program spending is higher than any other province. In B.C. the teachers and unions are saying they need higher wages to catch up with Alberta. Our public sector is growing spectacularly. So it almost seems like we’re offering both: We’re offering socialism at a discount because we can subsidize it with our royalties.

A: Yes. I don’t at all agree with last half a dozen years of the Klein administration. But again, if we were a sovereign country, every Albertan would be paying much more attention to what the provincial government does. Right now virtually everybody thinks that the government that really matters is Ottawa, and consequently, I think the provincial government gets away with a whole lot that it shouldn’t.

If we were independent, there would be much more rigorous scrutiny. We would have an Auditor General with real power. I don’t romanticize Alberta politics: we have had our fair share of scandals and there is really no excuse for them.
That then becomes a choice: Do we want to just keep spending, spending, spending and create a monstrous provincial political establishment or do we want to have one that simply answers to genuine needs, and let’s people keep their own money and spend it as they please.

Q: But are you saying we’ll never have that more honest discussion until people are focused on the provincial level of government?

A: I think that’s right. I think this leadership campaign is a splendid opportunity to engage in that very debate. I already have heard from a number of these candidates about all the programs they want to institute. These things then become burdens for the entire future. I think that’s what we want to avoid.

Q: What future do you see for Alberta under the existing federal framework?

A: I would just expect continued exploitation. But I would also expect that our provincial government, whoever leads it, would continue to seek greater autonomy. With what success will depend partly on their own abilities, but also on who’s in charge in Ottawa.

I am especially leery of the continuing cultural influence of central Canada, and for the most part, the kinds of autonomy that are sought by the provincial government have to do with economic matters and not with education, not with criminal justice, not with religion, and culture and so on.

Q: But if Alberta were to secede, would there be natural pressure for us to reunite in some way in a new federation: To refederate ultimately down the road?

A: Yes, I think there would and there is nothing wrong with that.
If Alberta were to separate and make a success of it, and I have really no doubt that we would, within very short order B.C. would do the same – that would be my prediction. Is there a natural harmony of interests with B.C., and perhaps Saskatchewan and even Manitoba? Yes, I think there would be, to say nothing about the rest of Canada.

There is no reason at all why we should not be in a special economic union with all the rest of what is now Canada, I see no problem with that. But we would be entering into it as an autonomous commonwealth, able to make of that arrangement something that suits us.

Q: So we would never again give up the powers that we should have retained in the first place -- thereby avoiding this problem of Ottawa dominating?

A: Exactly. We would avoid having a whole sector of our government concerned with how to deal with Ottawa. We actually have a ministry whose entire reason for existence is federal-provincial relations.

Q: Do you see anyone on the provincial Tory leadership horizon with the drive to make this vision for an autonomous Alberta happen?

A: I don’t. What I intend to say at the Calgary Congress, as strongly and persuasively as I can, is that the common ground between people seeking to reform the Canadian regime and those such as myself who would prefer an independent Alberta -- the common ground we have is the Alberta Agenda [i.e. making maximum use of established provincial rights]. Independence is not a realistic proposition unless we have our own pension plan, our own police, and collect our own taxes. If we lack those capacities, independence is not an option. So we ought to have those regardless. And anybody that favours a resuscitation of the Canadian polity should be in favour of those too. Consequently we shouldn’t be supporting anybody for the leadership race who is not committed to the Alberta Agenda.

In light of that, the one obvious candidate out there that is identified with it – and I have the highest regard for him even though he and I have a profound disagreement over the desirability of independence – and that is Ted Morton.

Q: But if Alberta were to implement the Alberta Agenda, would that be enough?

A: I don’t know that it would be enough. For me it’s a necessary first step. It is a necessary first step also for people who favour reforming the Canadian regime. I go back to my initial point. We have nothing to bargain with other than our independence. If we are not in favour of the Alberta Agenda, we are not really serious about independence, and if we are not really serious about independence, then we just talk.

Q: One last question: Do you think Ottawa would let us go? The Clarity Act provides a mechanism to separate if we get a clear majority on a clear question. It authorizes Ottawa to engage in negotiations to that end. But do you think they would actually let us go, or do you think it would result in armed conflict?

A: I don’t think armed conflict is a possibility. Absolutely not – for reasons that are not altogether flattering to the rest of Canada.

Q: Because we don’t have a functioning army?

A: That’s it – I’m not sure we could defeat Uruguay.
But nobody is going to go that route. If we did get from our own electorate a mandate to separate, and negotiations began, there’s a whole range of things to negotiate about: our continuing economic relations, our share of the national debt and so on.

But I don’t foresee that as a serious problem -- any more than I foresee a problem with our lack of a port. The fact remains that both national railroads run right through Alberta. That’s enough.

Q: And we do have air travel.

A: Absolutely. And I think more than half of our extra-provincial trade is North-South; it’s not East-West.
Let's Get While The Gettin's Good

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.

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 year in "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 that potential, 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 party hacks 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.

First, what is the cost of remaining within the present Confederation? The costs are very high. 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 regime in 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 within the 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 we would 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 and other 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 for whatever "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 good of 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 that Canada - "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 the sensibilities of Quebec, simply confirms for the umpteenth time that nothing short of regime change can salvage political decency in Canada as 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 of the Canadian electorate.

The basic facts determining the distribution of political power will 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 the Liberals' 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 nonentity 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, and political 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-new political 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 obstacle is 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.


Colby Cosh 2006 Archived
Colby Cosh 2005 Archived
Colby Cosh 2004 Archived
Colby Cosh 2003 Archived
Colby Cosh 2002 Archived
Leon Craig's speech to Calgary Congress: Oct. 1, 2006