|Let's Get While The Gettin's Good
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.
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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.
LEON HAROLD CRAIG IS A PROFESSOR EMERITUS OF POLITICAL SCIENCE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA.