David Staples: Alberta’s strange referendum on whether we’re more angry at Kenney or Quebec politicians against oil

Article content

The Albertans are having the strangest of referendums in the province, a vote on whether we are more angry at Prime Minister Jason Kenney or at the Quebec politicians who have led efforts to counter and downplay Alberta’s oil industry.

Advertising

Article content

It’s going to be the closest on call, I suppose.

The real question in the Kenney Government’s referendum on 18 October is whether the obligation to make compensatory payments should be removed from the Constitution.

In this century alone, Alberta paid $ 324 billion more into Canada than it has received back in federal spending and transfers, such as equalization, said Bill Bewick, CEO of Fairness Alberta, a group formed to fight for Alberta’s economic interests. , who debated Economist from the University of Calgary Trevor Tombe on Thursday about the referendum.

The referendum issue is mostly annoying because Albertans in general are grateful for our prosperity and have deep ties to other Canadians. This is reflected in the fact that we are somewhat willing to help pay for social programs across the country, including federal compensation, which sees taxpayers from rich provinces funding social programs in poorer provinces.

Advertising

Article content

The Albertans have only a breach of contract to make this transfer of property, that we should be at peace, free to pursue our economic interests with as much energy, creativity and hard work as we can muster.

In recent years, however, this social contract has been violated repeatedly. Quebec politicians in particular have made an aggressive effort to counter Alberta’s oil and gas industry.

Things heated up in 2016 when Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre led the charge against Energy East, a pipeline that would have secured Canada’s energy security by moving Alberta oil across the country to the Maritimes. But Coderre noted the environmental risk of the project and the lack of economic benefits for Montreal.

Advertising

Article content

In October 2017, when the TransCanada pipeline company pulled the plug on the project, Coderre celebrated. “It’s a huge win.”

It really was a huge win, but not for the environment, Quebec or Canada.

Less Alberta oil does not mean less oil used by Quebec consumers. That means less oil in pipelines and more oil on trains and foreign tankers. That means more oil from abroad, including the dictatorships of Saudi Arabia, Russia and Venezuela with their poor environmental and terrible social policies.

Between 1988 and 2020, Canada spent $ 488 billion nominally on foreign oil imports, according to a new report from the Canadian Energy Center. “Quebec is by far the largest importer of foreign oil to Canada and has been importing $ 228 billion worth of foreign oil since 1988.”

Advertising

Article content

It was not just the Albertans who were upset in 2017 over the downturn in Energy East. National commentator Charles Adler of Global News also noted how wrong it was Coderre’s delight. “The reason kids in Quebec are in a daycare where parents pay as little as $ 7.55 a day is because of billions of dollars flowing to Quebec in compensation payments, courtesy of Alberta … How does one show of Quebec’s most prominent politicians’ gratitude for the massive gift each year from the Albertans? By dancing on their graves. ”

Of course, it did not stop there. In December 2019, Quebec Prime Minister François Legault referred to Alberta’s “dirty oil” and said there was “no social acceptance of oil in Quebec.”

Bewick brought all this together in the opening lines of his debate on Thursday. “Ottawa has moved too much wealth from the Albertans to Quebec and the Maritimes for far too long, and in recent years it has even become hostile to the work of our energy sector, from which much of that wealth has been created. This is not fair – and this referendum is intended to put the issue of wealth transfer on the national agenda. ”

Advertising

Article content

Tombe argued that Alberta’s own Peter Lougheed was a strong supporter of equalization, as it gives all provinces the capacity to provide reasonably comparable levels of social services without high taxation. There is room to improve equalization, but it requires us to engage productively, Tombe said. “This referendum does nothing but increase tensions, burn polarization and make it more difficult to achieve sensible reforms.”

At this last point, I differ from Tombe. It is Alberta that shares its wealth with others, only to be despised and thwarted by those who have created tensions here.

Alberta must find a way to shake the coffers, push for a national debate on more sensible pipeline policy and for more equitable and fair treatment between provinces. This referendum is one way to do it, though it may well be that this consideration will be swallowed up in the general outrage over Kenney for his COVID policy and the desire not to give him a political victory.

dstaples@postmedia.com

    Advertising

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourages all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments can take up to an hour to appear on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications – you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, which is an update of a comment thread you follow, or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on adjusting your email settings.

Leave a Comment