Driven crazy by Rachel Rock­ets

The Daily Courier - - CANADA - JACK KNOX

News item: Al­berta is threat­en­ing to cut the flow of oil to B.C. in re­tal­i­a­tion for B.C.’s at­tempts to block the Trans Moun­tain pipe­line ex­pan- sion.

“Nice car,” the guy on the side­walk said, ad­mir­ingly. “How much does it weigh?”

“Not a lot after we yanked the en­gine out,” I replied, flick­ing the reins. As if to con­firm my point, ol’ Dob­bin pulled us away from the curb with nary a whinny.

Back in the Great De­pres­sion they called these Ben­nett Bug­gies, after the prime min­is­ter of the day. Peo­ple who couldn’t af­ford to gas up their au­to­mo­biles turned them into horse­drawn carts.

Not sure what to call to­day’s equiv­a­lent. A Not­ley Nis­san, per­haps. Or a Rachel Rocket. She might be able to starve us of gas, we told our­selves, but we can still grow our own al­falfa.

Guess we should have seen this com­ing last Fe­bru­ary when Al­berta’s pre­mier took to lash­ing out and grape-stomp­ing B.C.’s un­sus­pect­ing wine­mak­ers, kind of like a hockey player who gets slashed and grabs the first sweater he sees and starts throw­ing punches.

Al­berta was mad be­cause B.C. was block­ing its pipe­line and chok­ing its econ­omy. B.C. was mad be­cause Ot­tawa had long made it clear it would ram through a pipe­line to the coast whether we wanted it or not.

In­dige­nous peo­ple were mad be­cause they got rail­roaded, too, and left-lean­ing white boys were mad in sol­i­dar­ity with the In­dige­nous peo­ple, or at least they were mad in sol­i­dar­ity with the ones who op­posed the pipe­line. (Left-lean­ing white boys are all in favour of In­dige­nous peo­ple as­sert­ing their rights, just as long as those rights are as­serted in a way that meets the ap­proval of left­lean­ing white boys: no pipe­lines, no log­ging, no min­ing …)

Any­way, that’s when Rachel Not­ley turned off the taps.

We hoped saner heads would pre­vail, but in Al­berta the only al­ter­na­tive to Not­ley is Jason Ken­ney, which would be kind of like swap­ping the guy in the tin­foil hat for the one with the goalie mask and chain­saw. Pretty sure Ken­ney keeps a map of Canada with “Bri­tish Columbia” crossed out and “North Korea” writ­ten in. John Hor­gan seek­ing sym­pa­thy in Al­berta is like Trump look­ing for hugs in Mexico.

Bri­tish Columbians, on the other hand, were ac­tu­ally di­vided over the pipe­line, which is why in the sum­mer of 2018 the eastern part of the prov­ince broke away to form the B.C. Free State, with its cap­i­tal in Calgary.

That prompted anti-pipe­line refugees to stream down to the coast (good thing there was room to house them in all those con­dos left empty by the anti-Al­ber­tan spec­u­la­tion tax).

By then we were all start­ing to feel over our heads, look­ing for a way out of this mess. Who would ever have dreamed there would be a day when Cana­dian politi­cians would blud­geon or­di­nary cit­i­zens with eco­nomic cud­gels?

Alas, the di­vi­sions just got worse. In the spring of 2019 B.C. cut off Al­berta’s sup­ply of weed, crip­pling their fast-food in­dus­try. So Al­berta re­tal­i­ated by re­strict­ing ex­ports of beef, and Saskatchewan, sid­ing with Al­berta, ended ship­ments of wheat.

While these moves had lit­tle im­pact (they for­got the West Coast is 98 per cent ve­gan and gluten-free), Hor­gan felt com­pelled to end lum­ber sales to the Prairies, which forced builders there to re­vert to the sod huts of their home­steading fore­fa­thers.

Then other prov­inces joined in, im­pos­ing eco­nomic sanc­tions on one an­other to ad­dress fes­ter­ing re­sent­ments. On­tario, telling Al­berta “you may pro­vide the oil but we’re still the en­gine,” stopped sell­ing pickup trucks pend­ing the repa­tri­a­tion of Con­nor McDavid. Al­berta and B.C. whined about sub­si­diz­ing other prov­inces through fed­eral equal­iza­tion pay­ments, so Ot­tawa cut off health trans­fers as pun­ish­ment for moan­ing. New­found­land, still smart­ing over the di­vi­sion of off­shore oil rev­enue, de­clared it would cut off ex­ports of cod — or would, if there were any cod to ex­port. Canada’s mid­dle child, Man­i­toba, tired of be­ing ig­nored, launched a gen­eral strike but no­body no­ticed. Que­bec threat­ened to se­cede, though it then had to ad­mit it couldn’t re­mem­ber why.

One tiny voice piped up to point out that Canada was still one coun­try, and a darn good one at that — con­sis­tently near the top of global qual­ity-of-life rank­ings — but that voice was drowned out by the sound of us screech­ing at each other. Or maybe it was the clip-clop of horses pulling our Rachel Rock­ets.

Jack Knox is a colum­nist with the Vic­to­ria Times Colonist.

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