O DYS­FUNC­TIONAL CANADA, LAMENTS FOR­MER SEN­A­TOR

PressReader - BRUCE_CAROL_ROWE Channel - O DYS­FUNC­TIONAL CANADA, LAMENTS FOR­MER SEN­A­TOR
As a Cal­gary na­tive who has had the priv­i­lege of serv­ing in both the Al­berta leg­is­la­ture and fed­eral Par­lia­ment, I view the present evo­lu­tion of the Cana­dian fed­er­a­tion with deep con­cern and, sadly, dis­gust.His­tor­i­cally in Canada, it has al­ways been a chal­lenge to bring to­gether the com­pet­ing di­ver­si­ties that make up this once great na­tion, but an un­der­ly­ing premise of its adapt­abil­ity was al­ways the com­mit­ment to treat­ing all parts of this coun­try eq­ui­tably with fair­ness and understanding.We have not met the chal­lenge. Today the nar­row self-in­ter­ests of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and the hyp­o­crit­i­cal ac­tions of our prov­inces, mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and In­dige­nous peo­ples have all co­a­lesced to cause sub­stan­tial eco­nomic harm to our na­tion and the iso­la­tion of the prov­ince of Al­berta.While the fed­eral gov­ern­ment fawns over the vote-rich prov­ince of Que­bec in the hope of gain­ing the seats now held by the NDP and the Bloc, they play word games with the as­pi­ra­tions of Al­berta and Cana­di­ans who must ob­tain pipe­lines to sell its oil to ju­ris­dic­tions other than the United States, which is now self-suf­fi­cient.Un­der the guise of con­cern over the en­vi­ron­ment and First Na­tions rights, the feds pro­pose leg­is­la­tion that will se­verely ham­per oil and gas de­vel­op­ment in Canada. They say they sup­port the pipeline but their ac­tions be­lie such state­ments. Even their purchase of the pipeline seems to be an in­sin­cere (and costly) cha­rade.It’s a cer­tainty that the de­mands of the prov­ince of Que­bec for $300 mil­lion for im­mi­grants’ ex­penses, more con­trol over im­mi­gra­tion, in­come tax col­lec­tion, more money for Bom­bardier and sup­port for dairy farm­ers will be ac­cepted.Mean­while, Al­berta con­trib­utes bil­lions of dol­lars in equal­iza­tion pay­ments over the years so that Que­bec can bal­ance its bud­get while deficits are the truths in a strug­gling Al­berta.Mean­while, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment was all over Gen­eral Mo­tors, de­cry­ing the loss of 2,500 jobs, while the loss of thousands of jobs in Al­berta was but an un­for­tu­nate oc­cur­rence.We are a for­got­ten ap­pendage in the Cana­dian mo­saic.The prov­inces of Que­bec and B.C. are hardly friends of Al­berta in the on­go­ing saga of pipeline pol­i­tics.The premier of Que­bec, while gladly ac­cept­ing Al­berta coin, says no pipeline will cross his bor­ders with dirty Al­berta oil, while tankers flow down the St. Lawrence Se­away with oil from Venezuela or rerouted from Saudi Ara­bia, Nige­ria or the United States. Mean­while, rail cars con­tain­ing oil move through Que­bec, cre­at­ing a dan­ger to its com­mu­ni­ties.The gov­ern­ment of Bri­tish Columbia raises the spec­tre of the al­leged neg­a­tive im­pact of a pipeline in that prov­ince while Vic­to­ria pours 130 mil­lion litres of sewage into the Pa­cific Ocean each day. The cap­i­tal city also an­nu­ally wel­comes hun­dreds of cruise ships, which rack up an es­ti­mated 0.82 tonnes of car­bon diox­ide equiv­a­lent per pas­sen­ger and da­m­age the en­vi­ron­ment at a rate of 36 cents for ev­ery kilo­me­tre they travel. Fi­nally, where is the largest ex­porter of coal in North Amer­ica? The port of Van­cou­ver. The hypocrisy of the B.C. rhetoric is over­whelm­ing.And then there are the In­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties, fu­elled with fund­ing from en­vi­ron­men­tal and com­pet­i­tive en­ergy or­ga­ni­za­tions from the world’s big­gest pol­luter, the U.S.Canada’s en­vi­ron­men­tal foot­print in the world is in­con­se­quen­tial.Those fun­ders from south of our bor­der, if they were hon­est, should spend their time and en­ergy look­ing in the mir­ror and ex­am­in­ing the neg­a­tive en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts of their coal, au­to­mo­tive and frack­ing in­dus­tries. More hypocrisy.Propos­ing ar­gu­ments that the prod­uct of the oil­sands will cause ir­repara­ble da­m­age to the en­vi­ron­ment, the coastal waters and whales off the B.C. coast is overblown over­s­peak. More hypocrisy.In my many years liv­ing and work­ing in the won­der­ful city of Cal­gary, with all the ups and downs that we have faced with an oil-re­lated econ­omy, I have never ex­pe­ri­enced the gloom and un­hap­pi­ness that hangs over our com­mu­nity today.Our of­fice build­ings face un­sup­port­able va­can­cies, our prop­erty taxes push up­ward, and our un­em­ploy­ment reaches heights that are un­prece­dented. Our al­ways up­beat en­trepreneurial pop­u­la­tion has be­come cyn­i­cal and dispir­ited.Se­ri­ous dis­cus­sions are tak­ing place seek­ing al­ter­na­tives to our place in Canada.We are the vic­tims of a dys­func­tional con­fed­er­a­tion ex­hibit­ing an un­der­ly­ing hypocrisy that per­vades our po­lit­i­cal pro­cesses that Al­berta is seem­ingly help­less to over­come.I am not sug­gest­ing sep­a­ra­tion. I am too much of a Cana­dian to ever pro­pose such a mea­sure. But I do sug­gest that we take steps to take more con­trol within our bor­ders and face the re­al­i­ties of Al­berta in the 21st cen­tury.First, it is time to im­me­di­ately rene­go­ti­ate our equal­iza­tion agree­ment or opt out of it and take the heat.Sec­ond, we should take over im­mi­gra­tion pow­ers within the prov­ince.Third, we should take over our own in­come tax sys­tem and thereby con­trol our own fi­nan­cial des­tiny.Fourth, we should ex­am­ine ev­ery pol­icy in­ter­twined with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and re­move our­selves from them wher­ever pos­si­ble. This in­cludes ev­ery­thing from French on our corn flakes pack­ages and else­where and po­si­tion­ing our se­cu­ri­ties and stock ex­change in­sti­tu­tions to be­come in­de­pen­dent of fed­eral con­trols.We have learned from bit­ter ex­pe­ri­ence that we can­not de­pend on Ot­tawa to be re­spect­ful of our needs and as­pi­ra­tions.And within our prov­ince, we must “bite the bul­let” and im­ple­ment a sales tax (the fairest of all taxes) where the rev­enues are solely di­rected at re­duc­ing our debt. We can no longer an­tic­i­pate the flow of en­ergy rev­enues and to be the only ju­ris­dic­tion in Canada with­out such a tax sends out the wrong mes­sage.The time has come to stand on our own two feet. Ot­tawa hardly knows we ex­ist other than as a source of rev­enue to feed its vo­ra­cious ap­petite. Enough is enough.I am not sug­gest­ing sep­a­ra­tion. I am too much of a Cana­dian to ever pro­pose such a mea­sure. But I do sug­gest that we take steps to take more con­trol within our bor­ders and face the re­al­i­ties of Al­berta in the 21st cen­tury. Ron Ghit­terWe have learned from bit­ter ex­pe­ri­ence that we can­not de­pend on Ot­tawa to be re­spect­ful of our needs and as­pi­ra­tions.Ron Ghit­ter is a for­mer Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive MLA and sen­a­tor.

The nar­row self-in­ter­ests of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment have harmed and iso­lated Al­berta, says Ron Ghit­ter.

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