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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