The rhetorical garbage is thick in this article, for example describing equalization payments as plundering Saskatchewan and Alberta. Of course this whole exercise is designed to discredit any attempt to use resource revenues for national purposes such as happened under Trudeau and the National Energy Policy. The true north strong and free is to be ruled by and for the energy corporations under the guise of protecting provinces from exploitation. A joke that the Fraser Institute should appreciate.
Saturday, August 02, 2008
If Liberal Leader Stephane Dion occupies 24 Sussex Drive after the next federal election and implements his carbon tax -- the plundering of Alberta and Saskatchewan to benefit Ontario and Quebec -- he may well have set the stage for the dissolution of Canada. Coincidently, the legal avenue for a province to separate was created by Dion himself eight years ago with the Clarity Act.
Dion's Green Shift plan would impose a carbon tax on energy producers to the tune of $16 billion per year, to be offset by other tax reductions. But a disproportionate share of the burden would fall on Alberta and Saskatchewan. In short, the cost of this tax to every family of four in the two prairie provinces would be a whopping $6,000 a year compared to $1,300 in the rest of the country.
Pierre Elliott Trudeau's Liberal government extracted about $100 billion in today's dollars out of Alberta when it implemented the National Energy Program in the early 1980s. One of the architects of that looting, then energy minister Marc Lalonde, said the whole idea was to transfer as much wealth as possible from Alberta's oil boom to Ontario and Quebec.
But the Trudeau Liberals were not stupid enough to say this at the time. The Dion Liberals, however, freely admit this is precisely what they hope to accomplish. The Green Shift is designed to "transfer wealth from the oilpatch to the rest of the country," says Ken Boshcoff, the Liberal MP for Thunder Bay-Rainy River. Unlike his leader, Boshcoff is at least being honest about the intent of the program.
Folks in Saskatchewan -- finally seeing their economy flourish on the back of a commodity boom -- aren't going to be happy with Dion, either. Premier Brad Wall predicts the carbon tax would cause "the effective kneecapping of [the provincial] economy."
Be that as it may, the Liberal party, which believes it has a divine right to govern Canada, only cares about attaining and maintaining power. Given that Alberta and Saskatchewan are arid territories when it comes to Liberal votes and MPs -- Liberals hold just one seat there -- why should they care about the well-being of this pair of cantankerous provinces?
The Liberals know they can win the next election by keeping Ontarians and Quebecers happy. After all, 178 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons are in Central Canada.
It must be pointed out, however, that even in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, people seem to be concerned about high energy costs because many of them live in the suburbs and drive into work; they cannot be counted on to vote Liberal, either. So while the Green Shift strategy is not a sure bet, Dion and his brain trust obviously believe this is the only way to 24 Sussex Drive.
If -- that's a big "if" -- Dion wins and implements the proposed carbon tax, Canadians could conceivably see the rise of western separatism.
In 2003, the Canada West Foundation asked Albertans to respond to the statement: "Would Alberta be better off economically if it separated from Canada?" Of those surveyed, 25.5 per cent agreed and 13.5 per cent strongly agreed.
When the Kyoto Protocol was about to be ratified in 2002, JMCK Communications Ltd. polled Albertans on this question: "If the federal government ratifies Kyoto against the wishes of the Alberta government, what do you think Alberta should do?" Almost half (46.8 per cent) agreed that "Alberta should explore other options such as independence."
If the two prairie political leaders decide to challenge a federal Liberal government on the carbon tax, they could generate a lot of support for separation.
All they would have to do is point to some consequences of the Liberal NEP in the 1970s, along with the emotive argument, "We don't need another Quebec politician telling us what to do."
But wait, that's pretty much what Tom Olsen, spokesman for Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach, has already said: "Mr. Dion cannot come to Alberta and tell us how to run our province."
And what were the economic consequences of the NEP?
- Alberta's unemployment hit 10 per cent.
- Bankruptcies increase by 150 per cent.
- Housing prices collapsed, dropping by about 40 per cent in Edmonton and Calgary.
In Saskatchewan, Wall can make the same case, which is bound to resonate in a province that is just taking economic flight.
The legal route to avoid this economic catastrophe, politicians could argue, is to hive off from the rest of Canada. If they go this route, they would have Dion to thank for easing their way.
The Clarity Act -- which Dion is so proud of -- stated that any province wishing to secede will have to bring forth a "clear question" and win a "clear majority" in a provincial referendum.
Canada, which had no secession clause until 2000, is now the only big democracy on the planet with one, thanks to Dion. Although it was aimed at thwarting Quebec separatism, the people of Alberta and Saskatchewan -- who are bound to feel victimized by the Green Shift -- could use it to attempt to get out of Confederation.
So just when the country is, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper put it recently, "more united than at any point, than we have been, in four decades," Dion is on an irresponsible path to alienate the West.
Patriots across the country may want to let him and the Liberals know that putting "our home and native land" on a path toward dissolution is not on.
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