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Alienation and resentment do not a nation make Print E-mail
Written by Link Byfield   
Monday, 24 April 2006

For the past week I’ve been exchanging e-mail correspondence with an Alberta separatist named Sharon.

Perhaps readers outside Alberta should be made aware that there are genuine separatists all over this province, and their number is growing steadily.

Even though they have no representation in the Legislature, and drew only negligible support in the 2004 election, believe me, they’re there.

It frustrates Sharon that people like me still talk about reforming Canada instead of helping to get the separation ball rolling.

I’m trying to convince her to attend our Calgary Congress next fall, to debate and vote on the principles Canada must adopt to make it fair for all regions, including Alberta.

Sharon thinks Albertans have already more than paid their dues. It’s time to stop wasting time on talk, she insists, and vote for an exit from Confederation. All previous attempts at redress have failed, she thinks, and the Calgary Congress will fail too.

Excuse me, what previous attempts might those be?

In fact, the Alberta Legislature supported -- by massive majorities -- everything Ottawa has done or tried to do constitutionally since Trudeau patriated the Constitution in 1982 and appended the Charter of Rights. This includes the failed Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords of 1987 and 1992.

Alberta has pretty much given up on reforming the Senate, supported increased Equalization payments to other provinces, and rarely resisted jurisdictional invasions like the Canada Health Act, the Canadian Wheat Board Act and the Endangered Species Act.

It has not opted out of the Canada Pension Plan (even though it could and should) and all the other things the present constitution allows it to control.

The starting point for redress is not a declaration of independence but a formal demand for change -- something the Alberta government has never made, nor even contemplated.

And it must be based on moral and constitutional principles. Read the U.S. Declaration of Independence. It is a long list of specific systematic injustices suffered by the colonies contrary to their rights as British subjects, that had gone unredressed despite repeated formal protests and petitions to the Crown.

Albertans have every reason to be upset, and should spell out their case.

Ottawa is taking enormous amounts of their money -- money essential to their province’s future -- to fulfill economic and social responsibilities which do not belong to Ottawa, on behalf of provinces with no rightful taxation claim on Alberta’s economic enterprise and good fortune.

The confederation deal Alberta signed on to in 1905, and which was completed with the transfer of resource ownership to the western provinces in 1930, has been completely obliterated and negated by the coercive policies of centralization of the past forty years.

As Ralph Klein will tell the Calgary Congress, as long as Ottawa remains free to tax and spend on anything it wants, the constitution doesn’t exist.

But if Albertans are unhappy with federalism as it is now practised, they owe it to their federal partners to say what changes would satisfy them.

They can’t just skip this as a fancy formality. It isn’t.

If their sole rationale for separation is a vague, Quebec-style “Oh, je ne sais quoi, I’m just not feeling very fulfilled” -- if they act not on principle but expediency -- then their new country, if it ever emerges, will be prove more abusive than the one they’re in.

- Link Byfield

Link Byfield is chairman of the Edmonton-based Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy, and an Alberta senator-elect.
"Just Between Us" is a feature service of the Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy. The purpose of the Citizens Centre is to enhance freedom and democracy by enabling ordinary citizens to become active and effective on important issues outside the normal processes of party politics.

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