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We should insist on governments telling us the truth Print E-mail
Written by Link Byfield   
Monday, 16 August 2004

For democracy to work, citizens need honest, accurate information from governments. And it's amazing how often we don't get it.

Politicians seem to feel entitled to mislead people whenever it suits their agenda. And it isn't just eastern Liberals, it happens right here at home in Alberta with our Conservative government.

Last year, for example, after promising up and down since 1998 that it would not enforce the federal Firearms Act, the Alberta government turned out to be doing just that against gun registry protester Oscar Lacombe.

When called to account, they first denied they were doing it.

Then they admitted they were doing it, but claimed they had no choice. That wasn't true either.

Well, now they're claiming it would be illegal for Alberta to unilaterally withdraw from the Canada Pension Plan to create an Alberta Pension Plan.

This isn't true, but they hope by saying it they can kill the idea.

Last winter, over 700 citizens went to great efforts to address a committee of Alberta MLAs looking at strengthening Alberta's role in Confederation.

Many, perhaps most, of the presenters favored creating an Alberta Pension Plan as an alternative to the Canada Pension Plan. Not only would Albertans save substantial sums of money with a provincial plan, it would send a loud and clear message they are fed up with Ottawa.

Unfortunately, the Alberta government resists this idea, even though their own consultant's study in 1999 found it would make economic sense. The government thinks it would be politically difficult.

Last Wednesday, the MLA committee issued its report. On page 19, the committee states as a fact that Alberta can't legally withdraw from the CPP without the consent of two-thirds of the participating provinces -- consent the other provinces probably won't give.

This is not true. Alberta can withdraw unilaterally from the CPP on three years' notice if it sets up a parallel plan. It doesn't need permission from anyone, not even Ottawa.

The committee knows this. It is quite clear in section 3 of the Canada Pension Plan Act, and confirmed by section 94A of the Canadian Constitution. But the committee said we need permission. It lied. Why? To kill the growing public pressure for Alberta to opt out of the CPP.

The committee gives the game away on page 15 of its report by saying Alberta should not pick fights with Ottawa, it should cooperate and collaborate with the federal government.

The committee is within its rights to recommend a softball approach, even though all it ever produces in Ottawa is laughter. (The only province that has earned federal respect is Quebec, which plays hardball on provincial rights.)

But that's not the point. The committee is not entitled to lie to Albertans. Not only is it wrong, on this question it compromises our constitutional rights.

If you'd like to send an e-mail demanding that the government tell the truth, visit

- 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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