The Background
The Alberta Agenda is not about building firewalls although all Canadian provinces and territories should consider building a firewall around Ottawa.

Nor is it about separation.

To quote one of its originators (Conservative MLA Ted Morton), “The word has never passed our lips.  We want to strengthen the federation, not weaken it.  We want to go back to the original founding principle of provincial autonomy, with responsibilities within Confederation.  We believe that these founding principles are so flexible that they will see us through the next century and beyond.”

The idea of the Alberta Agenda originated as an open letter to Ralph Klein by six prominent Albertans (Stephen Harper, Tom Flanagan, Ted Morton, Rainer Knopff, Andrew Crooks and Ken Boessenkool) published in the National Post on January 27, 2001.

Under the Agenda, Albertans would fully exercise their constitutional responsibilities by repatriating certain powers to their provincial government.

As a major province like others, Alberta would:

Albertans would be better served if they did these three things for themselves. They would also send a clear signal to Ottawa that they will no longer be treated as a colony of central Canada.

All three measures can be implemented by any provincial government without federal permission.

Ontario already does one (provincial police), as did British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan in earlier times.  Quebec does all three.  Even Newfoundland has it's own provincial police force.  All have been considered repeatedly by the Alberta government in recent years and found viable.

Properly presented and enacted, all three measures would find favour with most Albertans.  Provincial inaction is attributable mainly to the fact the government does not need to initiate them because it will be re-elected anyway.

That said, there is little ideological resistance within Alberta’s Conservative government and caucus to the Alberta Agenda.  Many MLAs, even several in Cabinet, are well disposed.  There is, however, the usual inertia one finds in large, settled, secure governing parties.  It is shared by the senior bureaucracy, which prefers to leave things as they are.

This means that the Alberta Agenda can be achieved only by generating considerable grassroots demand for the provincial government to act.

What is unique about the three core items of the Alberta Agenda (pensions, police and tax collection) is that they are all now under federal management, and could all be provincialized without Ottawa’s permission. Everything on the list is something we can do, whether Ottawa approves or not.

The government of Alberta can take charge of them as a matter of constitutional right, run them better, and in the process deliver a stinging rebuke to the federal government.

If we want to make headway against federal interference in all the other areas, we must make full use of all the rights and responsibilities the Constitution assigns to us. If we don’t take our constitutional powers seriously, neither will Ottawa.