Why Alberta -- and Canada -- need Ted Morton to be premier
Written by Link Byfield   
Saturday, 18 November 2006
Introduction of Ted Morton at a leadership campaign speech in Red Deer
Sunday, 19 November, 2006

By Link Byfield, Alberta senator-elect

All through last year’s Alberta centennial, and during this leadership contest, we’ve often heard from many people what a glorious past our province has -- and what a wonderful future.

But they never say what’s so special about it.

I want to talk about what actually makes Alberta different from the rest of Canada -- why we play a unique role in Canada -- and about the kind of provincial leader we need.

Politically and socially Alberta has always been different from the other provinces -- even before we found oil.

Before Leduc we were actually the poorest of the prairie provinces. All the prairie provinces were poor in the early days, but of them we had the fewest people, and the weakest economy.

Yet even then we were different. We were always the most free-enterprise and least socialist of all the western provinces.
Here’s a good illustration. In the Great Depression -- probably the worst disaster ever to befall our country -- people in Saskatchewan got together and wrote the Regina Manifesto. Basically it asked Ottawa to take over everything and run the provinces -- all the provinces -- and not just during the depression but for ever.

That was the way Saskatchewan wanted to go. And in large measure that’s the way Canada actually went.

Albertans reacted exactly the opposite. Where Saskatchewan and most other provinces wanted less responsibility for themselves, we actually wanted more.

We noticed a strange thing about this depression. We still had goods. We still had land. We still had productive people. There just wasn’t any money. So in 1935 we elected -- by a landslide -- a provincial government that would print money and solve the problem.

And looking back, our approach was more practical than giving all the responsibility to Ottawa. Unfortunately, it was illegal. But we elected the Social Credit anyway, and ended up in court. And lost. But it was part of our pattern. We like to solve problems in our own way. And we’ve been doing it all along.

That’s why we’re world leaders in oil and gas. That’s why we were the first jurisdiction in Canada to cut spending. In fact we were really the only one to actually cut spending. Other provinces just slowed down their spending. We actually cut ours by 20%.

So we really are different. We have been in the past, and still are today. Though thousands of new people pour in here every year, they come because they want to be part of something different. And so it continues.

The second point is this: we Albertans now realize we’d rather change Canada than allow Canada to change us.

About a generation ago, Albertans began producing national political leaders -- a different kind of national leader.

In the past twenty years, we have produced three -- Preston Manning from Edmonton, Stockwell Day from Red Deer, and from Calgary Stephen Harper.

They didn’t just want to change the government -- they wanted to change our system of government. In fact they wanted to restore principles that too many Canadians have forgotten -- enterprise -- responsibility -- self-reliance -- family values -- patriotism and loyalty.

Alberta always produces extraordinary leaders.

The country will not soon forget Ralph Klein. Don Getty, too, in his quiet way, made Senate reform the national issue it still is today. Peter Lougheed -- Ernest Manning -- William Aberhart -- John Brownlee. They were all men of vision -- great federal vision, as well as great provincial vision.

These people had more to say about Canada than pious platitudes. They had clear and definite ideas about how our country should work and how it should change.

If I had a criticism of Ralph Klein it’s that he fell short in this department.

If I had a criticism of the present leadership contenders, it’s that -- with one very striking exception -- they too fall short in their federal vision. I don’t think they have any. And Canada badly needs premiers once again with federal vision.

That’s why it matters who we choose to be our next premier.

It must be someone who thinks about more than just hospitals, roads, schools and programs. Yes, these things matter. Of course they matter. But you know something? This is the easy part. It just takes basic diligence and common sense.

What we should be asking as well is what will they do about Ottawa -- because Ottawa is still far and away Alberta’s biggest problem. The biggest drain on our provincial economy by far is Canada’s federal system.

We should be looking for the candidate with a long track record of understanding Alberta’s federal problem -- one who has spent many years working with those like Stockwell Day and Stephen Harper we have elected to fix it.

Among the eight leadership candidates, there is only one. Only one has actually worked in Ottawa along side Stockwell Day. Only one is a personal friend and associate of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Other candidates had nothing to say during the 12 long, dark years that the Liberals ran Ottawa. They either didn’t know there was a problem -- or they didn’t care.

We should also be looking for the candidate who is not afraid to go against conventional Canadian thinking when conventional thinking is wrong.

This was what set people like Peter Lougheed and Ernest Manning apart. They weren’t afraid to set a different course on things like the National Energy Program and national social programs. If other Canadians didn’t like it, that was unfortunate -- they defended Alberta’s case anyway.

Here again, only one candidate really stands out, and has stood head and shoulders above the rest -- on gun control, on gay marriage, on grain marketing, and in the cause of provincial rights.

This is our choice.

We can take the easy path. We can pretend there’s nothing wrong with the federal system and elect as leader someone -- anyone -- who’s been sitting quietly in the Legislature for the last ten or more years avoiding controversy by pretending nothing’s wrong.

Or we can take the harder path and elect someone with the mental grasp and moral backbone to do what Albertans and Canadians need done.

We can elect someone who simply shrugs it off every time the judges in this country make some new decree that defies common sense and common decency. Or we can elect someone who as leader will push back and make those judges think twice before they try it again.

If all we Albertans want is to do is pat ourselves on the back -- congratulate ourselves about how rich we are and how smart and creative we are -- and talk about our glorious future as a province, without actually taking the steps to make sure it happens -- we have lots of good, well-meaning candidates to choose from.

But if we want a leader with the fortitude to say what needs be said and do what must be done -- one who has proven himself willing to confront the hard tasks and stern challenges that greatness always demands -- then there is only one choice and one man.

He is Ted Morton, MLA for Foothills Rockyview. And with your support he will be the next premier of Alberta.