Alberta Should Lead, Not Leave
Prologue #1 – Politics
Canada, a modern industrial state in the 21st century, is considered by many Albertans to repress and exclude Alberta. How can we fix this situation?
Just under seventy percent (70%) of long-term Alberta residents see themselves as second-class citizens in their own country, according to a 2018 survey by Trend Research (Seskus, 2018). This view reflects a long-standing sentiment.
Western alienation began in 1905 when the Prairie provinces joined confederation as junior provinces with unequal rights. Alberta remains underrepresented in the House of Commons, the Senate, the Supreme Court and the national bureaucracy. Asymmetrical confederation continues today.
Inequitable policies include: the National Policy (1867- 1988), the National Energy Program, the Crow freight rates, the “no new pipeline law”’ (Bill C-69), the no Alberta oil on the north coast law (Bill C-48), equalization transfers and the discriminatory Employment Insurance Program.
In reaction, Alberta has spawned numerous prairie populist movements including: the UFA (1920), the Progressives (1920’s), the CCF-NDP (1932), the Social Credit (1930’s), Lougheed PC’s (1971) and Reform (1987). Each helped, but none entirely eliminated the issue. Lately, exasperation has had some call for Alberta to separate completely from Canada. But there is another option.
Alberta should lead confederation, not leave it
Albertans have an extraordinary nature. They are generous. They want win-win scenarios. They want Canada to work for everyone, including themselves. They want justice, equality and compassion for all. Albertans have a pioneer, commercial mindset; find-it, fix-it and move on. They want a plan.
STEP ONE: get friends on side.
People of Saskatchewan and Manitoba may have started less political parties than Albertans, but their histories are parallel with the Riel Rebellions, the police attacks called the Regina and Winnipeg Riots, the removal of homegrown industries (aviation out of Winnipeg) and their exclusion from national decision-making.
The Indigenous of the Prairies have been treated even more horribly by the federal government. The residential schools, the Indian Act and the Indian Agents are some of the headline words that describe treatment at the hands of the federal government. Its colonial-style ‘divide and conquer’ strategy has kept the Indigenous and main communities from understanding each other and seeing that they, in fact, have the common goals of freedom, democracy and the right to prosperity.
STEP TWO: remember who we are.
We are problem solvers. We get things done. The pioneer spirit of individualism, personal initiative and collaboration remains alive. As does the Indigenous culture of individualism based in nature. Common values would have brought them together much sooner were it not for the Crown’s policy of isolation. Our parallel history was separate, but peaceful. Treaties which geographically covered all of the Prairie provinces (100%) opened the doors to the Pioneers for the two people to share the land and its resources, as we do to this day. Neither community feels well-served by the dominating federal government. But each maintains the dignity of being self-sovereign people with the right to decide their own path forward. Being two of the three parties to the treaties, cooperation beckons.
STEP THREE: raise the barn together.
Raising the barn, in modern terms, is building transportation networks to sell products of the land. But the third party to the treaties, the federal government, holds dominion over the ability to build infrastructure. It has proven to stand in the way of Western and Indigenous prosperity. Overcoming that domination will require the two communities to recognize their natural, self-sovereignty and cooperate.
Working collaboratively, as Pioneers famously have always done, requires that the two communities come together in a ‘self-sovereign union’ to find common cause and together reach beyond the suffocation of the federal government.
STEP FOUR: define the economic projects
We can achieve economic independence by creating a transportation corridor from northern Alberta, through Saskatchewan to Port Nelson in Manitoba on the Hudson Bay (called the NeeStaNan Utility Corridor). The Corridor will ship potash, oil, gas, hydrogen, food products and everything the Prairies produce to the port and then onto the world. Manitoba has excess hydro-electric capacity that can be transmitted east.
The project would be in the economic interests of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Indigenous Communities and would normally require approval from the federal government. But this approval will, in all-likelihood, not be forthcoming. Therefore, the people of the Prairies will need to pursue a certain degree of autonomy to take back the decision-making capacity to make the project a reality.
STEP FIVE: line up the governance
That governance would be for the people of the three provinces, each with two communities, to break the imposed isolation and form a union of sovereign people in the form of an autonomous region within Canada, to be called the Prairie Autonomous Region (PAR).
There are 40 nations in the world that are considered to have autonomous regions, including Canada with Quebec. We would seek little more than what Quebec already has. PAR is simply following the existing direction of confederation.
STEP SIX: First Nations ‘needs’ satisfaction
The vision of the elders at the original treaty (using their terms) was to create a new society, one that was not the European way, not the Indigenous way, but the best of both. They also envisaged full economic, social and political participation for their people. The federal government did the opposite. The Indian Act and Indian Agents, along with the pass system of 1885-1951 (see the image below), have been tools of oppression.
Ownership of the NeeStaNan Utility Corridor would cast the Indigenous into the middle of the economy. Being full political participants in the structure of the PAR would render litigious strategies (currently the only voice) unnecessary. Blending the best of the two sovereignties, in the fashion envisaged by the elders, would bring the new treaties to a higher level of respect.
STEP SEVEN: achieving the original vision
To achieve the noble cause of coming together, the united people of the Prairies must have a clear vision of their North Star, the guiding light for the journey. This North Star is a society that is an expression of the unique strengths of the Prairie people. We have an ability to achieve economic prosperity, a belief in the pre-eminence of the individual, a respect for our relationships with each other and with nature and a desire for equality and a participatory democracy. The Corridor and PAR are the tangible manifestations of these characteristics.
The best of European heritage is the complex socio-political and economic organizations that have created such significant wealth. The best of our Indigenous heritage is their bottom-up traditional governance structure, the primacy of the individual and respect for community and nature. The framers of the American Constitution modelled their work,
to some degree, on the Great Law of Peace (1150 AD) of the Iroquois Confederacy, the world’s oldest participatory democracy. The Prairie Autonomous Region would incorporate the best of both and define a unique society.
STEP EIGHT: win-win-win
All people of the Prairies win if we achieve freedom, democracy and equality. People in the East prioritize loyalty and continuity. However, they too can win if PAR proves the value of a new governance structure. At no risk to the East, a governance system
would be identified, tested and proven. It would be an alternative to the ever-increasing concentration of power at the federal level. No reasonable, charitable person could refuse an offer that requires no action, no risk and has the significant upside of defining a system for the entire country.
For the Prairies, there will be no turning back. Alienation will be forever extinguished and we will be free to pursue economic prosperity and personal freedom and have a voice in our own destiny. We will continue to share the land and its resources, as we have always have.
STEP NINE: a supportable position
Under British common law and international precedents, the people that live on these lands (those invited by treaties) have certain natural rights. At its most basic, the ‘Invitees’ are now a party to the original treaties on which the sharing of the land is based.
Rights of the Indigenous were recognized in the Royal Proclamation of 1763 (right to exist) and the 1794 Jay Treaty (the right to prosper). This process is about redefining the treaty arrangements, specifically changing the relationship with the federal government. The Supreme Court will give guidance to that government on how to respond. It has recognized the rights of both Indigenous and residents to define their own future. But the issue will be discussed at the treaty level, rather than the federal/provincial level.
No one wants the Canadian confederation to be a prison. Ultimately, the Canadian character of generosity will overcome the often-seen bellicosity of the current administration. In the unlikely event that Canadians would prove to be completely self- oriented and selfish by refusing to give any ground, then the three provinces could go their own way and be a successful nation by every social, economic and environmental measurement. Only federal intransigence would lead to that result, not the people of the Prairies.
We cannot control the outcome, but we can clearly enunciate our desire to build a better Canada by taking a leadership role in a new, better democracy that includes personal freedom and true acceptance of our diversity.
Education and Participation
This work proposes a bold vision. It attempts to be a single, comprehensive and complete plan, but it is also a starting point for discussion and participation.
Civic education seems to be a weakness for Canadians at the present time. For a fulsome analysis and discussion there needs to be a commitment to civic education. Civic education can also help bring the two civilizations of the Prairies together. After years of systematic isolation, there is much need to improve understanding and familiarity.
The quest to remake our arguably broken country is a noble cause, one deserving of our dedication.
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