By Ryan Dahlman
Growing up, I can remember being heavily interested in politics. Not being the coolest kid at the age of 9, I can remember how much I disliked Quebec — Montreal Canadiens and Guy Lafleur aside. Why? Because La Belle Province wanted to separate from Canada.
René Lévesque, the thin-haired, chain-smoking leader of the Sovereignists was the almost diabolcle politician who wanted to pull Quebec out, but still have some ties. The West and the rest of the country protested. It was a time of political turmoil. Think of it as a 1970’s style of the last two years provincially in Alberta: a lot of controversy, a leader who was very unpopular by many in a voting jurisdiction which the party has been a traditionally dominant power, both on the arrogant side but completely different in political savvy.
Regardless, the country was hurting and worried about Quebec. In 1979, little-known Alberta-born politician Joe “Who?” Clark earned a minority government over Pierre Trudeau in the federal election. As a right-leaning political friend of mine pointed out, it made it the only time a Conservative leader ever defeated a Trudeau in an election. Of course Clark lost a vote of confidence in February 1980 and Trudeau was back in power. The provincial Quebec Referendum took place May 20, 1980 and with a participation rate of of 85.61%, almost 60 per cent of voters voted against separation. Separation came back as a Quebec referendum in 1995. And again, Quebec was vilified.
Quebec: complainers, spoiled, always wanting more — Quebec personified the proverb “You can’t have your cake and eat it (too).”
Yes there was some western separatists during that time like the Confederation of Regions Party, Western Canada Concept, Alberta First Party, and later the Separation Party of Alberta and Alberta Independence Party. They were fringe movements and rarely elected more than a few token people.
Fast forward to Aug. 25, 2022. Alberta Prosperity Project, a, unabashedly pro-Alberta independence political movement, hosted a dinner and forum at the Edmonton Convention Centre. As featured guests at the event Brian Jean, Todd Loewen and Danielle Smith were the featured speakers.
Jean is running under the slogan “Autonomy for Alberta;” Smith has the Alberta Sovereignty Act which basically has the Alberta government be able to to override or ignore any federal legislations, laws or rulings which contravene Alberta’s prosperity and growth. Loewen, of course, left the UCP and sat as an independent, but has been quite vocal in his sovereign beliefs.
The parallels are obvious. Do Canadian nationalists see Smith and Jean as troublemakers like Levesque was and later Jacques Parizeau were observed to be in 2005?
What’s the difference? Alberta has been devastatingly hurt by Justin Trudeau policies on many levels: energy, agriculture, high inflation (ie. food) and of course gasoline and this never-ending push for electric cars to name a few.
Somewhere Ontario is eating popcorn and laughing while the rest of Canada watches curiously.
Being from Saskatchewan, I know how Alberta was observed: pompous and presumptuous; things always going their way with oil revenues overfilling Alberta coffers, allowing the government to increase growth in other areas. Alberta politicians have long complained they have been treated unfairly in regards to their contributions to Confederation with little in return.
Wanting to separate, well, that doesn’t dispel the view outside of Wildrose Country.
Whoever wins will have to heal a lot of hurt feelings here within the borders but what will it mean for interprovincial collaboration and interprovincial trade?
Will Canadian flags on cars be replaced with Alberta ones?
Alberta politics at least, is never boring.
(Ryan Dahlman is managing editor for the Prairie Post West, Prairie Post East and Bow Island Commentator)