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LETTER: Independence could be a path forward for Alberta

"While Alberta might take a bit of an immediate hit at the prospect of its departure from Canada, it also might not."

Alberta is a prisoner within Canada, and it will stay landlocked as long as it remains in Canada.

But if Alberta leaves Canada, it will be landlocked no more. An independent Alberta would cut British Columbia off from the markets east of Alberta on which it and those markets depend – the port of Vancouver is as large as Canada’s five next-largest ports combined. Goods or people wanting to travel between B.C. and the rest of the country, whether by land or air, would need a sovereign Alberta’s permission if they wanted to avoid detours through the United States.

Faced with that fact, the rest of Canada would immediately be forced to enter into negotiations with Alberta, the more so since the Canadian dollar would be crashing – Alberta’s oil is the single biggest contributor to Canada’s foreign exchange, Alberta’s energy resources are what have been bankrolling the rest of Canada, and despite what the pie-in-the-sky green dream insists, oil and gas will be in demand for many years to come. Alternative energy will take years to develop to the point it can reliably replace fossil fuels, and Alberta can certainly be a part of that development.

Opponents of Alberta independence claim that Alberta separatism would meet the same fate as Quebec’s when it tried to separate in 1976. There was an enormous exodus of people, of business, of jobs, of capital – real estate values declined in the province, they argue, claiming that Alberta independence is an empty threat.

This analysis is naïve, if not disingenuous. The exodus from Quebec came overwhelmingly from Anglophones who feared – with good reason – that Quebec’s nationalistic, anti-business, social-democratic government would compromise their civil rights and threaten their livelihoods. No one would flee an independent Alberta for those fears.

While Alberta might take a bit of an immediate hit at the prospect of its departure from Canada, it also might not. Its oil earnings are largely in U.S. dollars, insulating it from a decline in the value of the Canadian dollar and allowing Albertans to purchase Canadian goods and services more easily. An independent Alberta would likely end the current capital shortage in Alberta since investors would see a country with lower corporate and personal taxes, as opposed to Canada’s high federal rates. If a free-market Alberta opened its doors to Canadians seeking freedom, prosperity and a secure future, something increasingly diminishing in Trudeau’s Canada, the exodus could instead be an influx.

An Angus Reid poll in June of 2019 found that “more than half of Albertans (52 per cent) say they believe the west would be better off if it left Canada,” 60 percent said they favoured Alberta joining a separatist movement, and 50 percent believed Alberta separatism was “a real possibility” that “may very well happen.”

Since that poll, others have had separatist sentiment percentages in the 40s, and that was without a strong, principled leader demonstrating a willingness to stand up for Albertans, without an appreciation of Alberta’s winning hand in any negotiation, and before Keystone was cancelled. A referendum today led by a no-nonsense, unapologetic defender of Albertans could well meet the threshold that the Supreme Court set for separatism negotiations.

John Kivell, St. Albert

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