Albertans are frustrated, justifiably so. The Fair Deal Panel report shows this, but it focuses our energy in the wrong ways and was a distraction from the problems Albertans face everyday. A faltering economy, underfunded education and health care systems, and no plan for our future economic prosperity are all critical issues.
Our province entered confederation without the same control over natural resources as other provinces. Constitutional barriers, a smaller population, and vast distances between ourselves and centres of political and financial power has limited Alberta’s voice in confederation.
But in the past, Albertans did not use this as an excuse to quit. Instead, we responded by electing leaders who doubled as diplomats. We created the Alberta Treasury Branch to give our business leaders financial autonomy, and Peter Lougheed ensured we had a true Albertan fighting for strong provinces within a strong Canada. Today, we have leadership that stokes division and spoils for a fight, not because it is in the best interest of Albertans, but because it is best for the political interests of his party. Often, we forget that our premier was once in a position, as a federal cabinet minister, to advocate for changes to the equalization formula, the makeup and powers of the Senate, and federal policing policies. Instead of working for Albertans, we were once again sold out for political gain.
That is not to say the Prime Minister is free from blame. Albertans will never forget the National Energy Program, or that the current occupant of 24 Sussex once said “Canada isn’t doing well right now because it’s Albertans who control our collective socio-democratic agenda. It doesn’t work.”
We agree with some of the panel recommendations, and as we assess the report in full, we may agree with more. For example, Alberta deserves more from the Fiscal Stabilization Program, and reducing inter-provincial trade barriers. A framework for more northern development is important not just for Alberta but for all of Canada, and ensuring more Albertans are recruited by the federal civil service also betters our nation.
Right now, Alberta needs leadership that can stand up for Alberta, not for political gain.
Albertans must also look to the future. We are a trading province, and we need to remain committed to a strong and united Canada. We must fight for access to world markets, but oil and gas is not our only resource. As geopolitical tensions increase, Alberta’s trade can only thrive with the backing of the solid international reputation of Made in Canada.
Ideas like a provincial pension plan, provincial police, or an elected and equal senate may have merit, and they deserve their day in the court of public opinion. But the only way forward is through hard work, leadership, and by making Canada work.
We teach our children that life isn’t fair. There will always be bullies and barriers. But we also teach them that perseverance is the only way to succeed. Albertans do not take our ball and go home, we dig deep, work harder, and make the shot.