Beggar thy neighbour nationalism

Written by Brenda Schimke

The Globe and Mail on May 29 published an article, ‘Fundamental Differences’ written by Canadian author and former editor of the Ottawa Citizen, Andrew Potter. In the article, he compared Alberta to Quebec and queried whether Alberta, following the Quebec example, would deliver to Albertans what they seek—a fair deal within Confederation.

Potter reminded readers that Quebec is fulfilling their nationalist agenda, whereas Albertans see Confederation as a racket—run by easterners for easterners using westerner’s hard-earned money.

Premier Kenney, perhaps because he spent more time in Ottawa than Alberta, seems intent on pushing Quebec’s nationalism ideals on Albertans—our own police force, repatriation of Alberta’s CPP contributions, a provincial replacement for the Canada Revenue Agency and more control over immigration—but to what end?

Quebec is prepared to assume the extra bureaucratic costs that come with running dual federal/provincial agencies in preparation for separation. But overlapping services come with a huge price tag. It just seems strange in a province where the disdain for civil servants is legendary that Premier Kenney would add more people to these ranks.

The Fair Deal Panel’s recommendations, released in May, contain a mixture of Quebec nationalist goals and Alberta fairness concerns. Unfortunately, Premier Kenney’s fixation on emulating Quebec’s self-centered, bullying behaviour has led to this fall’s emotionally-charged, purposeless referendum on equalization.

Canadians, even most Albertans, take pride in Canada’s commitment to lift up poorer provinces so that all have, not equivalent, but acceptable levels of education, health, senior’s care and social services. Fighting equalization payments is a no-win proposition, yet there is so much more our provincial government could do that would be of lasting value.

Starting with under-representation. Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario are all under-represented in the House of Commons, the Senate and on the Supreme Court. Holding symbolic senator elections or fighting for a Triple E senate did nothing to change this imbalance. The imbalance will only be changed when our natural friends in Confederation, Ontario and Western Canadian provinces, fight collectively for electoral and judicial fairness. Quebec’s over-representation in the House of Commons, Senate and on the Supreme Court is Canada’s collective problem, not just Alberta’s.

Second, Kenny’s action plan should prioritize negotiations to amend the ‘Fiscal Stabilization Program’—a program specifically created to support provinces with yo-yo resource revenues. What a perfect time, when Alberta has the highest rate of unemployment in the country and oil and gas is under world-wide threat.

We should not be emulating Quebec, with their ‘beggar thy neighbour nationalism’. Instead, we need to reinforce our common values with those provinces who are signatories to the Canadian Constitution. Quebec is the outlier, outside both our Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights & Freedoms.

Alberta, and the other eight provinces, will never be treated fairly until Quebec is treated equally. If Quebec cannot accept being treated fair and equal within Canada, then the ball is in Quebec’s court—separate and lose equalization payments, or grow up and stop the spoiled brat act.

Working with other provinces to fight for fairness of representation in the House of Commons, Senate and Supreme Court is a priority. Amendments to the Fiscal Stabilization Program is a priority. Taking back control of our carbon tax to use for Albertans and Alberta’s economic benefit is a priority.

Even more important is the absolute necessity for Kenney and his cabinet ministers to work productively and respectfully with the federal government to get every last scrap of money available to grow and develop net-zero carbon facilities and alternate energy projects.

To move forward successfully, the last thing Alberta needs is a Quebec-like premier sitting in his sky-palace drinking whiskey and taking his cues from the French in eastern Canada.


Brenda Schimke

ECA Review 

About the author

Brenda Schimke

Schimke is a Graduate with Distinction from the University of Alberta with a BCom degree. She has lived and worked in Alberta, BC and Ontario.