Last week, Alberta’s newly minted premier, Danielle Smith, tabled legislation entitled “Alberta Sovereignty in a United Canada”. An oxymoron if I ever heard one.
It will appeal to those Albertans who feel isolated from the rest of Canada. However, it is also a shot across the bow when it comes to Canadian unity. It is an attempt to emulate Quebec which for centuries has been successful in “having its cake and eating it too” in relation to special rights within the context of Canada. Saskatchewan has also been making strides in this regard and other provinces cannot be far behind.
Yves-Francois Blanchet, leader of the Bloc Quebec and a sovereigntist himself, said this about the Alberta Sovereignty in a United Canada Act. “I believe that if Alberta wants to be an independent country, Alberta should call a referendum to (sic) its people. And if they vote yes, that’s the end of it.”
Surely, there is a real question here as to whether the Canadian federation is unravelling.
Specifically, the Alberta government is seeking the power to override any federal legislation that affects Alberta and that the provincial government does not like.
Quebec, in some instances, has done the same thing overriding the Constitution, ignoring the English language rights of some people in that province, trampling on the religious rights of others, and unilaterally declaring itself a “Nation”. All of this while remaining at the federal trough.
Part of the problem, as I see it, is that successive federal governments in Canada, particularly the Liberals, but not them alone, have catered to Quebec over the decades, in part because of the unique status granted to them at Confederation, and in part because of pure self-interest politics. It is not surprising that other provinces, when unhappy with federal mandates, get a bit in their mouth for similar treatment.
But the time is coming, in my view, when the current federal government, or the one that succeeds it, is going to have to deal with the reality of growing federal-provincial dysfunctionality. Tensions are growing and, frankly, there is little leadership forthcoming from either federal or provincial governments to address the problem before it gets out of hand.
All of this is taking place in Canada within an atmosphere of widespread populism, particularly infecting western democracies. People are demanding what they believe to be their “rights”, and governments in many instances are responding. There is a growing movement for change, and at times, change that risks throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Cancel culture is becoming rampant, and alternate facts and disinformation acceptable.
Governments then tend to tread carefully when dealing with major issues that spring from public sentiment for more freedom and for government to stay out of the way. That may be the reason that the Trudeau government has been mostly silent in dealing with Alberta’s proposed Sovereignty legislation, while at the same time apparently negotiating with Quebec to pay less tax for carbon emissions than other provinces.
There is a cry for less government in Canada and this is understandable, especially given the restrictions that were put on people’s lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. But there are times when national governments need to remain tough. Primarily, this relates to the health and safety of its citizens, a vigorous economy, and the preservation of our absolute national sovereignty.
Klaus Schwab, who heads the World Economic Forum, wrote in his recent book, ‘The Great Reset’, that pandemics, including the COVID-19 pandemic, are “known agents for major societal shifts”. He goes on to describe his view of how this most recent pandemic will be an agent of significant consequences in relation to our global future.
Whether he is right or wrong in his overall predictions, which are both comprehensive and somewhat frightening, there can be little doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has become a catalyst for major societal shifts.
In Canada, the so-called Ottawa trucker’s convoys and blockades across the country were an outward and visible sign of these shifts. The election of Pierre Poilievre as leader of the Conservative Party of Canada was another.
Most people in Canada are not happy with the government. Some want more from them and some less, but there is an overall belief that the government is moving away from the people they serve, and there is a growing lack of trust and tolerance for that.
According to a recent poll, 87 per cent of Canadians believe that we are now in a recession or soon will be. In spite of this, another national poll showed that health care is now the major concern of Canadians, followed by inflation and climate change. Most people in this country are not seeing any real movement by government on any of these issues, especially the first two.
With a lack of reserved patience, following COVID restrictions, and a mood in this country that is not particularly positive about the future, I wonder how long Canadians will put up with a lack of political action on key issues of national importance.
Could this be the beginning of a “great reset” in Canada?
Hugh Mackenzie has held elected office as a trustee on the Muskoka Board of Education, a Huntsville councillor, a District councillor, and mayor of Huntsville. He has also served as chairman of the District of Muskoka and as chief of staff to former premier of Ontario, Frank Miller.
Hugh has also served on a number of provincial, federal and local boards, including chair of the Ontario Health Disciplines Board, vice-chair of the Ontario Family Health Network, vice-chair of the Ontario Election Finance Commission, and board member of Roy Thomson Hall, the National Theatre School of Canada, and the Anglican Church of Canada. Locally, he has served as president of the Huntsville Rotary Club, chair of Huntsville District Memorial Hospital, chair of the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, president of Huntsville Festival of the Arts, and board member of Community Living Huntsville.
In business, Hugh Mackenzie has a background in radio and newspaper publishing. He was also a founding partner and CEO of Enterprise Canada, a national public affairs and strategic communications firm established in 1986.
Currently, Hugh is president of C3 Digital Media Inc., the parent company of Doppler Online, and he enjoys writing commentary for Huntsville Doppler.
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