Listen Up! Why don’t we pay more attention to national unity?

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Hugh Mackenzie
Huntsville Doppler

One of the most important issues that arose from the recent federal election is the stark recognition of how seriously divided Canada is. I cannot remember a time when the divisions both in the east and the west were so acute, and combined, so potentially dangerous. To simply shrug this off as something that happens from time to time would be a mistake. To take it seriously, as it must be, the federal government and parliament must be prepared to tackle and resolve some serious issues.

In the west, Saskatchewan and Alberta have every reason to feel isolated and ignored. In this country, we live in a resource-rich environment, which is a major reason why Canada is such a prosperous country. And yet, in provinces where oil is a major part of their economy, federal policy and procrastination, along with a reduction in global oil prices, have resulted in a severe downturn in their economy.

While concerns about global climate change are genuine and need to be addressed, so are more immediate issues such as economic survival and a reasonable standard of living. Until there is a sufficient base of effective green energy alternatives to meet market needs in Canada and beyond, in a manner that will replace jobs lost in the fossil fuel sector, then oil products still need to be produced and there needs to be a way to get them to market.

The federal government needs to act. They have dithered for years about building a pipeline that allows Canadian oil to get to tidewater. They must dither no more. Prime Minister Trudeau can stack his cabinet, if he chooses to, with non-elected western representatives, but that will not address the real-life concerns of people who live in Saskatchewan and Alberta. The first steps in addressing these concerns is a pipeline. Plain and simple. If a timely and concrete plan for this to happen is not contained in the government’s throne speech later this week, it will be a clear signal to many Western Canadians that Ottawa really doesn’t give a damn about them.

Of course, some, not all, indigenous communities and all of the left-wing political parties that Mr. Trudeau, with a minority government, will need to hold on to power will oppose any initiative to build a pipeline. Too bad. Federal governments are elected to address the needs and priorities of all Canadians, not just some of them. The Conservatives will support an oil pipeline in Western Canada, so the Trudeau government has an ability to get it done and get it done quickly, if it really wants to.

The Bloc Québécois has been very clear recently that they have no sympathy with the plight of some western provinces. In fact, they thumb their nose at it. While Québec runs a surplus, they happily accept hundreds of millions of dollars in equalization payments from Alberta. Saskatchewan is in a similar position. Hardly seems fair does it?

Then there is Jagmeet Singh, leader of the federal NDP who, last week, effectively called some western provinces crybabies for daring to complain about their treatment by Ottawa. Following both of these incidents, not a peep out of the Prime Minister. No wonder some westerners feel alienated.

It also does not help Canadian unity that the Bloc Québécois, the third-largest party in parliament, continues to strut their stuff. Yves-François Blanchet, their leader, makes no bones about it. He and his party are in the House of Commons for only one reason and that is to represent what they believe to be in the interests of Québec alone, and they don’t give a damn about anyone else in Canada. He refers to Québec as a “nation” and while he says that his party is not about separation from Canada, his statements, policies and strategies suggest otherwise.

As things stand today, we have a seriously fractured country where different standards and different priorities and unequal financial resources exist in various regions of Canada. We are at the crossroads of Canadian unity.

Our new minority government has its work cut out for them. If they really care, if they can put country above self, here are some of the issues they should address to improve national unity before it is too late. They have at least two years to get it done or to at least to get the ball rolling.

  • We need a pipeline to get our oil and natural gas to market and we need it now.
  • Equalization payments between provinces needs to be re-examined for fairness and reallocated where needed.
  • We need real senate reform. The so-called independent senate is a farce. Its costs have increased by more than a third and dozens of more bureaucrats have been hired since Mr. Trudeau instituted his so-called independent-senate measures. Senators, independent or otherwise, are still appointed by the Prime Minister and have exercised their “independence” by voting with the government well over 90 per cent of the time. Real senate reform would recognize and support the diverse regional areas of our country. We need an elected senate, with an equal number of senators from each province and territory, who represent regional interests and are accountable to those areas and not to the federal government of the day. It should be a place where the interests of all Canadians are treated equally, or it should not exist.
  • We need real data on the effectiveness of the carbon tax. How much has this tax actually reduced our carbon footprint in the last year? Provincial tensions would ease if there was statistical evidence that the carbon tax is actually working.
  • Finally, recognizing that Québec has held special status within Canada since Confederation, the question must be asked when enough is enough. As pressure for more Québec amenities increase, other provinces can hardly be blamed for wanting the same privileges.

Canada has constantly been rated internationally as one of the best countries in the world in which to live. We are the envy of many. If we want to keep it that way, Canadians need to recognize unity within our borders as a high priority, currently at serious risk. And then we have to insist that our politicians wake up and do something about it.

There is little else that is so important. We cannot blow it.

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20 Comments

  1. Wow do I ever agree with Hugh on this he makes so many good points I just hope the Government will do just about everything he suggests because if they just sit on there hands and do nothing I’m thinking our country is going to go to hell and split up. Quebec has been threatening to separate for years but as long as we keep handing them money they stay happy not sure just how they think they can get along without oil from someplace guess they would rather buy it from Saudi Arabia than from Alberta figure that out if you can. B.C is not much better they don’t want a pipe line across there province either. What I’m wondering is why Alberta doesn’t build a pipe line to Hudson Bay and ship there oil from there I think Manitoba would be ok with that and They could keep a shipping lane open in winter with an ice breaker. Then the east could buy Canadian oil as well.

  2. Thank you Hugh. I appreciate the clear description of the facts. One correction I’d mention: “While Québec runs a surplus, they happily accept hundreds of millions of dollars in equalization payments from Alberta.” It’s actually BILLIONS, not just hundreds of millions. Billions per year with over $100 billion over the last two decades…

  3. Interesting viewpoint Hugh. Considering your last missive concerning appointments vs elections I’m surprised you would be advocating for an elected Senate! Think of the cost! Think of the inconvenience of Canadians being asked to exercise their democratic right in choosing who would lead them!
    Didn’t we elect the Prime Minister to make appointments for us? Isn’t it his job?
    What is this world coming to!! lol!
    Your hypocrisy is alarming – and in the space of one week!
    It’s winter out there Hugh, your flip flops should be left in your closet!

    • Sorry but the Canadian Senate is just a tiny bit more important than the mayor of Huntsville and we have a whole counsel to appoint a mayor not just one person.

      • Certainly a topic for debate Mr. Vowels! Which level of government affects you more on a daily basis?
        I would argue that the local municipal government is way more important than the Senate by that metric.

    • Hugh Mackenzie on

      Tim: A colourful comment, but not surprisingly, without substance. There is no hypocracy here. These are two completely different situations and you are well aware of that. Currently Senators are appointed and not elected. My view is that they should stand for election like all other politicians at all three levels of government with the exception of a few Regional Chairs. Unlike Senators, Municipal Councillors are elected not appointed. Once elected, they have a mandate to make decisions on our behalf, including mid-term appointments if they so choose, as long as they are consistent with the Ontario Municipal Act. Simple as that.

    • Aww C;mon Tim! You are sounding like a sore loser! There’s a time when silence is the best thing when something isn’t turning out the way we want,

      • On the contrary Jim! I was writing with tongue firmly planted in cheek!
        Mr. Mackenzie used it as an opportunity to provide a civics lesson that only serves to further illustrated my point.
        Isn’t the Prime minister elected with a mandate to make decisions on our behalf? Doesn’t that mandate include Senate appointments if he so chooses?
        I am simply pointing out that if we suddenly start electing the Senate there will be an enormous cost to the process, which is Mr. Mackenzie’s main reason for not wanting a by-election here in Huntsville.
        I am in favour of democracy, in favour of politicians standing for election and therefore in favour of a by-election for mayor in Huntsville which we will be debating at council next Monday evening. I’m not sure what exactly “isn’t turning out the way we want” but I’ll leave it at that.

  4. Totally agree. Canada’s CO2 emissions approx. 700 ,000,000 tons /yr. World CO2 emissions went up in 2018 by 1 Billion tons as coal fired plants came on stream.
    So Canada could have frozen in the dark and world CO2 emissions would still have increased. 25% of world CO2 is from coal. And there are over 1,000 new plants under construction or in the planning stages.
    We need to stop trans-shipping 10,000,000 tons of coal from the U.S. to Vancouver for export to China ( = 30,000,000 tons of CO2 ) Subsidize the conversion of 18 Alberta, 3 Sask. ,1 N.B, and 2 N.S. coal fired power plants to LNG. instead of waiting ’till 2030. Export carbon capture technology. Subsidize the conversion of any world coal fired plant , then sell the country Cdn. LNG. Then we might have a small impact on world emissions

  5. Edward Johnson on

    I’m surprised to learn that, quite inexplicably, news has not reached Huntsville that a major pipeline to international markets is UNDER CONSTRUCTION in Alberta and BC. It’s called the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

    It’s the first pipeline to markets outside North America in a long time. (The Conservative/Reform Government of Steven Harper (and Jason Kenny) didn’t lay a foot of pipe to those markets despite almost ten years in office.)

    A major new pipeline to the US, the XL Pipeline, begun by the Harper Government and significantly advanced by the Trudeau Government, is stalled by courts IN NEBRASKA.

    When the NDP Government of British Columbia took concrete steps to block Trans Mountain, the Trudeau Government bought it to make it a Federal Crown project and thus immune to Provincial attack. When he did this, Mr Trudeau was aware of the political cost he would pay – and indeed did pay- in lost votes in lower mainland BC and among small-L liberal environmentalists elsewhere in Canada. He was also aware that a Conservative Government in Alberta would be unlikely to have the grace to acknowledge his efforts. He did it in the very interest the Doppler pretends to espouse – the national interest.

    • The TMP project has been restarted, with limited construction underway again, but major construction must wait for the final route approval. They still have about a third of the 2000+ landowners approval to secure, most in BC, dozens of conditions to meet, and lots of protesters and legal cases in the way. Let’s hope it gets done, it is not a certainty yet.

      This pipeline, if built, would be the last this government would likely ever approve. That also doesn’t sit well with Albertans.

  6. Yes one pipeline more or less underway. Will the usual work stopping protesters be carted away and swiftly dealt with or will work obediently shut down while some human rights commission adjudicates protester’s rights?
    We all know the answer to that. After all this is Canada in 2019.
    Trudeau is no hero. He reluctantly bought the Transmountain Pipeline project with even more borrowed money back stopped by the taxpayers of Canada. He gets no points from me for that.
    Long before that became necessary he should have passed bullet proof legislation court proofing that and other projects. In fairness other administrations before his should have straightened out the approvals process and gotten on with projects.
    Trans mountain is just one of 4 or 5 which should be underway taking Canada’s resource wealth to world markets from the West and North West coast and the Atlantic coast. An energy corridor through Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick is a good idea and the Federal Government has the legislative perrogative to build it. It should have been done 30 years ago.
    With the revenues from the sale of our oil and gas abroad we could actually afford the programs that are being talked about and be able to pay off the national debt too.
    If Trudeau acted as suggested in the foregoing I’d be the first to sing his praises. Sad to say there is precious little chance of his doing so or my having to sing.

  7. I would suggest that you have identified a critical problem found in not just Canada but all of the western democracy. And your “solution” is 5 small, transactional, Canada centric, policies.
    I would argue that the cause of division throughout western democracies, is that too many are not participating in global growth…..too many feel alienated from their governments…..too many feel that they live in a world of us vs them….too many seek out those that agree with them instead of embracing diversity and discourse.
    The solution is just as simple as your silly small transactions. And that is to ensure that more participate in the economy and share the dream with equal opportunity for all. Maybe even Adam Smith’s version of capitalism could be tried again, as opposed to the rigged system we have now

  8. Jim Logagianes on

    As larger segments of the population become impoverished division will only worsen. 12,000 Canadians filed for bankcruptcy this month. Once the carbon tax is imposed and we all have to purchase carbon offsets to heat our home and drive to work, I’m sure the disparity that many Canadians are experiencing will improve. Canada is no longer a level playing field, it is a country where divisions run deep. Is this what the federal Liberals deliberately set out to do, divide the nation? Well regardless of their intentions they are succeeding and as Canadians we should all be concerned.

    • Not sure where you have been Jim but I’ve been paying carbon tax since last spring the last fill up of my propane cost me $25.00 plus GST it’s crazy.and going to get worse I guess.

  9. Hugh, your five suggested solutions are well considered and timely. As pointed out by others, for good or ill (cost-wise), we already purchased a pipeline; although the Eagle Spirit route would have met with less opposition from the aboriginals and the environmentalists. An elected Senate has long been a worthwhile concept; although the present Senate has been appointed for life. The cost of pensioning them off would be horrendous, and I doubt that even one would be interested in an election to reacquire her/his seat. And in Canada’s “rep by pop” reality, how would one sell P,E.I. having an equal number of seats to Ontario? And finally, Quebec has special status by virtue of being special; by virtue of language and the Code Napoleon. The matter of it being so favoured by Ottawa is contingent upon its value in electing/supporting whichever of the two parties holds power; not an accident of Confederation.

  10. There are no hero’s here. To succeed, Canada as a relatively wealthy country with the worlds highest rate of emissions per capital needs a much more aggressive plan for emissions reduction and as the biggest polluters per capital, Alberta and Saskatchewan should be leading that plan instead of dragging their feet.

    And, although it seems counterintuitive, Canada with the worlds third biggest proven oil reserves, that the world will need as smaller reserves are depleted by 2040, needs the TranMountain pipeline that now has the pipe and manpower in place and is moving ahead, and one more pipeline. Fighting the well funded US based environmental movement that operates in our own yard is tough. We should stop wasting time and effort and emotions on supporting Keystone XL and the 4500 km Energy East pipeline, and add the 1500 km Eagle Spirit pipeline that is entirely on Canadian soil and 95% approved by First Nation on the route. And despite all the bluster by the Conservatives that they could somehow maneuver around the courts, they did not and they cannot. Bottom line is that our political parties (and their supporters) should stop acting like high school and start addressing these two nation building initiatives like adults. Both initiatives are entirely possible.

  11. All Canadian federal leaders better work together to create Canadian unity in the very near future as an external force called China will definitely control our destiny if we allow it to do so . China already owns Grouse Mt Vancouver, some of the biggest retirement homes in the Vancouver area, much of the Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal real estate market , and oil fields in Alberta. Also they are infiltrating our school system with their Confucian private schools, while at the same time they are exerting pressure on our federal government to possibly allow them to build the G 5 telecommunication system in Canada (Huawei) ,

    I quote a research article by Mario Canseco July 2019 – https://www.nationalobserver.com/u/mario-canseco

    ” In October 2012, a survey I conducted asked Canadians about the proposed takeover of Calgary-based oil and gas company Nexen Inc.by China’s state-owned CNOOC Ltd. At that time, a majority of Canadians (58%) believed the federal government should block the transaction – a proportion that rose to 63% in Alberta.

    Supporters of all three main federal parties voiced reservations about the deal. In British Columbia, opposition to CNOOC’s takeover of Nexen outranked support by a stunning 10-to-one margin (69% to 7%).

    Across the country, 78% of respondents agreed with the idea that foreign governments should not be able to control resources on Canadian soil. Their anxiety did not matter much, as two months later, in December 2012, the Conservative federal government approved the takeover.

    John Manley, president of what was then known as the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (now the Business Council of Canada), stated that Ottawa’s decision would “safeguard the national interest while ensuring that Canadians continue to reap the benefits of a welcoming approach to foreign investment.”

    Since then, CNOOC’s activities in Canada can be regarded as disappointing. The company is responsible for one of the largest bitumen spills in Alberta’s history and walked away from a liquefied natural gas development in British Columbia valued at $20 billion. A severe bitumen spill and an abandoned project are not exactly “benefits to reap,” as Manley envisaged in 2012.

    Seven years later, Canadians are being asked once again to look at China as a possible contributor. Now the issue is technology, as Canada begins to plan the development of the 5G (or “fifth generation”) mobile networks, to provide Canadians with larger data capacity and faster connections.

    In February, Research Co.measured the early reaction from Canadians to the arrest of Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.chief financial officer Meng Wanzhouin Vancouver following an extradition request from the United States. Public opinion was favourable to the actions of the federal government, troubled by Huawei’s potential involvement in 5G and skeptical about establishing closer ties with China.

    A lot has happened since February, including China’s continued confinement of two Canadians – Michael Kovrigand Michael Spavor– on espionage allegations, China banning imports of Canadian canola, pork and beef, a barrage of disparaging statements from China’s Foreign Ministry and, most recently, an interview with Meng’s father, Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei, published in the Globe and Mail.

    At times, Ren’s interview reads like another press briefing from his country’s Foreign Ministry, criticizing Canada’s federal government for not being “smarter” in rejecting an extradition request from the United States. But he also comes across as a savvy investor, arguing that Canada has “very bright people, [but not] enough people.”

    Earlier this month, Research Co. asked again about Huawei and China. In the latest countrywide survey, 72% of Canadians agree with the way Canadian authorities have acted in the Meng case. This represents a nine-point increase since February.

    Liberal Party of Canada voters from 2015 are decidedly happy with Ottawa’s performance on this file (86%), but majorities of those who voted for the New Democratic Party(72%) and the Conservative Party of Canada(59%) are also lauding the federal government’s course of action.

    Perhaps more striking is that only 17% of Canadians think Canada should allow Huawei to participate in the development of Canada’s 5G mobile networks. Opposition to the idea now stands at 68%, up 11 points since February. Simply put, there is no demographic in the country that currently endorses Huawei becoming a partner on 5G. In British Columbia, aversion to Huawei’s contribution reaches a staggering 81%, by far the highest across all regions.

    In addition, two-thirds of Canadians (67%) say Canada should not work to establish closer ties with China. Skepticism is highest among men (75%), Canadians aged 55 and over (85%) and residents of Manitoba and Saskatchewan (73%).

    Almost seven years ago, Canadians expressed suspicion about inviting the Chinese government to Canada’s natural resource sector. The Nexen takeover did not go as originally anticipated. Now, in a world where concerns over privacy and data collection are at a peak, perceptions of further Chinese involvement on Canadian soil have evidently soured.

    In 2012, 58% of Canadians said “No, thanks” to Nexen’s takeover. In 2019, 68% are saying “No, thanks” to Huawei as a 5G developer. We will have to wait and see if the current federal government behaves differently than its predecessor when it comes to China. • ”

    Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.

  12. Wow, that’s a lot of good info! If you want more info on the threats China poses to Canada, I suggest “Claws of the Panda” by Jonathan Manthorope, and “The New Silk Roads” by Peter Frankopan. They will really open your eyes!

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