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.
Don’t miss out on Doppler!
Sign up here to receive our email digest with links to our most recent stories.
Local news in your inbox three times per week!