[Ted Byfield] Like Lougheed, Kenney must confront Ottawa, but Kenney will win

[Ted Byfield] Like Lougheed, Kenney must confront Ottawa, but Kenney will win

Opinion
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Things have changed since Lougheed’s day, as the fed masterminds are about to find out

[TheChristians.com] “Well,” I said to myself last week, “thank heaven that’s over with.” I had been thinking of our late lamented federal election. But I was deluded. More accurately, I had not been thinking at all. Far from being “over,” we may well be embarking on the worst crisis our country has suffered since it was confederated about 150 years ago.

VIDEO: [CTV News] Canadian Alliance founder Preston Manning says Justin Trudeau needs to deal directly with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Sask. Premier Scott Moe. [Oct. 24, 2019]


Think about this. Under what is known as the “equalization” program, Alberta has been pouring billions upon billions of its oil and gas revenues into other less prosperous provinces. Quebec has been a notable recipient. But those revenues depend on our international markets. Now we can’t get our oil and gas to the coast, largely because those recipient provinces won’t provide passage for the requisite pipelines.

Very gradually but also irresistibly, a consequent economic paralysis is spreading through the province. Head offices are moving out. Job losses are rising from the thousands into the tens of thousands. Building construction slows and stops. Office vacancy rates rise. Lost jobs cause social problems. Young parents can’t make mortgage payments. Marriages break up. The depopulation of urban areas gains momentum. All of these things are increasingly taking place right now, right here in Alberta.

Meanwhile the Ottawa government is… is… is doing what exactly? Well, the prime minister wants us to know that he “feels our pain,” and he has ordered work to start on the trans-mountain line. I can’t count the number of times work has been ordered to start on the trans-mountain line since the government bought it about 15 months ago. It should be open and running by now but isn’t. Yet another court action will no doubt stop it. This will provide more of our pain for the prime minister to feel.

Of considerably greater significance is Premier Jason Kenney’s plan to call a provincial referendum on an Alberta withdrawal from the equalization program. It can’t be a binding referendum, but it would certainly allow the people to speak up. The bets are that a motion to withdraw from the program will carry by a four-to-one majority.

But what will this accomplish? Kenney will announce Alberta’s exit from the program. Some recipient province, or all of them, will then ask the courts to compel the duly elected government of Alberta to write the cheque. But suppose Alberta still refuses. Who goes to jail? The premier? The provincial treasurer? You see what I mean by a crisis.

There’s more. What about the recipient provinces? They are counting on this money coming in. If it doesn’t come, they are in a crisis. What do we do? Help us out here, Mr. Trudeau. And by the way, be assured that we know you feel our pain. But we’re not sure that will fix anything.

And still more. One of the unforeseen results of the election was the sudden burst into new life of the Bloc Québecois, the Quebec secessionist party. It entered the federal election with 10 seats and this time won 32, most of them from the socialist NDP. What will the secessionists do now? They are hardly likely to go back to sleep. No, this election result will come to them as signaling the exact time to line up yet another referendum on separation. And the threatened cut-off of equalization money from Alberta will be used to strengthen their case.

In the meantime, what will Kenney be doing in Alberta — always assuming he hasn’t been thrown in jail for thwarting the Supreme Court ruling on his province’s withdrawal from the equalization program?

He obviously expects and is preparing for a major confrontation with Ottawa, much as Lougheed had back in the ‘seventies. But there are two major differences — one between the two men, Lougheed and Kenney, the other between the two eras, then and now.

The two men differ in their experience of Ottawa — on how it works, how to get things done, on what matters and what doesn’t, and how the federal mindset differs from the provincial mindset. Kenney knows Ottawa, as an insider. He spent much of his political career in Parliament. He’s an old hand. To Lougheed, Ottawa was always foreign and hostile territory, a rooted enemy of his province, a dangerous place, swarming with bureaucratic knaves, bullies, and swindlers. In the good, clean air of the prairies, Lougheed was a different man.

The Lougheed epoch was governed by certitudes — moral, cultural, social and political. Lougheed was of the generation shaped by the Second World War. He was himself too young to have been in it, but in wartime social rules tend to be absolute. Radicalism is viewed as dangerous, even perhaps traitorous. Obviously, therefore any idea of actually separating Alberta from Canada was in his mind simply insane, and people who entertained such an idea were implicitly treasonous.

Throughout his entire adult life, Lougheed watched the society around him gradually part company with the old order in favour of a new disorder, with which he rarely sympathized. Kenney grew up with the new order all around him. As a conservative Catholic Christian, Kenney too found little to admire in the new social order. But having lived with it most of his life, he was more skilled at manipulating it, and skating around it. That’s why the Left correctly regard him as a dangerous enemy.

The key question is, of course, if the pipelines are not built and his province continues its downward plunge, what will Kenney do? My bet is he will set in motion constitutional changes that will make outrages like this pipeline issue impossible. He will team up with other “lesser” provinces with the message: “Buy this or we’re gone!” Ottawa will know he means business. And they’ll buy it.

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