Questions about Alberta Secession

Last week, I wrote about, “Rethinking Canada“, in which I made the basic case for Alberta’s secession from the Canadian confederation.

Every so often, when I bring the subject up in conversation, the reaction can be very emotionally charged.  That’s perfectly fine, this is definitely an emotional topic for many people, and we are indeed discussing the idea of changing the basic, fundamental framework of the country itself.

I’ve compiled a number of objections/reactions I get from people over the subject, and my responses to them.  This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list, nor is it going to cover each and every objection or question I get, but it will cover the various themes of objections that get raised.

We’ve tried this before.  It’s never worked.

No, not really.  Yeah, there was definitely a “Western Canada Concept” which was carted about back in the day, but it was run by Doug Christie, who, for all intents and purpose, was not in good regard with the majority of the population.  He was a lawyer and made a household name for himself by defending Holocaust denier, Ernst Zündel, former Nazi Prison guard, Michael Seifert, and other extremely unsavoury characters.  Make no mistake, everyone is entitled to a defence in court.  I’m not begrudging anyone their right to the best possible defence, but when you examine Christie’s client list, you can see a very disturbing pattern.  Doug Christie was nobody I would ever want to have an association with, and, ultimately, his association with white supremacists and holocaust deniers is what sunk any chance a western secessionist movement had.

But I am not Doug Christie.  Many of the people I associate with of like mind are not Doug Christie.  We are nothing like Doug Christie, and we are building a brand new concept, one that is open to everyone.

Ultimately, just because it has never worked before doesn’t mean it won’t work now.  I think, frankly, the time is right.

Yeah, sure, screw seniors and the disabled out of their Canadian Federal benefits?!

Won’t happen.  Federal Canadian benefits are contractual programs that the Canadian government has with its citizens.  Canadians who move abroad may already be eligible to receive CPP benefits, so, logically, it goes to reason that, if you have paid into – through your taxes – a Canadian federal program, you will be entitled to receive benefits from it.  Obviously, there would be some back and forth in the negotiations of secession; nobody’s going to deny that, but we have to be level-headed about this.

Good luck in keeping your Canadian Citizenship and using Canadian currency!

Why would we want to continue to use Canadian currency?  Clearly, in the first short while after a secession vote, we’d need to keep things running, so that would mean that some form of medium of exchange would be needed – and the Canadian Dollar, which we are using right now, only makes sense.  There is really no reason why we couldn’t continue to use the dollar for as long as we wanted anyway – because Canada would have no say in what currency we ultimately decided to use.  There are distinct disadvantages for a sovereign nation to use another nation’s currency – they would have no control over the money supply, or the value of the currency – but for convenience sake, it could be done.

Regarding citizenship, international law is very clear:  When you naturalize (take the citizenship of a new country), the country or countries you came from originally get to decide, through legislation, whether they will allow you to retain your old citizenship(s).  For example, until fairly recently, if an Australian became a citizen of another country, the Australian would lose their Australian citizenship.  Australia has recently changed their laws to permit multiple citizenships, as most free nations are doing.  Canada’s policy has always been, “you may have as many citizenships as you can have”.  That means that if Alberta were to secede, unless Canada changes its citizenship legislation, we, and our first generation of children, would all remain Canadian citizens, with all the rights and privileges that go along with them, including the right to carry a Canadian passport.

You’re just bitter your guys didn’t win this time.  You’re just “taking your ball and going home”.  Why do you have to be such sore losers?

First, a gracious loser is still a loser.  We aren’t losers.  Second, this isn’t a sporting event.  An election win or loss isn’t at issue here.  Elections are legal, democratic processes where we elect our legislature.  Elections also determine the future of the country – for better, or for worse.  In our case, the Canadian confederation is populated such that the culture is entrenched in voting for the party (the Liberals) that best serves their own ends, at the expense of us in the west.  As Liberal strategist and Senator, the Late Keith Davey said during the 1980 election campaign, “Screw the west; we’ll take the rest!”

That quote, right there, encapsulates everything that is wrong with things as they stand right now.

If Canada is divisible, so is Alberta

Well, theoretically, yes — and no.  Any such division (read: partition) would have to make logical sense.  It wouldn’t make sense for Alberta to become a patchwork of counties, some of which are “Canada” and others are “Alberta”.  Since we don’t have a natural division, like, for example, the St. Lawrence River, then it makes far more sense to be all-or-nothing.

Canada will never allow it.

Canada has, in place already, the Clarity Act.  While it was drafted to deal with Quebec nationalism, it also serves as a precedent to rely on for any province’s secession, and, in that legislation, if a province votes to secede with a clear majority on a clear question, then Canada must, by the clarity act, allow for it to happen.

What one needs to understand is this:  Secession isn’t about tearing something apart.  It isn’t about destroying something.  It is about building something new.  Alberta has, despite the current price of oil, the resources to get us started.  We have the people and the culture to band together and create something new – something great, prosperous, and independent.  The morning after a secession vote, the sun would still rise.  We would still be part of Canada for that morning.  The difference would be there would be a mechanism in place for negotiations and eventual independence for Alberta.  The transition would not be instant, nor would it be violent.  It would be a peaceful process that would move us, eventually, out of Canada, with trade agreements in place ready to go on Day 1.

An independent Alberta would not look, on the surface, too different from Canada right now.  The differences, while they would appear subtle, would be immensely beneficial – no longer would we be at the mercy of Ottawa’s fiscal, natural resource, or tax policy.  We would file our income tax returns (if we have income tax at all, that is) with Edmonton, rather than the CRA processing centre in Winnipeg.  Ottawa would not receive any tax money from Albertans, nor would Ottawa be expected to send Alberta any equalization payments (not that they have, anyway).

Everything that we already have in place would be pretty much the same.  Everything that Ottawa currently handles, we would handle locally – which, ultimately, isn’t really that much.  Some areas, such as foreign affairs, and national defence, would be new, of course, but other areas could be easily rolled into existing provincial ministries:

Foreign affairs, the Post Office, and Banking would all easily roll into the portfolio of Economic Development and Trade.   Pipelines would roll into the Ministry of Energy.  Shipping and railways would become part of the Ministry of Transportation, and telephones would be part of the Ministry of Infrastructure.  Criminal law would be part of the Justice Ministry, obviously, and anything to do with taxes would be part of the Finance Ministry or Treasury.  Employment Insurance would be part of Service Alberta, and lastly, aboriginal lands and rights would be part of the Ministry of Aboriginal Relations.

That leaves one other ministry – Defence – which would be a brand new government department.

So, realistically, nothing would be really that different from the point of view of the public, while the future for everyone living here would be a whole lot better than it is right now.

This is a situation where it is all upside and almost no downside at all.

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