‘Share’ Alberta’s oil wealth?

This blog is picking up on a theme that I started a few blogs ago about the state of Confederation. Firstly, I disclaim all over the place, my knowledge of Canadian history – it is not that good and I know that many of my generation are also lacking in a rigourous understanding of Canadian history.

However, having said that, I do know a little bit about economic development. And I am very curious about Ralph Klein’s comments in the National Post this weekend. The headline reads “Klein adamant Alberta won’t share $7-billion surplus”. Klein is quoted as saying “The rest of Canada didn’t offer to share with us in our bad times”.

Now, if King Ralph, would poke his nose out of the (oil) sand for a minute, he would realize that Canada is one of the only countries in the world not to have system of equitable distribution of natural resource revenues. Even Iraq’s new constitution guarantees equality of natural resource revenue distribution throughout the country.

So, without wading into this debate in any great detail, I would say that Canada’s unique and somewhat bizarre natural resource revenue policies are an overt benefit to Alberta – one not given to a discrete province in most countries around the world.

When these revenues made Alberta rich, most Canadians said “good for them”. Now that these revenues are becoming egregious – to the point of eclipsing the Federal Government itself, maybe we should revive ‘ol Trudeau. And if Alberta decides to leave, so be it. Quebec wants out. Newfoundland wants out. BC has rumbled in this direction. Even Cape Breton is evaluating its place in Confederation.

Maybe we need to have a candid discourse about this country. If we are, as Cretien and Martin assert over and over again, the best country in the world with the highest standard of living, the best quality of life, the ‘just society’, then why does everyone want out? Having a de facto policy that leads to this great economic disparity in Canada – to the point of concerning Ontario – is a recipe for ultimate disintegration.

You know my position, I say Alberta can keep their billions – I hope they choke on in. I think New Brunswick should drive economic development the old fashion way – like Ireland – and attract global companies to manufacture, develop and service global markets from little ‘ol NB.

Then when Alberta’s oil rev runs out and New Brunswick has a strong and diversified economy, they can come running to us with their hand out.

Then Premier Bernard Lord IX can be quoted in the Moncton Times and Transcript as saying “Alberta didn’t offer to share with us in our bad times”.

Sheesh, sorry, I just drifted off into Neverland. Back to EI, Equalization, out-migration and the raw and real state of the union in New Brunswick and Canada.

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0 Responses to ‘Share’ Alberta’s oil wealth?

  1. Anonymous says:

    Good points, but something else should be added, and that is that many people are deeply unhappy with the way federal politics is being handled. So in many cases ‘separation’ is the only way to voice a concrete opinion about the federal government. Also, most polls use only a VERY small sample, and many are done by political groups who often sway questions in a certain direction.

    However, it has often been observed that a history of Canada is a history of Ontario and Quebec. Federally speaking, maritimers have more in common with westerners.

    Historically, we know that New Brunswick voted in a referendum to NOT join ‘Canada’, and we know that immediately after Confederation Nova Scotia elected in almost every riding somebody whose platform was getting out of confederation. They took it to London where they were told that they could not get out of it. After that, they had no choice but deal with tariffs.

    Albertans were right to denounce Trudeau, while Ontario writers continue to propagate the idea that he wanted Canada to be self sufficient in oil, that noble pursuit was designed so that manufacturers in Ontario, who have always been protected by tariffs, would have cheap energy.

    Ironically, there are huge populations of maritimers in the west, obviously they can’t find work here. So the ‘sharing’ would probably go much smoother if Ottawa weren’t involved, and probably even smoother if PEOPLE were involved.

    Keep in mind that Alberta does have a point. Energy is a volatile market, and the oil sand consortium has already cut back on production because of the huge costs-it’s far easier for companies to reinvest in Iraq, where oil is at least easy to get at.

    The other side is that Alberta is no different than the federal government-both have surpluses but it’s not like canadians are benefitting. Alberta has a 20% poverty rate, 23% in Edmonton, and while there are all kinds of corporate tax cuts discussed, nobody has even mentioned raising the minimum wage, which is lowest in the country (just behind NB).

  2. David Campbell says:

    Thanks for the mini history lesson. I continue to claim ignorance in this area but I do see some disturbing trends. I read Jeffrey Simpson’s column in the Globe on Saturday called
    Is there no end to the groups aggrieved by Canada? and in it he postulates that Canada is made up of a coalition of ‘aggrieved’ peoples – Quebeckers, Westerners, aboriginals, etc. yet we still are a successful country.

    Go figure.