Alberta has become one of the best places in the world to live, work, and invest in, even though the current challenges we face can overshadow those accomplishments. I'm both a proud Canadian and Albertan. I take pride in the knowledge that my nation has benefited immensely as a result of my province's success. However, it's clear that Alberta has not always been treated as an equal and respected partner in our federation.
Recently, I asked a senior Liberal a question in the House of Commons about whether the Liberals were intentionally trying to push Albertans toward separation. The response was not unlike the responses my colleagues have received when asking similar questions: I was first dismissed and then accused of politicizing the issue.
I wish that were true, but since first being elected in 2019, folks in Alberta are increasingly telling me they feel like Canada has given up on them. These are not simply a few vocal voices at the fringe. These people include business owners, community leaders, health care professionals, athletes, teachers, and lawyers. And by and large, they don't want to give up on Canada; they simply feel left behind. This challenge transcends political affiliation and, if not taken seriously, the consequences could be grave.
Over the last century, many actions have contributed to the feelings of disregard. The delay in constitutional devolution of provincial resource management, the National Energy Program (and similar policies), and in the last five years; the "oil tanker-killing" Bill C-48, the "no more pipelines" Bill C-69, the imposition of the carbon tax, and most recently, the inaction by the Government to stand up for Keystone XL. These examples are symptoms of a bigger issue.
Many folks who have entered into this debate are quick to blame the foundations of our country for these problems and suggest the "deck is stacked against us." I see how one could easily come to that conclusion. Yet when I look at the founding documents and history of Canada, I see the solution. Canada was built as a federation, a nation that was forced to balance regional differences with a need for national cooperation and understood the strength that came with it. The only way the Fathers of Confederation came to an agreement in the lead up to 1867, was recognizing the need for unity that included safeguards that respected regions, cultures, economies, and languages.
Government needs know what they are responsible for as well as but where they should not be involved. Government must respect the jurisdictions of other levels of government, regardless of political differences. Over time, we have seen an unprecedented consolidation of power in the Federal Government, intrusion into provincial decision making, and a blurring of the constitutional metrics which were designed to keep this from happening. Now, the Trudeau Liberal Government has demonstrated they are incapable of respecting provincial jurisdiction, all while expanding the size of government, the bureaucracy, and spending.
While there is no question there are specific concerns that need to be addressed in order to strengthen our federation, the solution must start with regional respect. Those concerns include reforming the Senate, representation in the House of Commons, fixing the equalization formula, and revamping the justice system. There are ways to do that; both from a federal and provincial perspective. But these needed reforms are nearly impossible with a government which refuses to take its role and limitations seriously.
It's tragic that folks are questioning whether they can be both a proud Canadian and a proud Albertan. Yet, the trajectory we are currently on is causing deep divides that threaten to tear our country apart. The fact that many Albertans, and folks from other western provinces, are even considering separation should concern every Canadian. Especially when the answer to addressing these divisions was built into the fabric of our nation.
It's clear change is needed. With the stakes so high, it's plain to see that Justin Trudeau and the Liberals are incapable of delivering what is required to heal the deep divisions they have contributed to. This change will need to take place at polls. We need a new Government that understands its constitutional limits and responsibilities. I won't give up fighting for the region I have the honour of representing, this province, and this country. This situation is serious. I truly believe Albertans want Canada to remain united, but Canada needs a Government willing to pursue an agenda that unifies, not divides.
First elected in 2019, Damien Kurek is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Battle River-Crowfoot in Alberta. @dckurek.
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