When many Canadians were hailing the Supreme Court “non” judgement on the right for Quebec to separate from Canada; like everyone else, I too was pleased, but with reservations. However; when I had a few days to think about the judgement, I came to the conclusion that it was a typical Supreme Court of Canada sell out.
One of the many problems with the long winded judgement on Quebec’s right to secede, was that it did indeed say that Quebec has the right to leave Canada under certain (undefined) conditions. However; that was not to say, that leaving Canada was going to be a cakewalk. But nonetheless, because of this judgement, leaving Canada became Quebec’s right.
What the Supreme Court did, in their less than infinite wisdom, was to give the Québécois the impression that Canada was not a prison, as was claimed by then Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard, but leaving it might be just as hard as it would be to escape from a maximum security penitentiary. But not impossible.
The follow-up came from the Chrétien Liberals shortly afterwards, with their Clarity Bill, which more or less set out relatively clear conditions for separation. This bothered me to no end. Either Canada is a REAL country, with defined and INDIVISIBLE borders, or it is not. Chrétien’s Clarity Bill declared that Canada was not a real country, since under certain conditions it is divisible.
In spite of serious reservations, the Clarity Bill was passed as the Clarity Act, and is now a significant part of Canadian law.
A question which was asked of me many times while I was still on-air with CIQC, and while I was still active in the Quebec Civil Rights Movement, was: If Quebec has the right to separate from Canada, vis a vis the Clarity Act, what about other provinces?
We now have the answer. Alberta is furious. Chrétien’s hasty commitment to tie Canada to the Kyoto Agreement, which could cost Canada just under half a million jobs, and billions of dollars in annual revenue; much of it coming from Alberta and Ontario, but especially from Alberta due to its energy industry, has moved Alberta to declare war.
And guess what? Alberta is playing the “Clarity Act” card. Premier Klein has stated publicly for all to hear. As much as he hates the concept of separation from Canada, there are those (many) within Alberta who would vote to leave Canada, rather than being forced to obey a law that would cripple their economy.
Alberta and Ontario are the only two HAVE provinces left in Canada. All the others, including British Columbia get more back from the federal government, than what they pay in. And if Alberta is threatening a quick exit, even, if at this juncture, it is only a pressure tactic in their negotiations with Ottawa, it has every potential of becoming far more.
Quebec is all for Kyoto, since it has a piddling industrial base compared to Ontario. And the decimation of the Albertan oil industry will greatly promote Quebec’s hydro electric power. But, Quebec is the greatest HAVE NOT province of them all, and consumes more money in transfer payments, equalization payments, grants, and federal largess than all of the rest of Canada combined. So look who gets hurt. And look who prospers from Kyoto.
If Alberta really does get fed-up with Ottawa, and the way Albertans are just taken for granted, they can indeed use the Clarity Act to separate from Canada.
What the Act boils down to in a nutshell is this. The province which wants to hold a referendum on secession, has to follow the ensuing rules:
1) Ask a clear question. Such as: Do you wish to separate from Canada – Yes or No?
2) Allow for an honest and open debate under the generally accepted rules within Canada for holding elections.
And that’s it.
If I was an Albertan, and if my government came to me and said:
We are fed up with being taken for granted by the rest of Canada, especially in the East, and particularly from Ottawa. Would you vote YES to separate if it meant the following?
1) An immediate 25% decrease in taxes.
2) An immediate two tier health-care system where everyone, regardless of financial status would receive the best health-care imaginable without the waiting lists.
3) Laws which would really punish criminals. Including young offenders.
4) The end to the welfare state.
5) The end to equalization and transfer payments. In other words, what Alberta earns; Alberta keeps.
6) And the end to “official” bilingualism.
You know; if I was an Albertan, and under these circumstances, it wouldn’t take all that much to convince me to vote yes. And once that happens, how long do you think it would take for the two other Prairie provinces to say: wait a minute, we want to tag along as well?
And then there would be Ontario. Could anyone possibly believe that Ontarians would want to be left holding the bag for Quebec and the Maritimes? Not likely.
But then again, there’s an awful lot of energy in the ground, and off-shore in the Maritimes. And they’d probably want to split as well. After-all, look how well Canada did for the Maritime fisheries.
And I am not forgetting British Columbia. Under the very conservative BC Liberal government, British Columbia will be back on its feet in no time. And will be more than happy to negotiate its own fisheries and lumber industry one on one with the Americans, without the interference of Ottawa.
And then Quebec gets its dream and finds itself sovereign; without even having to hold a costly and divisive referendum. And this could very well be Jean Chrétien’s LEGACY. The Canadian Prime Minister who created the blueprint for the dissolution of Canada.