Four Conservative MPs from Alberta have signed onto a manifesto called the Buffalo Declaration, warning that a referendum on separation is inevitable unless the province’s grievances are addressed through significant constitutional reform.
The signatories include Michelle Rempel Garner, who is considering a run for the federal Conservative Party leadership. The others are Blake Richards, Glen Motz and Arnold Viersen.
The declaration outlines a long list of complaints that stretch back before Alberta became a province in 1905 and also includes the National Energy Program in the 1980s, the equalization system, carbon taxes and, more recently, the continuing rail blockades linked to a B.C. natural gas pipeline.
Many of the document’s concerns echo comments from Premier Jason Kenney, who has promised to push for a “fair deal” for his province and has blamed the federal Liberal government for increasing frustration and, in some corners, appeals to separatism in his province.
“Canada must understand what we are hearing every day from many distraught Albertans,” the 6,000-word document says. “Structural, constitutional change must happen within Confederation or a referendum on Alberta’s independence is an inevitability.”
Mr. Viersen declined to comment, while Mr. Motz planned to say more about the document on Friday. Ms. Rempel Garner and Mr. Richards could not be reached.
On Twitter, Ms. Rempel Garner argued that Alberta has never been an equal partner in confederation. “A line in the sand must be drawn,” she wrote.
Simon Jefferies, spokesman for Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, said Mr. Scheer agrees that Western Canada has been treated unfairly and he expects the declaration to come up in the leadership race. He said Mr. Scheer planned to stay out of the race.
“The frustration and anger in Western Canada is very real and should not be ignored,” Mr. Jefferies wrote in an e-mail.
The document argues that Alberta and Saskatchewan were treated like colonies when they became provinces and has since contributed a disproportionate amount of wealth to Ottawa, while its resource industry has been held back. It says the province is underrepresented in Parliament, the federal civil service and the media.
The document includes more than a dozen proposals, including constitutional changes to “balance representation” in Parliament, such as through an overhaul of the Senate; the repeal of environmental legislation such as C-69; expanded free trade between provinces; and the creation of a national energy corridor, which was a key Conservative campaign promise; and changes to the equalization formula.
It also says Parliament should formally recognize the harm of the National Energy Program, in which the government of Pierre Trudeau attempted to exert greater control over the oil industry, and says Alberta should be recognized as “culturally distinct,” drawing comparisons to Quebec.
The declaration says previous attempts to give the Prairie provinces a greater voice on the federal stage, notably the rise of the Reform Party and the election of Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, have not resulted in lasting change.
The name for the declaration comes from the time just before Alberta and Saskatchewan joined confederation. Frederick Haultain, who was then-premier of the Northwest Territories, which included what is now Alberta and Saskatchewan, proposed a single province called Buffalo. Instead, the two Prairie provinces joined separately.
We have a weekly Western Canada newsletter written by our B.C. and Alberta bureau chiefs, providing a comprehensive package of the news you need to know about the region and its place in the issues facing Canada. Sign up today.