Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says a 13-page manifesto from four federal Conservative MPs that calls for action to address the roots of Western alienation reflects the genuine frustrations of people in his province.
But Mr. Kenney declined to say whether he supports the document, known as the Buffalo Declaration, adding that he is focused on his own government’s work to secure a “fair deal” for Alberta.
The Buffalo Declaration, which was posted online on Thursday, was signed by Michelle Rempel Garner and three other Conservative MPs from Alberta. It lays out grievances about Alberta’s treatment that date back to before it was a province and lists more than a dozen demands to address them. The proposals range from Senate reform – a long-standing goal for Canadian conservatives – to recognition that Alberta is “culturally distinct.”
Ms. Rempel Garner, who has not responded to interview requests, is considering running for the Conservative leadership. Regardless of whether she runs, the declaration will likely inject these issues into the leadership race.
Mr. Kenney said he hadn’t read the document in detail, though he argued that it is rooted in a very real sense of anger among Albertans.
“I think what the letter underscores is the depth of frustration,” he said at an unrelated news conference in Calgary.
“A lot of people are going to come to the table with a lot of different ideas and a lot of commentary. All of it underscores that the frustration of this province is deep and genuine.”
Many of the issues raised in the document echo Mr. Kenney’s complaints that Alberta has been treated unfairly, particularly by the current federal Liberal government that he says has punished the province’s resource industry. Many of his own demands, including changes to equalization and the repeal of environmental legislation such as C-69, are reflected in the Buffalo Declaration.
The document also calls for constitutional changes to overhaul the Senate, expanded free trade between provinces and the creation of a national energy corridor.
Mr. Kenney’s United Conservative Party government came to power last year on a campaign that tapped into anger within Alberta, whose economy has suffered under several years of low oil prices. Last fall, he struck a panel to examine a series of ideas designed to give the province more autonomy, such as by starting its own pension plan, creating a provincial police force and collecting its own taxes.
The Premier said the government would build on those themes when the provincial legislature resumes with a Throne Speech next week.
“Our government was elected on a mandate to fight for Alberta. That’s exactly what we’re doing,” he said.
In addition to Ms. Rempel Garner, the other MPs who signed the declaration are Blake Richards, Arnold Viersen and Glen Motz. Mr. Richards and Mr. Viersen declined to comment, Mr. Motz declined an interview request and instead issued a statement that said the ideas in the Buffalo Declaration should be taken seriously by anyone who wants to govern Canada.
Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley, who served one term as premier until last year’s election, accused the MPs pushing the Buffalo Declaration of stoking the flames of separation and said the document is “riddled with historic and factual inaccuracies.”
“It is a cynical, partisan appropriation of Alberta values to further a self-interested political agenda,” she said in a statement.
Candidates running for the Conservative leadership weren’t eager to engage with the ideas put forward in the declaration.
Erin O’Toole issued a statement that acknowledged real anger in Alberta, but otherwise did not comment on the document.
Peter MacKay’s campaign did not respond to an interview request and Marilyn Gladu declined to comment.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office declined to comment, as did Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who has taken a lead role in relations with Alberta, and Jim Carr, who was appointed as a special adviser on Western issues.
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