Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has appointed former Reform Party leader Preston Manning to a new panel which will consider a wholesale rewriting of the province’s relationship with Canada.
Mr. Kenney laid out a vision for an Alberta that is increasingly autonomous from the rest of Canada during a speech on Saturday in Red Deer, a move he said is needed due to increasing separatist sentiment and the re-election of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.
The Premier said a “Fair Deal” panel will now consider the establishment of a provincial revenue agency, withdrawing Alberta’s workers from the Canada Pension Plan and removing the RCMP in favour of a provincial police force. Alberta will even consider whether it should write its own constitution.
Along with Mr. Manning, the nine-member panel will include Stephen Lougheed, the son of Peter Lougheed, a long-serving conservative premier, and former conservative MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans.
The panel will submit a report to the provincial government by the end of March on whether to go-forward with the proposals.
Mr. Kenney suggested in his hour-long speech that Canada’s “Laurentian elites” in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa have abandoned Alberta.
The premier said the federal government under Mr. Trudeau has been “actively hostile” towards his province’s energy industry and he has seen fear in the eyes of Albertans. He said the resulting decline in the province’s oil and gas sector, compounded by Ottawa’s indifference to his province’s pain has lead to a spike in suicides. “This literally, for many people, is a life or death question,” he told a gathering of the Manning Centre, a Conservative think tank.
The province’s situation has only gotten worse since the federal election in late October, according to Mr. Kenney. “The election exacerbated those divisions and created a minority government that is potentially even more dangerous to the federation. Albertans know this and they want us to respond boldly and assertively with strength,” he said.
“Energy policy is Ottawa’s primary instrument for inflicting discriminatory economic pain on Alberta and this cannot be allowed to continue. As I said, the federal government has given up on a fair deal for Alberta,” Mr. Kenney added.
Rachel Notley, Alberta’s former premier and current opposition leader, denounced Mr. Kenney’s speech and said he was using “dangerous” rhetoric. “He is intentionally stoking the fires of western alienation in order to advance his own political objectives,” said Ms. Notley, who leads the province’s New Democrats.
In the weeks since the federal election, Mr. Kenney said some fellow Canadians have not shown enough support for the province or a growing movement concerned with western alienation.
Instead of showing sympathy for a provincial economy that has yet to recover from an economic slump in 2015 and 2016, Alberta’s Premier said some in the country were victim-blaming his province. As an example, he said Alberta was wise in deciding not to save its oil revenues over previous decades because that nest-egg would be raided by the rest of Canada and the federal government.
Some of Mr. Kenney’s proposals for Alberta would have an impact on other Canadians, the premier said. The creation of an Alberta Pension Plan would withdraw $40-billion from the CPP and would cause pension costs for workers in the rest of Canada to increase significantly.