The west is in. Now what?

Can the West shape the national agenda? A Maclean’s debate.

The west is in. Now what?The rise of Western Canada was the topic of a round table discussion last week in Calgary, broadcast live by CPAC. Joining Paul Wells and Andrew Coyne were Fort McMurray’s Mayor Melissa Blake, Alberta’s Minister of Culture Lindsay Blackett, Saskatchewan’s Environment Minister Nancy Heppner, Lloyd Axworthy, the University of Winnipeg’s president, and the Wildrose Alliance’s Rob Anderson. CPAC’s Peter Van Dusen moderated the event.

Coyne: How do we define the West beyond geography? Is there such a thing as a kind of western agenda, a western political culture?


Blackett: We have a spirit of collaboration amongst governments. We’ve had joint cabinet meetings with Alberta and Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. We have the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) with B.C. that we want to extend to Saskatchewan. Independently, we haven’t had a lot of clout, but when we band together—not just economically but politically, and with commonality on issues—we have a lot more success, and that’s not something the other provinces really have.

Anderson: People come here for the opportunities. It’s a great place for a fresh start, to accomplish something important. I think the culture is kind of based around that.

We are a self-reliant region and we need to quit looking out to the federal government, and other places, to solve our problems.

Coyne: And yet it’s a paradox, isn’t it? This region that votes so robustly Conservative federally is also the region that has consistently returned NDP governments provincially. What is it about the West’s political culture that it can vote for both of those types of parties—sometimes at the same time?

Axworthy: If you go back into the history, whether it’s Social Credit or the rise of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, they were both populist movements really fighting against eastern establishments.

One thing that is really affecting Western Canada, as much as the rest of country, is that what we are dealing with is now so much outside our borders, we’re somewhat vulnerable to external trade patterns, to climate-change issues, to issues of disease. We’re having to come to grips with issues that are not of our own making but we have to find our own solutions. That’s causing a lot of confusion in the political system right now because the old, conventional wisdoms don’t apply.

Coyne: But isn’t that one of the things that defines the West: it’s always been exposed to the elements, exposed to resource crises, it’s always had to adapt to change, and part of the culture of the West is a receptivity to change, one manifestation of which is it keeps throwing up these new parties. But there’s a willingness to experiment that perhaps the rest of Canada has not been as known for.

Blackett: That’s true, but in terms of commonalities, we’re not beholden to somebody else. And hard work is not a dirty word here, and that sense of entitlement is not as pervasive as it is back East.

Wells: The strains of any complex society have always been a little starker in the West, partly for geographic reasons. Harsher challenges, bigger distances, but also more opportunity, money just popping out of the ground. And there’s two reactions to that: “Leave me alone so I can make a stand on my own,” or “Let’s band together for protection.”

Anderson: There’s no doubt we have a wealth of resources in the West. Unfortunately, one of the things that has hurt us in the last few years is this idea that maybe we’re not as friendly as a province as we were once to do business in. We’ve got to get back to that spirit of entrepreneurship, that pro-business attitude that we had here in the West that you still see in Saskatchewan and that you even see in B.C.

Coyne: Lindsay, is he right that Alberta’s losing that sense of entrepreneurship and friendliness to business?

Blackett: Our premier stated last week that we want to be the most competitive region in the country to do business, not just in oil and gas. That means a lot of work reducing red tape and making sure we have the same low tax regime, that we’re attractive. Maybe that’s something that had slid over the last 10 to 15 years. But we’ve got to reinvent ourselves. I think we’re more than capable.

Coyne: Talking of reinvention, probably the most striking change in the West is what’s been happening in Saskatchewan, going from being a have-not to a have, going from a shrinking to a growing province. How is that changing Saskatchewan in terms of its sense of itself, in terms of its political culture?

Heppner: [Premier Brad Wall] is the biggest promoter of our province I have ever seen. We are pioneers and entrepreneurs and hard-working people and have always had a quiet pride in our province. I don’t think our pride is quite so quiet anymore, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. We stood up and realized we don’t have our hand out to Ottawa, we don’t have to yell and scream at Ottawa to get things done, we can stand on our own two feet. That goes hand in hand with the entrepreneurial spirit of the Saskatchewan Party.

WESTERN-BRED solutions are needed for oil sands problems

WESTERN-BRED solutions are needed for oil sands problems

Coyne: I’ve heard Saskatchewan and Alberta now are much more similar than they were.

Heppner: We have a lot of the same resources, same issues, same opportunities, same challenges. Out of the provinces, the greatest similarities are between Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Axworthy: We shouldn’t get too carried away that somehow there’s going to be this congeries of regional conglomerates who can do their own thing in their own way. There is the vision that somehow we can build up walls because we’ve got gas and oil and potash. Commodities are going to be increasingly in demand, but they also bring costs. There’s a lot more sense of self-sufficiency, pride and confidence, but can you convert that into a much stronger sense of how you shape a national agenda.

Van Dusen: How happy is the West seeing a lot of its hard-earned money going to auto plants in Ontario and Quebec?
Anderson: The West has always been pan-Canadian. Look at the contribution we make every year—between $10 and $20 billion. We do this because we care about the country. That’s why we haven’t put up very much of a fight or a stink. However, there has to be a recognition and fairness.

Van Dusen: So how understanding is the West of current economic policies you’re seeing from Ottawa?

Blackett: Last year, we gave $21.1 billion to Canada [in] net equalization payments, and $131 billion over the last 10 years. When times are tough, people start to ask tough questions: “What do we get back in return for that money?” In terms of health care transfers we get, I think, $545 per Albertan. Every other province gets $746. We are giving the most, but we’re getting the least.

Wells: Mayor Blake, every new diplomat that lands in Ottawa makes a beeline to Fort McMurray. And yet, during federal election campaigns there’s not a federal party that figures there’s any point wasting a campaign day in Fort McMurray because it’s a settled question. Do you sometimes feel a little ignored by the Canadian government?

Blake: I feel a lot ignored. When you get that kind of international attention, you would like to have more inclusion when it comes to the considerations. Contemplating all the discussion related to the environment, I’m quite concerned. What is this going to mean in terms of our community growth perspective, and long term? I don’t have an answer because we’re not well engaged.

Coyne: Supposing the Harper government decides it’s tired of taking a beating internationally, and there are votes to be had in Quebec and parts east by beating up on the oil sands? Does the West go, “We’re not in. We thought we got the government we wanted and it turns out they’ve been Ottawashed”?

Axworthy: Rather than falling back on, “It’s those damned bastards in Ottawa or Toronto who are at fault,” a lot of the responsibility rests on us to come up with solutions. Think tanks in the West have talked about the importance of a clean energy grid.

Blackett: Our premier decided to commit $2 billion to carbon sequestration because he wanted to be a leader—not just in Canada but the world.

Heppner: In our province, we have legislation that’s going to be passed this spring that will have a tech fund that large emitters can access to implement low-carbon technologies. We’re not sitting back waiting for the federal government to dictate. We’re moving ahead with real solutions.

Coyne: If the numbers are right, and the population continues to shift to the West, you’re going to see dozens of seats moving into the West, the balance of power fundamentally shifting in Parliament, and, at some point, it’s going to dawn on people: “Wait a minute, we’re not facing that big, bad Ottawa anymore, we’re running the place.” So what’s going to be the West’s agenda?


Anderson: What makes Canada so wonderful is that it has such diverse regions. There needs to be respect for that diversity. That means letting provinces, as much as possible, govern themselves, and taking, as a national government, the best ideas in health care, education, and trying to implement those as much as possible on a national stage.

Axworthy: I don’t think diversity is necessarily measured by provincial autonomy. I think boundaries are becoming increasingly irrelevant—the issues, the crises, the risks and the opportunities transcend boundaries. We have to learn how to act better as a country, and I would start with political reform. I think that’s where we’re weakest. There’s a lot of ways of changing Parliament, changing the way the executive works, and changing how we do relations between regions.

We should be, as westerners, because we’re closer to it, really putting an effort into how to deal with the fundamental changes going on in the Canadian North. The opening of water gives us new transportation and trade routes, if we’re smart about it. On the other side, the impact upon the people and the animals and the flora of the North is becoming tragic. Those are, to me, our national issues: we can’t do them from Alberta, or from Manitoba, or from P.E.I. They’ve got to be done in a collective, collaborative, co-operative way.

Coyne: Senate reform has been a traditional hot-button issue in the West. But if the West becomes more powerful in the House, does the impetus for Senate reform lessen?

Blackett: If we have a bigger say in decision-making on a national perspective, if we feel that we have a seat at that table–which we don’t feel now—I think the overwhelming desire will lessen somewhat.

Coyne: In a strange way, the upside of being out of power for the West was that it never got into the trap of taking all the government largesse. As you start to have more control over the levers of power, is there going to be a temptation for the West to fall into the same traps and start directing the lolly to its own direction and corrupting itself?

Blackett: There’s always a danger in that, but I think what the West has going for it and what we could contribute, if you’re looking forward 20 or 30 years, is that ability to use innovation and technology.
Coyne: Nancy, having been on both sides of this divide [Heppner was formerly a staffer with the federal Tories], how do you keep them focused on a western agenda and western interests, when they seem to be changing quite a bit once they get into power?

Heppner: I would hope that we don’t change our attitude. When you look at provinces like Saskatchewan and Alberta, if the price of oil goes down there’s no bailout for us. The provincial coffers suffer—nobody is stepping up to help us out. We’re not used to having things like that in our province. I think there would be a resistance for the largesse. I think what we would expect is not entitlement, but fair share.

Coyne: Melissa, what’s your perspective from a municipal level of government?

Blake: We’re in such a predicament in terms of our financial sustainability we would take assistance from anybody willing to give it to us. That said, I think my ties are much more strong with the province than they ever would be with the federal government. I would welcome anything that I could get, and so it counters what you’re hearing as probably a more provincial perspective, which would be where may heart would lie, it’s just not what my reality is in my community.

Wells: So you’re not clamouring for governments to get out of your way. You think that other levels of government are altogether too much out of your way already.

Blake: I feel neglected, yeah.

Anderson: We have this vision that in order to have a unified country, we have to have a centralized government that appeals to everyone, to every region. And so you get this kind of bland policy, and frankly the needs aren’t often met. One of the big challenges moving forward is decentralizing, getting the money, getting the resources from the bureaucracy down to the ground to the people that need it, so that includes decentralizing to the provinces and decentralizing from the provinces to the communities as much as possible.

Axworthy: If you give up on national standards then you are going to have uneven standards. But why not move the headquarters of Indian Affairs to Regina or Winnipeg or Calgary? Have more governance here so that it’s reflective. Having spent a lot of years in Ottawa as a westerner, there is an entitlement, too often, to have all those institutions in one area. That’s part of the government reform that has to take place.

The west is in. Now what?

  1. Thanks for putting these on. This was interesting, but it really seemed like the there was a defiinite lack of an answer to the "now what?" question; it actually seemed like half of the people on the stage were not really willing to even try answering.

  2. It's important to note that the current Senate debate could play a role in the amount of voice the West will have in Canada in the future.

    If the Senate becomes elected or partially elected (and therefore more powerful & accountable) under its current composition than the West, particularly BC and Alberta, will have their national voice lessened considerably. That's because BC and Alberta have 25% of the population today, but their representation in the Senate was designed over a century ago when it had closer to 10%.

    That hardly matters in a powerless Senate, but what if that body became powerful all of a sudden?

    It would be folly of any politician to entrench that kind of substantial inquiry, but if it happened – and its starting to look increasingly likely – than the West could run into a lot of trouble when we try to play any sort of significant role in the future of the country, as we could be marginalized completely in any important debate.

  3. I watched with great intrigue as a Manitoban from the "west" but was dismayed by how unwest Manitoba is in the grand scheme of things. There was plenty of talk about inter province trade and employment but this was entirely between BC AB and SK,. Even on the topic of energy, which manitoba is swimming in, it was completely left out. Maybe dismayed wasn't entirely the correct word as the more I heard the right wing rhetoric of the panelists, except Axworthy who was mostly napping, the more I was happy to be left out. Honestly Alberta needs to remember that it hasn't always been a "have" province. One day the boom will bust.

    • the day you speak of happened some time ago, it was called NEP. Oh and thanks for invoking the scary "right wing" rhetoric. that always makes us westerners step back and rethink things. Manitobans are welcome in the west join us in TILMA, the more the merrier.

      • "…that always makes us westerners step back and rethink things"

        Lord how arrogant conbots can seem, you'd think there was nothing but wall to wal cons out west.

        • the arrogance is yours, funny how the first thing out your mouth is an ad hominem. .

      • Did the Liberals manage to depress global oil prices?

        Those freezing bastards!

  4. The West is in? Really? We have a Prime Minister who's government is in contempt of Parliament, disruptive of any meaningful committee work and locks the doors of parliament to avoid accountability. Sure hope the West is proud to be "in"….

  5. I agree with Iccyh that some of the panelists didn't exactly provide substantive answers to questions like "where do we go from here?"

    Still, it was two hours well spent. I was in the audience, and my only regrets are that I didn't ask a question or stick around after the show to say "hi" to Messrs. Coyne and Wells.

    • I was there too and it was all the same stuff that we already know!

  6. I wonder what it's like living with a perpetual chip on your shoulder? So many westerners always seem to remember only the slights, real or imagined, that they have received from the east. Funny they never choose to remember how, when a drought devastated western crops a few years ago, easterners didn't hesitate to load up trucks and trains with hay and animal feed to support western farmers. Or how, when the BSE crisis threatened to destroy Alberta's vital cattle industry, esterners charged to the barricades and the grocery aisles to defend them, and cars from Windsor to Halifax were plastered with "I love Alberta beef" bumper stickers. And I remember how it was eastern Members of Parliament – hated Liberals and NDP – who tried to launch an investigation into profiteering by the big agri-corporations during the BSE crisis, only to be blocked by western Conservatives.

    I guess some people just don't like inconvenient facts to get in the way of a really good grudge.

    • I watched the debate, I don't remember any substantial part of the conversation expressing a grudge against the East. There was some talk about transfer payments historically, as well as, typical rah rah rah for us that politicians reflexively use, but it was far from some sort of grudge-fest.

      Having said that I wasn't very impressed at all by the conversation.

      • It's always part of the subtext, if you listen carefully.

    • As someone born in Saskatoon and left their when i was 13, now living in Phila ( the eagles suck, but i love them), u have to remember that in Canada, we can change our governance much faster (due to the parlimentary system) and with this u should rejoice. When the majority says gov isn't working, in Can it can be changed, here in the states, it takes much longer, and the reps seem to go on forever. I believe Canada will do well, it is now, and that some of the power is changing to the west is a suprise, and i hope that Canadians from ALL provinces can overcome the geographical and political challenges and be very proud of what we have. As an expat, I sometimes wonder why a country as great as Canada has so many problems, but we have so many less than so many others.

    • from Garrett in Phila, u guys have a great country, why can't u get your stuff togther? Why can't u stand as Canadians (I'm an expat and proud) rather than regional (with the exception of QUE) (and if they want to be CAD too). We have one of the best countries in the world, what is the major defect in thinking?

  7. "And hard work is not a dirty word here, and that sense of entitlement is not as pervasive as it is back East."

    What a shame I missed fresh and brilliant insight such as this.

    • I cringed when he said that.

  8. I was able to watch the last hour, and based on what I saw and what others told me, not a lot was really developed with regards to how the west would adjust to leading the country as the nation's centre of gravity shifts from the east.

    BC should definitely be in this conversation, either as a stand alone discussion, or as part of the BC/AB/SK amigos.
    It would have been nice to get responses from Alberta and Saskatchewan about Quebec's views on the oil and gas industry. Also, I wished there was some more discussion on the future of R&D in the west as the royalty revenues deplete. Alberta and BC are making huge investments, but little has been said about the Alberta Research Council and the work it has done. I think Blackett mentioned something about it, but more time should have dedicated to it, IMHO.

  9. Local politicians speaking to a local crowd, there was a fair bit of that. I was in the audience and I was about as impressed as you were.

  10. Actually, I do have one question for Mr. Coyne and Mr. Wells:

    Peter Van Dusen said that there were a lot of young people in the crowd. Before the show started, I tried to look and see what the crowd looked like, but from where I was sitting I was left with the impression that it was quite a lot older than the crowd in Toronto. Which was it?

    Thanks.

    • This will sound lame and public-relations-y, but here goes: I've really been pleased with the mix of attendees at all three events so far. In Calgary I'd warrant there were easily 20 people under 30, and that a third of the crowd at least was under 50. Don't recall how that compares to Toronto, but I'll take it.

      • Yes, it was quite a few younger fellows there, which is nice to see !

  11. And another miss for Manitoba….

  12. I wasn't that impressed with the conversation at all. I liked the idea of the forum, but the individuals present didn't really present, explain, or otherwise put forth much of value.

    Much like question period, I am often underwhelmed by the display of intellectual capacity and rhetorical skills by Canadian politicians.

  13. Hey, you guys have Guy Maddin. Stop complaining.

  14. Now what stands out that has come from West?

    East Coasters are defeatist people and

    Let them frezze

    • Don't forget Newfoundlanders with real jobs, and equalization payments for $7 a day childcare in Quebec.

  15. My Senate reform seat distribution: Based on square roots of population, Total = 2 x 50 = 100

    * Newfoundland and Labrador 4
    * Prince Edward Island 4
    * Nova Scotia 6
    * New Brunswick 6
    * Quebec 16
    * Ontario 20
    * Manitoba 8
    * Saskatchewan 6
    * Alberta 12
    * British Columbia 12
    * Yukon 2
    * Northwest Territories 2
    * Nunavut 2

    * Total 100

    More info: House of Commons and Senate reform (My proposal)
    http://skinnydips.blogspot.com/2009/08/my-repost-

    Note: BC and Alberta would have 24 percent of the Senate seats under my proposal

    • I think it is great that you have put so much work into this, however it ignores that the senate is designed to provide REGIONAL representation, rather than provincial representation or even rep by pop. It also is hard to imagine how some of these areas would agree to such large declines in their representation. A balance must be struck between history and the future.

      • Thanks for the reply. I will agree that the Senate should not provide direct rep. by population. We could have a pure Triple-E Senate. I am dubious about having apportioning Senate seats by region only because Canadians cannot agree what constitutes a region. Is BC a part of the western region? Is Alberta big enough to be a region of its own? My formula that I proposed doesn't define groups of provinces as regions; it does flatten the disparities between provincial/territorial representation by population.

        Unfortunately, Senate seat distribution would be a zero-sum game where one province will gain a percentage of seats at the expense of another.

        As you may notice, another thing I proposed was requiring a super majority in the House of Commons to avoid a Senate vote. This super majority would include a majority of the voting members representing a majority of the provinces in favour over those opposed, and representing a majority of the "National Communities" as defined as RoC and Quebec. If not, then the Senate would be required to vote on a bill with a simple majority approval required. This would ensure that the Senate could not paralyze Parliament if a super majority in the H of C approves a bill.

        If both houses of parliament has its members elected by some form of proportional representation–even at different times,–there would likely be some form of formal or informal coalition government which could representation in both houses. One house could not paralyze the other. [Lots of forms]

        If we still use the current but antiquated First-Past-the-Post voting system to elect members, there may be some paralysis. However, as much as some people (including I) may not care about Harper and his minority government, parliament has functioned in the past three to four years. Bills have passed.

  16. Most of this strikes me as self-congratulatory claptrap – the great hard-working can-do-spirited West contrasted against the entitled, lazy East. There are no ideas of substance here, apart from some right-wing rhetoric and mention of historical resentments.

  17. Its incredible to learn how much the west has risen

  18. I'm 32. Literally as long as I can remember, the West has been "up and coming," "can-do," "the new powerhouse," etc. I have taken that for granted literally my entire adult life. Question: has anything changed in the last five years? Anything? Why is this news? How long do Westerners have to be clapped on the back, by themselves or Easterners or both simultaneously, before they stop congratulating themselves on yesterday's news and get on with the future?

  19. In the real world, Westerners aren't preoccupied with clapping themselves on the back, or asking others to clap them on the back.

    The problem here is that you see the West almost solely through the lens of national media coverage, which tends to fall back on the usual boring clichés that irritate you so much.

    • So, what has this group brought to the table that we didn't already know? I could have had the same conversation at the Barley Mill 10 yrs ago and still not been left with a different impression – very provincial and inward looking. Same tired platitudes about themselves. zzzzz

      • Very little was brought to the table that I didn't already know, but then again, I'm steeped in the stuff. I would have liked to see a contrarian on the panel (or at the very least, a leftie) just to stir things up a bit.

        • There was a lot of chaff edited out in this transcript, so this is the wheat we are left with. Ken Boessenkool's Canada West Foundation charts, and the spin he put on them was painful to watch. Combined with the other three shown in the picture ( give the Fort Mac mayor a free pass) there was diddly squat diversity of opinion. A former aide to Jim Prentice, now Environment Minister in sask, and guess what – a great defender of the oil sands. Shocking! Some Minister in the Gov't defending his gov't. Anderson as the sit in for Smith with the predictable script. Nobody able to answer a question from the audience. It could easily have passed for a boring debate in the Alberta Legislature.

          • It could easily have passed for a boring debate in the Alberta Legislature.

            I counted at least six Progressive Conservative MLAs in the audience. The chap sitting in front of me spent a lot of time thumbing snarky comments about Rob Anderson into his Blackberry – he was communicating with a buddy of his sitting somewhere else in the theatre. Both were probably staffers.

          • Have you met any of the people on stage before? I bet you have.

          • Only Lindsay Blackett. I knew him before he ever became a politician, through the Calgary Downtown chapter of the Progress Club. They host a lot of charity events. A close friend of mine was president one year, and he was succeeded by Lindsay. It was Lindsay's first elected office. He was an ambitious guy and to his credit, he did a good job. Currently, he's my MLA and I run into him on a semi-regular basis. His constituency office is quite close to my house.

          • Not first elected office. You can tell from the manner in how he speaks – he says nothing. Why earlier in another blog weeks ago I suggested the invitee list appeared to be from Wells' s Ottawa rollodex. Only Anderson doesn't qualify – and he was a sub. From wiki for Blackett:

            Blackett has been involved in politics in varying capacities for many years. He has held the positions of Provincial Progressive Conservative Constituency Association Director for Calgary-West and Calgary-North West, President and Vice-President of the Ottawa-Centre Federal Progressive Conservative Association, President of the Ottawa-Centre Federal Progressive Conservative Youth Association, Youth Convention Coordinator for the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada's 1986 Annual General Meeting, and Special Assistant in the Prime Minister of Canada's Office.

    • Good point, but it seems to be a conspiracy between the national media and Western politicians themselves to produce this uninspiring narrative. I say that as a true friend of the West. The West needs a raison d'être beyond making good. Well, the country needs a raison d'être, and the West essentially has a chance to dictate what it is. But to do that it will need — it certainly deserves — political leadership about fifteen times better than what we see here.

      • It always amazes me that Alberta has to make do with such mediocre political leaders. Many Albertans pine for the days of Lougheed.

        • I do…ahem, not that i'm an Albertan anymore. To be fair to AB, BC [ ive lived here for over a decade] hardly fairs any better. Gord at least looks outside of BC…and i'm not really a fan…too slippery.

      • Please, no raison d'etre.

        That is what defines the west. No raison d'etre.

        Derek

        • I doubt you speak for the West in toto, but, regardless, I can tell you that if that's the case then neither I nor anyone else outside the West will ever care about the West and panels like this are a complete waste of time.

  20. The most embarrassing moment was when the Alberta Liberal leader tried to badger some of the PC politicians on the panel. Classless, amateur and tone-deaf. No wonder they have to invent a new party to get rid of the PCs.

    • David Swann is so marginalized and ignored that he's forced to resort to amateur stunts. The Alberta Liberals are a hopeless case and the sooner they morph into a credible progressive alternative, the better. The fist step is to drop the word "Liberal", which is the kiss of death in most Alberta ridings.

      • No invite for he at Manning's gabfest starting tomorrow, or for that matter, anyone not PC or Wildrose. Maybe the Macleans "debate" was a microcosm.

        Private organizations such as the Manning Centre for Building Democracy can obviously do whatever they want within the limits of the law in this free society. But here's an unsolicited suggestion for its founder and namesake. Given the decision to focus only on the PC and Wildrose Alliance parties at its upcoming "Conference on Alberta's Future" to be held here Feb. 5-6, perhaps a name change might be order.

        In such circumstances, the Manning Centre for Building Conservatism seems like a more honest moniker.

        Given that pointed word "conservative" however, it's certainly reasonable to assume that New Democrats or, say, the federation of labour wouldn't be invited, and in a twist of an old Groucho Marx one-liner, would never join such a club anyway. But there are certainly Greens and Alberta Liberals who might well qualify as being on the centre right and indeed, capable of making contributions to any serious discussion on policy matters.

        Let's not forget that the last time another party was challenging a tired Alberta PC government with a policy challenge on the (fiscal) right, it was the Liberals led by Laurence Decore, who used to walk around with a digital clock that measured the provincial deficit minute by minute.

        http://www.edmontonjournal.com/opinion/editorials

        • Well, frankly, those are the only two parties that have a snowball's chance in hell of governing "Alberta's Future". The sad reality is that it doesn't matter too much what the Alberta Liberals have to say, so nobody really cares. Also, the Alberta Liberals haven't exactly been blessed with credible leadership post-Decore.

          • Perhaps that's why there was only in the 40's turnout in the last general election. Closed shop – and where does all the money supporting the parties come from? I can imagine.

          • Indeed.

  21. I thought he made a good point about the only non conservative invited was Axworthy. I'm sure if he had been invited, he would have accepted a spot on the stage. Might have actually been interesting.

  22. Ha! I had no idea that he was so deeply embedded with the federal Progressive Conservatives in his youth. That would explain a lot.

  23. Of the three "In Conversation With Macleans", that was by far the worst.

  24. I've only read these transcripts [so far] but was there some air between Axworthy and Anderson, or what?

  25. Maybe a Quebec nationalist? That'd have been fun, I suspect.

    • I would have been delighted if a Quebec nationalist was on the panel.

  26. The now what answer is simple – stay the heck out of our way! For example, no national programs that really just focus on Ontario and Quebec.

      • Charlie Brown said it best: "AAUGH!"

        • Are you planning to attend?

          • Hell no.

          • Lol, not even with Shania, and I sure hope is not full of wildrose supporters, I will be dissapointed!!

          • It seems that Shania is wearing something that Sara might have shot.

  27. When I read the responses from the writers here, I come to the conclusion that the real problem in Canada is that there seems to only be petty jealousy from those that live in Eastern Canada and a pious belief in the idea of sharing (unless of course the West falls on some hard times in which case its what we deserve) Those from the Maritimes, Ontario and Quebec seem put out by any success that has been accomplished, and are it seems quite willing to justify the financial tax imbalance and funneling of money from Western Canada to other parts of Canada The politicians talk about national unity as if it is mandatory to protect the status quo, that since we were once not subsidizing the machine in Ottawa that now with our relative success we should be happy to pay for, say a Quebec child care program that we do not have ourselves, or any number of similar inequities. Or to listen on the news, how Charest (with his slightly tarnished halo) believes that Canada needs a cap and trade system so they can receive carbon credits from the oil sands, as if somehow that will make the damage being done to the environment OK. May be he can build a few more hydro electric dams with Alberta's money so he can claim even more carbon credits.

    I say forget about an elected Senate, forget about "The West wanting In", forget about our "western" prime minister groveling at the feet of the Toronto elite as he sells out the energy income trusts while creating an exemption for REITs.
    It is really time to think about where our loyalties should be, which is to our own well being and our own environmental concerns.
    I think that Alberta is in a situation where they have adopted a policy of super development of the oil sands so they can keep up a decent living standard after sending large amounts of money to their Eastern masters, (they after all would only need a much smaller more sustainable industry to address their own financial needs). A staple in law enforcement has always been "follow the money" when looking for the culprits
    I say instead of the slogan being "The West Wants In", lets replace that with "The West Wants Out"

    • I remember hearing that the way transfer payments work is that we pay taxes, then the government gives to the provinces. The reason we "give" to the east is because we don't need money to ensure that services continue like some provinces do, due in good part to oil and gas. I don't have any real problem with this, especially since we've been running surpluses anyway for a good number of years previous to this, and because the provincial government has shown they'd find a way to spend the money anyway (did you see the per capita provincial spending numbers from this?).

      If you think our loyalties should be to our own well being and our own environmental issues, it isn't like it's the rest of the country holding us back from addressing those, it's our own visionless provincial government which has been on cruise-control for a good number of years now. They're the ones who aren't addressing local environmental issues, like the huge water issues we're having province-wide, they're the ones who are spending away the oil/gas royalties and the little we managed to save in the past, they're the ones who out of fear refused to step in and cool off the development of the oil sands even when it was super-hot and costs were soaring (and look what Melissa Blake says in this very transcript).

      Its fun to rant about the east, I'm sure, but it's about as insightful and useful as the very things you complain about from easterners.

  28. For far too long Canadian governance has been dominated by Quebec & Ontario. There is nothing wrong with other parts of this great nation having some input.

    For some reason Ontario & Quebec think that Canada is "their" country, and the rest of us are here either to supply them with raw materials, or sponge off of them with transfer payments.

    To date, we've never had a PM born west of Ontario.

  29. There are more insane people than sane people imo.

  30. I can't even keep track of whats going on in this world anymore. All I know is everything is out of control

  31. The west is the best I mean come on, however, there is a lot we can learn from other countries. We just must think before we act really…

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