Will the West revolt? - Macleans.ca

Will the West revolt?

With all this talk of a coalition in Ottawa, what’s a westerner to do?


Talk about an Alberta nightmare: Ottawa run by a Quebec Liberal with the support of the commies and the separatists. It has certainly got Western Canada all riled up. But what if this three-headed coalition actually gets control of the House? What if a Prime Minister from Alberta, whose Conservative party received 72 of Western Canada’s 92 seats in the recent election gets dumped—at a time when Alberta-B.C.’s economic strength is phenomenally strong and central Canada enters its grim decline? Will the West revolt?

Perhaps. Especially since the mere threat has sparked mass outrage in Alberta and B.C., where political and business leaders warn that it could trigger a whole new wave of discontent. “It’s not Liberals versus Conservatives, or left versus right: They’ve snookered an elected government from Western Canada, with the interests of Western Canada at heart,” says Barry Cooper, a political scientist at the University of Calgary. “This is a fight between central Canada and us.” From Calgary, it “looks like Ottawa and Quebec just want to screw the West—period,” he says. “The only thing these three clowns have in common is that they’re all from the St. Lawrence Valley.”

Last month, the Liberals were reduced to a single MP in Manitoba, a single MP in Saskatchewan and five in B.C., where they held 9 seats prior to the call. Their lack of depth means that the East Vancouver leftist stalwart, Libby Davies is—seriously—up for consideration for senior federal cabinet minister for B.C. That, in itself, is enough to make Vancouver Liberals squirm. Alberta would replace five Conservative cabinet ministers with the only non-Tory member in the entire province, new NDP MP Linda Duncan, who says no new oil sands projects should be approved until Ottawa develops full environmental and health effects policies.

According to a national poll released today by Angus Reid, support for maintaining the Conservative Party over the Liberal-NDP coalition is highest in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. It also showed that distrust of the Bloc Québécois’s role in the federal government is highest in the West, with the largest majorities in Alberta (82 per cent), Manitoba-Saskatchewan (74 per cent) and B.C. (66 per cent).

So what’s a westerner to do? “Take a firm stance against the coming, NDP-led raid on the provincial economy,” says Cooper, who told Maclean’s that he was inundated with calls and emails yesterday from Alberta separatists who see this as a “golden opportunity” to advance the cause. “Tell your premier he cannot cooperate.” On that front, Manitoba’s NDP premier Gary Doer is keeping mum. Alberta premier Ed Stelmach wants the Tories to adjourn until the new year, to allow government the chance to bring forward a budget. So does B.C. premier Gordon Campbell, who believes a coalition government is a risky leap of faith, that, if it fails, will make Canada’s economic crisis significantly worse. And Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall is focusing his criticism on the Liberal and NDP leaders for signing an accord supported by the Bloc.

For the West—which takes a relatively dim view of an auto-sector bailout—the stakes are high. Unreasonably tough emissions laws, higher equalization payments, carbon taxes, federal development taxes, NEP II—all this and more may lie ahead, says Cooper, who adds that both Layton and Dion threaten the oil sands, at present, the country’s main economic driver. “When there’s money piled up, people are less cantakerous,” says Paul Thomas, a political scientist at the University of Manitoba. “But regional grievances are amplified by economic hard times.” And there are nothing but dark days ahead.


Will the West revolt?

  1. Conservative voters anger should be directed at HARPER and the NEED for him to resign IMMEDIATELY to spare the country further damage.

    In case you haven’t been paying attention A WESTENER DID THIS TO THE COUNTRY!!! The rest of us should be mad at you!!!

  2. Harper made a mistake when he made this vote a confidence vote. Harper made a mistake when he tried to ram through a clearly partisan economic update. Harper made a gross mistake when he played out the “Unity” card.

    Harper needs to be replaced, I am surprised there does not seem to be a revolt in his own party, how many elections does it take before the Conservative sees that this one man show cannot win them a majority.

  3. The Conservatives are setting themselves up for another 10 years in the wilderness, and the country up for another Quebec referendum.

    Harper has gone from arguably above-average to perhaps the worst Prime Minister Canada has ever had in the space of three days. Incredible.

  4. Boy, if the coalition isn’t careful, Alberta might elect a whole bunch of Conservative MPs!

    As ever, a province upset with its place in Canada may hold a referendum on a clear question, and in the face of a very successful result may enter into good-faith negotiations with the federal government and other provinces to re-negotiate its role. The price is likely to be steep.

  5. The way I see it, the West hates us anyway, why should we care if they hate us a little more?

  6. Do Albertans really want to embrace dead-man-walking Harper as a martyr???

    If I was Albertan I’d be mortified that one of my compatriots was so petty and irresponsible, to risk the country’s future to score cheap political points, lose DISASTEROUSLY, and then double-down on national unity!?!

    Is there some collective/institutional memory in Alberta that turns every post-NEP Albertan leader into Peter Lougheed? Harper is a disgrace to that legacy, as was King Ralph.

    So please, Conservatives generally and Albertans especially, cut the tribalism and open your eyes to what’s happening here. Out country is being thrown into unprecedented political uncertainty in a time of unprecedented global uncertainty because ONE MAN WON’T TENDER HIS RESIGNATION. IT’S THAT SIMPLE!!!

  7. And so what you’re stating stewacide, is that this is nothing but a blame game? Let me clear some things up for YOU.

    While I agree those who voted conservative, should hold Steven Harper accountable for any issue he has not addressed, you must also remember it has only been 7 WEEKS since the election, in my opinion not exactly enough of a chance to prove he is going to make a difference. I find it funny that he has apparently lost the confidence of the House, but still manages to have the confidence of a lot of Canadians. If we do TRULY believe in power to the people, why then is the people’s vote suddenly re-examined, nullified even?

    And I have been paying attention, this WESTERNER you speak of has proved he is capable of keeping his word. We have seen our taxes lowered, we have seen proposals for healthcare. To say he doesn’t care about jobs is absurd. In case people FORGOT this is a GLOBAL economic crisis, not just in Canada, and we are not losing jobs because Steven Harper got elected, we are losing jobs because of a failing GLOBAL economy. As for the statement “you” should be mad at “us”, I’m curious what “side” “you” are on? Maybe we should stop the grade school antics of “well we should blame you” and focus on the fact that people who voted for who they wanted as Prime Minister are sitting here wondering why thier votes suddenly don’t matter, why THEIR choice is the “wrong” choice, why people are so quick to fall for any proposition simply because who they voted for didn’t win. There is NO favoritism on “Our” side, this WESTERNER has worked for the people of CANADA, not just for Western Canada. People feel they should be worried about Harper because he is from Western Canada? Yet western Canada has no right to be concerned about a government that includes a separatist party? Do you not see the double standards there?

    As far as I see it Steven Harper has kept us going quite well, and no matter who is in charge some party, some group of people, somewhere will always have a reason why someone else should be in charge. And that my fellow CANADIANS, is why we VOTE. And so although this coalition is completely legal, I ask you this Canada, why do we hold votes when they can be completely disregarded like this, why even spend the money on a vote during this economic crisis when they are simply being looked and at and thrown out because some people don’t like the outcome?

    My last statement is this. We should all be BANDING together in this time of economic trouble not acting like children in cliques, separating our sides saying “you’re to blame”. I must be misinformed of what CANADA is, because I had the silly notion we were all one country, NOT Eastern Canada or Western Canada!

  8. Harper is no longer tenable as Prime Minister because he set out, as his first act after the election, to DESTROY the opposition parties by removing their funding. This in a Parliament WHERE THE OPPOSITION CAN COMMAND THE MAJORITY. Not only was this crisis completely unnecessary, but completely predictable.

    I personally DON’T WANT a crazy $30 billion ‘stimulus package’, which is why my priority is KEEPING THE COALITION OUT OF POWER. I couldn’t care less who’s the Prime Minister, I care about policy, and Harper is no longer capable – simply by virtue of being Stephen Harper – of furthering a policy agenda in the House.

  9. I am one Westerner who will revolt.

    There are many ways to make trouble for our betters in Ottawa.

    I am sure I am not alone.

  10. Andrew> Well, the reason why you should care is that western Canada could someday be a potential source of seats if you cultivate them.

    If you think that you can get along without the seats in western Canada always and forever, then I suppose you can screw us as much as you want.


  12. I’m from Calgary. I’m revolting against Harper.

  13. Alberta will continue to vote for the Alberta Party until the oil is gone and long after everyone forgets what NEP stands for.

  14. Oh, and Terry, I’m speaking as an Ontarian from the GTA. Albertans loath us in a way that goes beyond redemption or rationality. When we are ‘the Great Satan’, I don’t see how being perceived as a bit more evil really matters.

  15. Lookit, a coalition of three parties will have plenty of folks they must appease. The NDP is beholden to unions. the Bloc to Quebec and the Liberals, as a party with ambitions of winning election, southern Ontario.

    Alberta, Saskatchewan and yes Newfoundland, are the geese that lay golden eggs these days – and both are ripe for the milking. The coalition will never win seats in the first two, and is unlikely to lose them in the third (they can always buy off Newfoundland with something like the Atlantic Accord anyway).

    A massive redistribution of wealth from the west to the rest is good politics, and is the only way to blunt the effects of the recession effectively, that the coalition can potentially agree on. Moreover, they have a great pretext: the environment.

    It probably won’t be a carbon tax, but it will be something similar. It will come at the same time as declining oil prices too, so Albertans, lets all hope you saved up during the fat years, because lean times are coming.

  16. Indeed. I almost wish the Conservatives, if not Harper, hold on to government, if only for Alberta to suffer a terrible recession induced by collapsing energy prices, and not have a Liberal to blame it on, but rather their guy in the PMO and the party they unquestioningly cast their ballots for in absurd landslides.

  17. As a Western Canadian, I feel more threatened by Alberta than I do by Quebec.
    Tar sands and Reformists.

  18. Sentence of the year from hoser’s post:

    “Alberta, Saskatchewan and yes Newfoundland, are the geese that lay golden eggs these days – and both are ripe for the milking.”

  19. Ok, so Harper hasn’t been the dream PM we wanted. But we’re in better shape than the rest of the G8, and the government has had something to do with that.

    The election spoke, anything short of a conservative minority would be undemocratic.

    Sucks when you’re on the receiving end huh Ontario.

  20. Andrew> Huh… funny. I thought it was only Harper that was referred to literally as a devil on these message boards today. Some chap calling himself Michael said so in reference to Harper making a televised address.

    I think the big problem is that people from the GTA such as yourself don’t want to admit that there was anything that was done wrong to people in Alberta and the rest of the west. They don’t want to make the effort to try and represent outside Ontario and various other urban centers. We never saw Liberal leaders and cabinet ministers out here between elections, nor do we see any platforms and assurances from the Liberal party that they will protect us from vested Ontario corporate interests.

    The best way to reduce support for the Conservative Party in Canada is probably to let it govern. Ontario and Quebec always have to be bought off to get them to vote Conservative, which usually pisses off the rest of us. Economic mismanagement is also a good way to alienate western supporters.

    But there are various interests in Alberta, and people of many ethnicities, priorities, economic concerns, environmental concerns, and agricultural concerns. The fact that neither the Liberals or the NDP can’t summon up support and disrupt the coalition of those interests in Alberta is not the fault of the Albertans. It is because Liberals don’t think Alberta is worth the time, doesn’t spend money there, and doesn’t come up with policies that will appeal to some of those western Canadian interests.

  21. I think the NEP was probably ill advised and that Trudeau was hopelessly arrogant (like Harper but with class). I think the recession in Alberta around that time was mainly caused by depressed world energy prices and that the NEP made it slightly worse. The NEP is built up to be this policy that destroyed world oil prices or something–and that it was the fault of us ‘Eastern bastards who should freeze in the dark’.

    If you disagree with my assessment of Albertan attitudes toward Toronto/Ontario, I’d be curious to know what you base that opinion on.

    I’m also curious as to how Alberta feels about getting higher per capita transfers than Ontario from the federal government for many purposes, such as job training, immigrant settlement, etc.

  22. I find it endlessly ironic that Alberta has FAR AND AWAY the most stateist economy (with resources) and highest per-capita public expenditure of all the provinces. How free-market fiscal-prudence ever became part of the Alberta identity / mythology I’ll never know; Ontario in fact has by far the lowest spending and most open economy.

    As an Ontario who wasn’t even born yet, I think the NEP was terrible policy, but having studied the situation in school it didn’t have any effect on the following down-turn in the oil patch (which was due to a price crash). In fact, what’s often forgotten in Alberta is that the industry only got started because of long-term federally mandated price supports (Ontario bought oil from Alberta above world market prices for decades before it became economical), and Canadian ownership requirements created the Canadian oil services industry (based in Alberta) that probably wouldn’t be there otherwise.

  23. The NEP was designed to give advantages to Ontario, without proper compensation to Alberta. You can’t take the boots to the economy of one part of the country in favour of the other and not expect some ill feelings.

    But see, right there in your post you’re already noted a few things were Ontario and Alberta could have common cause. Albertans know that Ontario isn’t the real bloodsucker of Canada… Quebec is. You also have King Ralph speaking in favour of the Atlantic Accord. You also have the fact that Alberta wasn’t the least bit pleased about about the way the “fiscal imbalance” was balanced. There are all sorts of issues where Liberal Ontario and Alberta could find common cause, and they could be pried away from Tory control. Heck, the Liberal Party is used to being the party of big corporations, so it isn’t like they couldn’t include energy concerns as part of their roster. Dion and the carbon tax wasn’t the way to appeal to Alberta, nor is it helpful to attack representatives and voters for reasons that involve their geographical origin if you actually want to court their vote.

    As for Trudeau, I will certainly say that they have some similarities. I’ll dispute that Trudeau had even an ounce of class.

  24. With all this talk of a coalition in Ottawa, what’s a westerner to do?

    I don’t know….start doing some decent journalism?

  25. I’ll quibble with your claim that Albertans don’t see Toronto/Ontario (largely indistinguishable from that distance, I guess) as ‘stealing’ from them. I have heard so much harping about how the banks, media, manufacturing etc. ‘steal’ money from the rest of Canada, unlike the oil patch that has to work for what they have. The streets here are paved with gold using other people’s money. And that Ontario had the temerity to have so many god-damned seats that it usually has a large role in electing governments. I think most people around here are used to the idea of being hated, and that spawns a lot of the indifference that other regions find so infuriating.

    Take away Quebec from this national dynamic and you have an Ontario that represents the majority of the population of Canada and a majority of the House of Commons. I can only imagine the cries of injustice.

  26. Andrew> Well, Alberta and Saskatchewan were divided up at their creation to keep them from being a threat to the legislative dominance of Ontario and Quebec. So yeah, those two provinces have used their legislative dominance to ensure their own interests at the expense of the western provinces ever since.

  27. ‘Legislative dominance’ is driven by population. How does splitting the two provinces affect their population?

  28. I find it hilarious that the main argument the Western Tories are putting forward is:

    Secessionism is evil! Can’t make deals with secessionists!

    And their threat if they lose is:

    We’ll secede! Nyanyahnyah!

  29. Dividing the provinces ensured that the resources and populations would be divided between two different political entities. To this day, Saskatchewan and Alberta still have slightly different political cultures and split interests. This division makes it easier for Ontario or Quebec to use its superior muscle.

  30. Jeremy> The “secessionism is evil” pitch is obviously not to those who think that the west would be better off on its own. Obviously, to those that want the west to separate, Quebec is half the problem. There is thus a soft spot for Quebec separatism, sort of like hoping you can move away from a screeching harpy of a mother in law.

  31. Uhm. Ok. Shoulda thought of doing that to BC, too.

  32. Did having an Albertan Prime Minister do anything for Alberta in the first place? Was the West ever really in to begin with.

    We have multiple experienced Conservative MPs in Alberta, but only three or four ever made it to the cabinet table! It seemed like having a regional balance was more important than competence to Harper in the last Parliament. Look at Maxime Bernier. The only reason he was selected as Foreign Minister was because he was from Quebec.

  33. Andrew: A clipping from the website of the University of Alberta’s centennial website

    Settlers entered this political fray by lending Haultain their strength-in-numbers voice. Haultain wanted the Territories to be one huge province, with enough clout and votes to make their demands felt by the federal government. The Territories desperately needed money to accommodate services to the growing population. Settlers were also demanding more rail lines so they could get their grain to market.

    Worried by the settlers’ agitation and by Haultain’s growing identification with the federal Conservatives, Liberal Prime Minister Laurier relented. Laurier did not want the Territories to harness too much power so it was broken into two provinces: Alberta and Saskatchewan. Laurier also placed a condition on granting provincial status. The condition was that the Territories would return the Liberals to power in the 1904 federal election. Laurier won and remained Prime Minister of Canada until 1911.

  34. May the West revolt!! Shut off the taps of money East !! Where do i sign up!!
    I mean we will have no representation anyway. Maybe we dont have to pay taxes with no representation.

    I can’t believe those of you in support of the coalition want these three monkeys in charge. They are like three little giggling school boys at their mischief. Can’t you just imagine how much will actually get accomplished.
    Big Salute to all Canadian politicians – I am one taxpayer who is sickened, angry and embarrased.
    and pulling out of the tsx.

  35. That’s great, Nancy–thanks a lot. Is a petty fragmentation into regionalism the best angle to look at this situation, Conservative or not? Now we can all get angry and attack each other over who is really a westerner, who is really from the east, who shouldn’t be in the west, why the east should be ashamed, why Quebec is evil, why the West is wrong, ad nauseum, until we all end up knowing even less about other parts of the country and less about where we ourselves live.

  36. Terry: They were hardly disenfranchised. I’m not particularly convinced that splitting the area into two provinces is an affront to democracy. That history seems to be highly speculative about motives. Were these the stated goals of the people in power?

  37. For the people who have never lived in the West and are posting venom here, you add to the problem. It is unfortunate that small minded people, like our politicians, can never get past self serving ideas and actions. Without the west, Quebec, and now unfortunately Ontario, would not have the funds available to help those who need it the most, the wealth in this nation has moved West – this is just a fact. The 3 stooges who cooked up this plan did not have ‘Canada’ in mind, only themselves. Canada is the envy of the G20, guess the Conservatives are mismanaging the economy. Thanks to the GG for seeing through the pettyness of this current situation – yes it was brought on by Harpers cut at thier funding (petty as well). But please let us never forget, this was Laytons idea – (with the destruction of the Liberal party in his mind I may add), gleefully taken up by the seperatists. One thing Duceppe is not, is stupid – Layton handed him a golden opportunity to tear this country apart – pitting West against the East – again, and Layton/Duuceppe and the little “boy child” Dion, are doing a great job – as many of the posts here demonstrate. Sad day for Canada, Layton will go down in history as the bedfellow of the seperatist, with Dion as the house maid – all in pursuit of thier small minded goals. If they succeed – and they probably will unless Harper can get his head out of his butt, Canada as we know it now, is done, the West is out, the Quebec seperatist get what they want and Ontarians (and I have lived there for years), won’t know what hit them. Williams in Nfland will get his way – anyone but conservative – they will be isolated politically again, but they will be okay – they have oil. I fear for the citizens of NB, NS and PEI.

  38. Ok … I live in Calgary. I’ll vote liberal in a re-election … just don’t subject me to the Bloc or the NDP!!!!! ANYTHING BUT THAT!!!!

  39. I think that Alberta should separate from the doofus’ that post here fron Taronna.

    Harper is born and raised in Ontario, Taronna to be precise. Edumacated there as well. get your smarmy Taronna-centric facts straight!

  40. And while we are on the “unity” fiel, it might be nice if central canada climbed down from your ivory tower and spoke nicely with the resource rich west. We wouldn’t mind shipping some cash east if it was put to good use funding a greener manufacturing sector that produces stuff that burns less of what we supply you. then we can all be ahppy and make izzy monnaie.

  41. By the way, I’m from Ontario, too. Taronna to be precise.

  42. Err, in case those in Alberta/Sask haven’t noticed the oil price has plunged way below what is necessary to keep the industry there going. A few months of this and the oil patch will be eviscerated, and the billions will one again start flowing East to West.

  43. Er, in case you didn’t notice we are all in this together, so pack up the ego. We managed without eastern cash for 15 years after the NEP. By the way, the oil sands are just a part of things. We produce a wealth of natural gas – clean, green gas. The east use it to heat their homes. You are the manufaturing genious, so best get to work sanding off the rust of a defunct auto industry and brush up your sales acumen to sell all those newfangled green stuff and ideas to the world. Your customers in the USA are probably going to play some protectionist cards, so I think that it’s time to find some new customers instead of trying to put your boot on our neck. China and India are looking for new sources of energy supply and oil will not stay at these prices forever. Sask has a wealth of potash to sell to the world, sulphur, coal (yes coal) we sell it to China and we have a farming industry dedicated to feeding all those hungry mouths, world wide. Sask has 1/3 of the worlds known Uranium reserves and the highest grades. The nuclear industry is a source of clean power generation. By the way SiO2 is in demand for solar panels, there is a market for clean sand situated around the island of Montreal 98% pure.

    I could go on. We can slag away, but it doesn’t solve our problem of petty differences in the HoC. The instability will impact our abilites to raise capital to do what we need to do, so let’s just quit the blame game and power-tripping and get to the task at hand.

  44. “Without the west, Quebec, and now unfortunately Ontario, would not have the funds available to help those who need it the most, the wealth in this nation has moved West – this is just a fact.”

    Bob: It would do you well to understand that Ontario still pays more in federal taxes than it receives back in services, transfers and its portion of national initiatives, despite receiving a pittance in equalization (remember, Harper has promise equalization reform to take that pittance away).

    So no, your oil money isn’t subsidizing Ontario, nor will it for the foreseeable future.

  45. Hey some of us can be disaffected Westerners without being separatists.

    I think Harper made this thing a confidence vote on purpose. He wasn’t caught blind-sided by the coalition, he set them up.

    It is true that the Alberta WCC-types who rule the roost in the Conservative party now are ideological bedfellows with the Pequistes. Now that the “NDP-Liberal Coalition” has imploded, the Québec Libre and the Alexander Keith-swilling Albertan truck drivers are now in the drivers seat!

    The days of the Toronto Liberals are over.

  46. By the way, instead of nyah, nyah, nyah on slumping oil prices, why not look at it this way: low oil prices are GOOD for Ontario – cheaper gasoline. You can all drive to the cottage again. We’ll adjust out here. Maybe we’ll find another use for the stuff. We’re entrepreneurial in the west, too you know.

  47. Okay, a quick scan of all these posts will just prove my point about how useless this article is at discussing what’s happening with the federal government. Look through the comments and count how many are just airing regional hostilities at a complete remove from the political situation?

    So Harper comes from the west, but would he be in power without substantial support in Ontario? Will he ever form a majority without Quebec support? He represents conservative support, which doesn’t just bubble out of the ground in certain areas of the country. If you’re in Toronto and oppose him, you’d spend your time just as well by debating Ontario conservatives. If you oppose the sovereigntist movement, focus on what makes it invalid–but you might have to learn something about Quebec too. At least then we can avoid resorting to these stupid, simplistic cliches. Do we really need to take the bait and unload all of this political hostility onto ourselves? Please. I’ve had good times with Albertans and Quebecois and Torontonians all together, and I’m sure it wasn’t the last time.

  48. Time to go.

    B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and perhaps Manitoba, it time. Let’s leave these Easterners to
    their own plans.

    The West is the future, the East is the past.

  49. MP: Stuff it. We stick together, no matter the cost. Even if the west does have some genuine complaints, secession is not a threat to use lightly.

  50. I find it amusing, this assumption that the west hates the east. No, we don’t hate you, by and large, we find you to be pretty funny most times. There’s so many of you already here, gleaning what you can from our prosperity, all the while harping about how redneck and backwards we are. What can we do but laugh at you? You complain and complain, but you don’t go back home.

    I think Ontario’s biggest problem with Alberta’s prosperity is simple. It’s Alberta’s, and not Ontario’s. It’s pure and simple envy and jealousy. It’s the grasshopper and the ant, we being the ant.

    I think if this coalition does take power, you will see a sudden revolt, yes. I can’t predict the form it will take, but you’ll feel it out there. I do not and will not support separation, whether it’s the West or Quebec.

    But don’t assume we hate you. We just think you’re by and large kind of ridiculous and funny.

  51. We just think you’re by and large kind of ridiculous and funny.

    Go back to hating the us. Really, it’s less dreary than the insufferable condescension and arrogance.