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Nation or Notion?

Nation or Notion?

How might we best bid farewell to 2019, as its days dwindle?  A retrospective? Oh sure, we might examine the national election which served to underscore the undeniable. Namely, Canada is a nation beset with expanding regional and social fault lines, evidenced by parliamentary seat distribution post the October 21 vote.

In fact, focusing only on politics and solely on one issue, the political arena proved itself so egregiously lacking in even fundamentally defensible initiatives that parliamentary ethics commissioner Mario Dion was reduced to penning total frustration with the sitting prime minister, simultaneously convicting Justin Trudeau of ethics-devoid behaviour.

Dion condemned Trudeau’s political pressure on former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, in order spare Quebec’s SNC-Lavalin a possible criminal conviction, by reporting the Prime Minister and senior PMO staff had acted in a manner “tantamount to political direction,” fully rejecting Trudeau’s claim he had acted purely in the “public interest.”

There was more, of course. You don’t need me to assemble a ‘Top ten egregious Acts of 2019’ list.  Incidents will easily enough roll off your tongue. 

So instead, why not peer forward and into the proverbial crystal ball?  Just what may await Canada and Canadians in 2020?

When I asked New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs about Canada’s greatest challenge his reply caught many off guard.  “We must decide whether Canada is a nation or a notion.”

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe offered a virtually identical sentiment.  “Do we have a country” quizzed Moe during a particularly testy time over pipelines involving Ottawa, British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

At the time the premiers were specifically engaged in addressing the issue of pipeline expansion and Canada’s energy sector, namely oil and gas.

As the calendar moves to 2020 the nation is hung up on the question of expanded pipelines realities in order to deliver O&G to to both our East and West coasts for international export.  Post-election chatter suggesting better cooperation between federal and provincial governments on energy matters notwithstanding, we will inevitably, as the pages of the calendar flip forward through the new year, remain exactly where we are today, hung up.

We won’t though simply stall at the hung up stage.  Not this time. Western alienation is ever-expanding, leading to increased frustration, particularly so in Alberta.

Frustration aimed at Ottawa and Quebec which, assessed as under the direction of so-called Laurentian elites, are viewed as being in cahoots picking the pockets of the Western provinces while neutering their energy sector. 

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has committed to hold a referendum in the province to remove or revise the federal equalization program. Were such a referendum presented and officially directed toward removing the equalization plan from the constitution and were the referendum to be supported by a clear majority of Albertans then, according to a ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada post the 1995 Quebec referendum on sovereignty, the federal government would be required to renegotiate terns of the equalization pact with Alberta.

Talk of Alberta referenda or Alberta opting out of Canada is often ridiculed.  Yet Jack Mintz, internationally renowned economist and professor at the University of Calgary School of Public Policy and who coined the term “Albexit” (Alberta opting out of confederation) in a Financial Post op ed a year ago argues Alberta has a stronger case for Albexit now than the U.K. had for exiting the European Union at the inception of Brexit. 

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Keep in mind Quebecers returned an invigorated Bloc Quebecois to parliament October 21.  Contesting the election in Quebec only the Bloc assumed third party status in Ottawa, shoving the federal New Democratic Party, which ran a national slate of candidates, into a significantly reduced fourth place. Quebec’s sovereignty movement is not necessarily out of any national picture for 2020.  Premier Francois Legault, while today leading the CAQ party, remains a former Parti Quebecois sovereignist minister under both Lucien Bouchard and Bernard Landry. 

Will Quebec have cards to play in any national unity challenges in 2020?  What do you think?   

There will inevitably also be sidebar issues in the coming year and perhaps predicated on happenings of 2019. 

Should an RCMP investigation of the Justin Trudeau-led intimidation tactics deployed against the nation’s attorney general in the SNC-Lavalin matter point to possible obstruction of justice by the PM, all hades may break loose. 

2020 has the potential to re-arrange the national furniture.

Roy Green

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