Alberta Independence in 2020?

Alberta Independence in 2020?

By Michael Wagner

In 2008, Dr. Roger Gibbins, then-president of the Canada West Foundation and formerly a long-time political science professor at the University of Calgary (where he specialized in western Canadian politics), wrote a short fictional account about an Alberta independence referendum in the year 2020. Although imaginary, the story is based on certain political realities in Canada and is definitely worth reading.

In this story, the price of oil rises continually, eventually reaching about $200 per barrel. Alberta becomes increasingly wealthy while the economy of central Canada declines, especially its manufacturing sector. The financial disparity between the western provinces (especially Alberta) and the eastern provinces becomes enormous.

Envious of Alberta’s wealth, the eastern provinces subsequently elect a new federal government under the slogan, “Canadian resources for Canadians.” Essentially, it’s the battle cry of a gang of thieves intent on robbing Alberta blind.

In Gibbins’ story, the new federal government “introduced a draconian series of tax measures to channel energy wealth into the national treasury. The need to address global warming was used as the rationale for sweeping carbon taxes, but the regional redistribution of wealth was the real driver.”

In other words, environmental concerns were used as a rationale to confiscate Alberta’s energy resources for the benefit of central Canada. In Gibbins’ account, however, the desire for financial gain is so overwhelming that Alberta’s environment soon becomes a casualty of Ottawa’s rapacious appetite. With resource management under direct federal control, Alberta becomes an ecological disaster. Ottawa has no qualms about destroying Alberta’s natural beauty in its quest for loot.

Seeing this, Alberta’s environmentalists begin to view the federal government as their great enemy. “The result,” as Gibbins writes, “was the emergence of a new and powerful political coalition in Alberta determined to lead Alberta out of Canada.” The environmentalists join with businessmen, farmers and ranchers in the movement for separation.

The story ends on the eve of the referendum vote, with separation being a likelihood. Alberta is about to choose independence.

Gibbins’ story is interesting and worthwhile, although the idea of environmentalists embracing separation seems far-fetched in 2018. Importantly, however, Gibbins also includes some factual information that is foundational to his story.

Most significantly, the background to his story is the clear legality of provincial separation under Canadian law. He writes as follows: “Back in the late 1990s, when the Quebec sovereignty movement was still alive and well, the Supreme Court and later Parliament, through the Clarity Act, recognized that the Government of Canada has an obligation to enter into negotiations if there is a clear expression of the will of the population of a province on whether the province should cease to be a part of Canada and become an independent state.”

He then adds: “Back in the 1990s, no one imagined that this option would be exercised by a province other than Quebec.” Nevertheless, the principles established to deal with Quebec also apply to each of the other provinces. Thus the legal pathway to Alberta independence has been created by the federal government itself.

If Albertans desire their province to become independent of Canada, they can achieve that through a referendum. A referendum on independence is a meaningful and viable option to protect Alberta from a hostile federal government. Considering that such hostile federal governments are a recurring problem, independence appears to be the only available alternative for patriotic Albertans concerned about the future of their province.

Gibbins, Roger. 2008. “The Curse of Alberta.” In Canada in 2020: Twenty Leading Voices Imagine Canada’s Future, ed. Rudyard Griffiths. Toronto: Key Porter Books.


    • Thanks for your question Rob: A political party – the Alberta Freedom Alliance – must be elected to govern in Alberta. Once that happens they sponsor a Referendum on Separation asking Alberta citizens if they want to separate from Canada. The federal Clarity Act passed by the federal government in 2000 allows a province to negotiate a secession agreement with Canada so long as a clear majority of people in that province answer yes to the question of separation. That is HOW Alberta can negotiate a Separation Agreement with Canada. But first we must elect our Separatist Party.

      • I see the United Conservative Party being the ones who initiate the referendum.
        The UPC has loads of credibility and will be elected in the spring.
        In the next 6 months, they talk about how Alberta needs a new deal in confederation, citing Alberta being the hardest hit economy, yet still paying equalization to Quebec.
        The Rest-of-Canada (ROC) slaps Alberta in the face by giving Trudeau another majority. This leave the only option for the UPC to hold a referendum giving the Province the mandate to renegotiate some better terms with the federal government – up to and including terms for separation (that would require a second referendum to finalize). Albertans, who have seen only 1 PM in the past 50 years to actually show them any degree of respect, would be wise to pass the referendum.

        • I’m not sure at all that Jason Kenney has “credibility”. He’s a practiced politician but that is about all you can say about him. Kenney keeps telling us how he spent 25 years in Ottawa. You’d think he wouldn’t brag about it given that Alberta, who elected him repeatedly, has ended up in the place we are in now. And, of course, they were helped in landing us here by a PC Party that became progressively more and more corrupt as time went on. Yet the CPC came to Alberta and resurrected that Party while killing off the Wildrose, the only Party, if it had had Albertans who actually loved our province leading it, could have been a much better option. People who look past the word “conservative” to what a Party actually does in power knows that Kenney, and Harper, were a real disappointment for Alberta, in Ottawa. To think Kenney will be any better for Alberta as leader of Alberta is highly suspect, I’d say. He will do what he has become accustomed to doing ~ pacify Alberta and please Ottawa. As for his leading Alberta Independence ~ that is truly a fantasy.

          • The only answer, elect A F A members, forget mainstream politics, that is why we are where we are at now.

        • I heard ALL OTHER PROVINCES have to agree on separation even after a referendum. It was ruled by the federal court in 1998?

      • We need to LEAVE Canada in order to better ALBERTA!!! Canada is a burden sadly, politics is nuts, and WE THE PEOPLE need to be the change. Make us part of the USA if must at least we will have more bang for our buck. Quebec hates us, BC uses us and Canada laughs at us. CUT the crap cut the politics and LETS save Alberta and ITS ppl!

  1. The best course for Alberta is to call a binding Referendum and seek the consent of Albertans to go the UDI route. Do not even begin to negotiate with Ottawa, this ends the Jurisdiction of Federal courts, Federal Treaty’s UN influence, everything wiped out slate lean in one roll of the dice. UDI all the way. Get Ottawa out of Alberta. Albertans own Alberta not Canada.

  2. Well, haven’t the tides turned. If Albertans would have left Canada (WEXIT) like you wanted to in 2019, now in early 2020 oil is $30 a barrel because of Saudi Arabia/Russia dispute on global output and the world pandemic of the Corona Virus, the former province of Alberta would have been screwed. Besides oil, what do you have when the world controls the price of oil? The simple answer is: Canada would have your back just like they do now. Think about it Alliance. Stop being so self-centered and greedy. In good times and bad. Canada has your back.

    • And here we are – “don’t be so self-centered and greedy”. 65 years of hauling the ROC on our backs and this is the comment Alberta hears repeatedly from entitled Canadians who’ve been taking our cash and demanding more. We’re greedy!! As for having our back – just when was that, that the ROC had our back? You were always there to soak up the good times but now, when you could finally have proved that you “had our back”, the ROC elected, and re-elected, the worst, most corrupt, most incompetent, most anti-Alberta PM this country has ever seen. And proved the very opposite – you don’t have our back. Like that good-time girlfriend – around for the good times, nowhere to be found when the money runs out

      As for $30.00 oil ~ Canadians need to stop worrying about how Alberta will deal with the low price of oil. That seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to our resource industry because its one thing they can point to in the hope it will “frighten” Albertans. Alberta has experienced several years of low oil prices, plus a federal gov’t determined to regulate our industry out of business and we are still the wealthiest province in the country. If we were lucky enough to be on our own we’d deal with the market and have billions more in our Treasury to do it with, too.

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