While not opposed to an independent Alberta, a small citizens-led group is hoping Premier Danielle Smith’s government holds Ottawa’s feet to the fire over potential constitutional violations.
At a meeting Oct. 6 in Cowley, Alberta Prosperity Project’s founder, Dennis Modry, said the Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act is a strong piece of legislation that provides leverage for the province. The bill, in short, addresses any federal legislation and policies Alberta might deem unconstitutional.
“There is an imbalance in power between the federal government and the provincial government, and if you want to solve that problem and you want to negotiate with Ottawa, from a level playing field, then you have to have some form of leverage,” Modry contended.
The renowned Edmonton-based heart surgeon’s longtime passion to protect Alberta interests really started in the early 1980s with the introduction of the national energy program.
“I really thought it was an egregious overreach of provincial constitutional authority by the federal government,” he said.
The NEP, created by the Pierre Trudeau government in 1980, was meant to ensure Canadian oil and gas self-sufficiency by 1990. Private industry and some provincial governments, most notably Alberta, opposed the program.
“I thought Alberta was being treated unfairly,” Modry added. “After the establishment of the NEP, the province was really devastated for the next 12 to 14 years.”
That all shifted, he believes, at the start of the Don Getty government.
“With Getty, and then Ralph Klein and [Ed] Stelmach, there was a clear change in the psyche of Albertans. It was that can-do attitude, that work ethic, entrepreneurial spirit of Albertans, along with governance that was willing to stand up to Ottawa, when things really started to turn around.”
Although its roots, for the most part, became a catapult for the province’s energy interests, the Alberta Prosperity Project’s scope has since broadened to include health care, environmental protection, taxpayer-protection legislation, education, and old age security — the latter making headlines with a recent proposal by Premier Smith for an Alberta-based pension plan.
Modry feels the province needs to stand up to the feds, and, with the recently passed legislation addressing constitutional issues, that it is on good footing moving forward.
It can also, if things go off the rails, consider the federal Clarity Act, by his own admission. Bill C-20, passed by the Canadian Senate in June 2000, allows a province to enter into negotiations with the federal government that might lead to secession. The key word in Modry’s opinion is “might.”
Like many who live in Western Canada, the confidant of several former provincial conservative governments believes it doesn’t really matter which party is in power federally — it will always pander to the wishes of Quebec and Ontario at Alberta’s expense.
“That’s the way it was set up when we and Saskatchewan joined Confederation in 1905,” he said.
While unscientific, polling the audience by a show of hands, on two multiple-choice questions, usually opens the APP meetings.
Alberta independence, Modry said, has five different interpretations:
—Alberta remains in Canada with complete control of its wealth and affairs.
—Alberta remains in Canada with some but not complete control.
—Alberta joins the United States.
—Alberta leaves Canada with other provinces and/or territories.
—Alberta leaves and becomes an independent, sovereign republic.
“We did extensive polling on the five, and Alberta remaining in Canada with some of its wealth and Alberta joining the U.S. were dead last,” Modry said. “The other three were in a statistical dead heat.”
As it turned out, the same held true at the Oct. 6 gathering.
The second question was just as telling: Are you Canada first and Alberta second, or Alberta first and Canada second?
Not a single hand was raised for the first choice.
By Dave Lueneberg, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Oct 19, 2023 at 10:19