Kevin Berger – Leader Staff
I’m going to make a bold prediction about the 2019 federal election on Oct. 21: the Liberal Party is going to secure at least a minority government.
Currently, the Conservatives and the Liberals are neck and neck in the polls, and if the Conservatives were going to pull ahead, they would have done it by now. The brownface scandal failed to really wound the Liberals in any significant way, while Andrew Scheer has faced his own damaging scandals (ie. the fake insurance credentials, the U.S. citizenship, and so forth).
Besides the fact that left-wing voters will stick with Justin Trudeau rather than risk a Conservative majority, the hate aimed at Doug Ford has basically killed any chance of the party making in-roads into Ontario, and the Bloc Quebecois are making a huge comeback on their home turf.
But while I’m willing to put money on a Liberal victory, what will happen in the event of a minority government is less certain. Maybe we will be facing an election in six months again.
One thing I DO expect to see, however, is a rise in separatist sentiment within Alberta. I’ve heard differing statistics on the number of Albertans who favour separating from the rest of Canada, but it IS growing.
When I attended provincial court on Tuesday, I even heard two men openly talking about how much better off Alberta would be if it actually split from the rest of Canada. (Incidentally, if you’re wondering what was the impetus for this column, there you have it.)
I laughed loudly enough that I hoped they noticed. I don’t care if it was rude. A landlocked province whose economy is entirely dependent on exporting crops, beef and oil beyond its borders would not be served by separating from Canada; not only would you need to negotiate new trade deals with foreign countries, but you would also have to secure passage for exports through Canada and the U.S.
And would you do with the thousands of Albertans who do not want to separate? I know there’s a notion that Albertans are a monolith in terms of beliefs and political leanings, but more than 600,000 people voted NDP in the last two provincial elections.
And what about the First Nations people who fall under federal jurisdiction? What about the national rail lines and highways that cross through Alberta? And do you think we’d get away without paying a portion of the federal debt?
There might be savings to be had via equalization payments, but there would be additional costs as well. For example, immigration is handled federally; Alberta would have to develop its own rules and its own bureaucracy to deal with people moving here from other countries.
And what do we do about policing? Even if you hired on the RCMP officers working in Alberta, do you think the federal goverment is just going to let Alberta keep all those police cars, stations and other equipment as a going-away present?
It’s an insanely impractical fantasy, which is why virtually any provincial or federal politician that you speak to about it (including Premier Jason Kenney) is quick to dismiss the notion.
Nevertheless, the separatist movement strikes me as the kind of crowd where feelings matter more than facts.
I fully expect entities like the Alberta Independence Party to gain more power on the provincial scene. In the end, it will amount to nothing, but it sure will waste a lot of time and energy.