Frustration fueling Alberta's separatist movement

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Jeff Rout (left), Will and Arthur Sukalsky are all members of the Alberta Freedom Party, one of many secessionist groups in Alberta that would like to see the province "free from the economic yoke" of Canada.

EDMONTON | It is not only in Quebec that we find sovereignists. In Alberta, an unprecedented number of secessionist groups are campaigning for the province to leave the "failed Canadian federation" and benefit "especially in Quebec".

"We feel completely abandoned by Canada. We have the impression of having become one of the 13 colonies rather than being a Canadian province equal to the other nine, and we have more taxation, but with less representation in Canada, "says Arthur Sukalsky one of the founders of the Alberta Freedom Party (AFP).

The Journal met with some members of the aspiring provincial political party at Arcadia Bar in Edmonton. A few days earlier, CBC announced that the facility, which sells only Alberta microbrewery beers, would no longer be able to advertise with the Edmonton Oilers logo if they did not partner with Molson, a sponsor of the NHL team.

If they disagree on what to do, the many separatist groups we meet agree that Alberta no longer has any representation in the federal government and is treated like the national cash cow. And this, especially for the benefit of Quebec.

Moreover, the growing anger towards our province, which we consider Ottawa's "favorite" to the detriment of Alberta, is one of the main factors explaining the new interest in sovereignty through the west, according to AFP members.

By way of example, they pointed to Bombardier, which recently received a loan of more than $ 350 million from the federal government.

"For years, Alberta has been giving to other provinces through Equalization. During the good years, there is no problem. But now that Alberta's economy is bad, no one is helping us repair our problems, but other provinces, like Quebec, continue to take our money, "said Mike Gibbons, co-founder of the Western Independence Party. of Alberta (WIPA).

"We come to the conclusion that we will never be a prosperous province within the failed Canadian federation," continues the 50-year-old from Britain who arrived in Alberta 37 years ago.

Serious movement

Not only is the movement gaining momentum in the west, but for the first time it must be taken seriously, warn experts.

"I have been involved with the Alberta community for decades because of politics. And in my adult life, I have never done so much in the face of an Alberta sovereignty movement as in the last few months. The separatists are an increasingly vocal minority and that worries me, "commented politician Jason Kenney.

Extremely dependent on the oil market, Alberta has for some years been experiencing one of the worst economic recessions in its history because of a drop in the price of a barrel of oil. Last year, the province's economy shrank by nearly 6%, and analysts do not expect a complete turnaround for a few years.

$ 26 billion in deficit

Alberta will run two deficits of $ 10 billion in 2016-17 and 2017-18, following the $ 6 billion deficit in 2015-16. That's a total of about 26 billion deficits in three years.

Bond of unemployment

This led to the closure of many offices across the province and boosted the unemployment rate to 6.9% as of last September. By way of comparison, the rate in Quebec is 5.4%.

$ 28 billion in equalization over 10 years

The equalization contribution of each province is difficult to quantify. However, a study by the Fraser Institute estimates that from 2008-09 to 2017-18, Alberta provided $ 28 billion to Equalization payments.

According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Quebec receives the lion's share (60%) of the total Equalization envelope.

Alberta's fiscal policies are not sustainable

The fiscal policies of Alberta and Saskatchewan are not sustainable in the long run, according to the latest Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) report released on October 5.

According to the estimates of the PBO, these provinces would have to increase taxes or reduce expenditures drastically, by 4.6% and 4.2% of their respective GDP.

The Quebec government has a long-term sustainable fiscal policy, according to the same report. The province could even afford to lower taxes or increase services.