“Is this democracy’s death spiral? Are we falling, in this and other countries, into a lethal cycle of fury and reaction, that blocks the reasoned conversation on which civic life depends?” – George Monbiot
The cycle of conservative fury and reaction hasn’t stopped for Albertans.
It started with relentless attacks on Rachel Notley and her government, it peaked in the 2019 federal election with the absurd suggestion that Justin Trudeau be hung for treason. And it went into overdrive when two-thirds of Canadians elected enough progressive MPs to allow the Liberals to form a strong minority government.
All that conservative anger and outrage failed to deliver the desired result, a Conservative government, so they moved on to Plan B: if the conservatives can’t tear down the Liberal government, they’ll tear down confederation.
The dilemma for progressives is how do we respond to all this conservative rage, particularly when it takes the shape of Wexit. We have three choices: (1) they yell at us, we yell at them, (this is demeaning and no one hears a thing), (2) we ignore them, (they continue to work themselves into a frenzy), or (3) we rebut their arguments, (this takes effort and may produce nothing, but at least the rest of the country knows we’re not as nuts as they are).
I prefer option #3.
There are many ways to the challenge lies and half-truths that support conservatives’ beliefs.
The first line of rebuttal is to challenge the supposed outcome of whatever it is the conservatives are raging about.
Take the argument that Albertans should be fearful and angry because Trudeau will kill the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion. As the economist Peter Tertzakian said, this is “highly, highly unlikely” because parliament approved TMX (twice actually) and the only way it can be stopped is if someone brings a motion in Parliament to kill it. Such a motion would require the support of either the Liberals or the Conservatives to succeed. Both parties have made it clear they support TMX. Unless you’re a tinfoil hat conspiracy theorist—and there’s no point in arguing with them—that’s the end of it. (Incidentally Tertzakian also points out that it’s not the government that’s holding up TMX, it’s the courts).
The second line of rebuttal is to cite the experts. The UCP bristled when the NDP said the UCP budget included a tax hike for all Albertans. The U of C economist, Trevor Tombe, weighed in. He pointed out the UCP deindexed the amount we’re allowed to exempt, this will raise $196 million from taxpayers by 2021 and that $196 million would not have been paid without deindexing, so “it’s fair to say it’s a tax increase.” The UCP responded by saying they didn’t raise taxes, they simply “paused” indexation. Tomato, Tomaato,
The third line of rebuttal is taking the conservatives’ positions at face value and seeing if they make any sense.
Ted Morton wrote an article calling for Alberta’s own Boston Tea Party. He says Albertans are fearful that the Liberals will kill TMX (see above) and they’re angry because the federal political structure is rigged in the Liberal’s favour because the Liberals don’t need any votes from the West to form government. He says BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan only have 90 seats between them while Quebec has 78. He concludes this is wrong because Quebec contributes only 19.5% to Canada’s GDP while BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan combined contribute 32.4%. He misrepresents how equalization works to argue the “vote-poor” West is being forced to subsidize “vote-rich” Quebec and says Trudeau must respond with political or structural fixes to benefit the West or Albertans will take up the cry “No taxation without representation.”
This is a goofy argument. Let’s start by acknowledging that Canada’s political system promotes voter equality by accommodating deviations from riding to riding (for example urban ridings are consistently larger by population than rural ridings). It has never been based on who has the best GDP.
Secondly, even if GDP were an appropriate way to allocate seats (which it’s not) why include BC which is not pushing for separation and elected more progressive candidates (25) than conservative ones (17). If you exclude BC from the GDP calculation, that leaves Alberta and Saskatchewan contributing 18.7% to Canada’s GDP which is less than Quebec’s 19.5%.
Thirdly, why is the GDP threshold Quebec’s 19.5% and not Ontario’s 38.3% (I know, I know, it’s because Ontario’s GDP is too high to make Morton’s argument work).
Lastly, what’s the Boston Tea Party got to do with it? The American colonists had a legitimate beef, they did not have the right to elect representatives to British Parliament. Albertans have the right to elect federal representatives, and they did, all but one seat went to the Conservatives.
The problem with Morton’s position is the right to elect representatives does not translate into the right to form government.
And maybe that’s what this rage, fear, and anger is about. The Conservatives did not form government.
Frankly, that’s a good thing.
When the conservatives formed government in the last provincial election, Kenney’s government passed an austerity budget, bet the house on global oil prices (still down) and offered tax cuts to corporations in the hope they would create jobs (they didn’t).
When the conservatives formed government federally, Harper’s government failed to deliver a pipeline to tidewater, gutted environmental laws and botched the consultation process so badly that every pipeline project ended up in court.
Albertans have a right to be angry, but before they charge out the door yelling “Wexit” they should consider the role they played in pushing Alberta to this point by electing politicians who consistently let them down.
Oh, and if they want to engage in reasoned conversation we’re here.