Question: When is a birthday greeting not a birthday greeting?
Answer: When it comes from a hypocrite.
Canadians will be receiving Happy Canada Day greetings from politicians at all levels of government this Wednesday, but there’s one politician, Jason Kenney, who really shouldn’t bother.
Assuming his greeting is similar to last year’s message it will include references to the birth of the Dominion, our rights and freedoms under the British North America Act, First Nations, Indigenous Peoples, people not born here, WWI, WW2, and the Korean and Afghanistan wars.
There are a number of reasons why this message is objectionable, not the least of which is the fact we live in Canada, not the Dominion, and those rights and freedoms Mr Kenney is so proud of are the same rights and freedoms he’s trampling with Bill 1. (Oh, and not to be picky, but the BNA Act has been called the Constitution Act since 1982).
But what makes Mr Kenney’s greeting truly objectionable is it will land in my inbox a couple of weeks after he released the Fair Deal Panel report.
Fair Deal Panel Report
Like many Albertans I hesitate to give airtime to the FD Panel’s report which sets out recommendations to redress what Mr Kenney describes as the Federal government’s long-standing failure to make federalism work for Alberta. (Yes, I know, Stephen Harper was PM from 2006 to 2015, but “long-standing” in Mr Kenney’s parlance means “the Trudeau years”).
There are many problems with the FD report—law prof Nigel Bankes describes it as “poorly written and poorly reasoned”—but it’s biggest failing is it doesn’t deliver on Mr Kenney’s assertion that it would tamp down the flames of Western alienation.
In fact, it does the opposite.
Oh sure, the FD Panel threw a few bones to Albertans demanding greater autonomy from Canada by recommending Alberta replace the RCMP with a provincial police force, appoint a chief firearms officer and create an Alberta Pension Plan to replace the CPP.
The icing on the cake is a recommendation that Alberta hold a referendum on equalization. Unfortunately, the “clear question” the Panel proposed as the referendum question was so thoroughly botched that Prof Bankes said a “yes” response would support at least three different meanings.
Mr Kenney may be satisfied that the FD Panel’s report provides a “pressure valve” against separatism, but groups like Action Alberta would disagree.
In a recent newsletter Action Alberta presented two arguments to convince Albertans it’s time to leave: (1) fear of the deficiencies of confederation and (2) greed, or the desire to become as rich as Switzerland by ditching transfer payments, Alberta’s share of Canada’s debt, the GST, and jettisoning institutions like the Indian Act and bilingualism, etc.
All of this is premised on finding a new leader, preferably someone from the business community. (Perhaps they’ll consider UCP MLA Drew Barnes who was a member of the FD Panel but disagreed with the consensus report, arguing Albertans should be allowed to vote for independence if the federal government refused to accede to Alberta’s demands.)
So after spending Lord knows how much money on public hearings and town halls across the province, surveying 40,000 Albertans, telephone polling 1000 Albertans, and writing up the results in the report, the FD Panel failed to deliver the one thing Mr Kenney said it would deliver, it does nothing to address the sense of alienation and frustration some Albertans are experiencing.
This is not surprising given the way Panel’s mandate was structured and Mr Kenney’s apparent belief that he could walk Albertans, frustrated by the collapse of the energy sector, to the edge of the abyss, let them vent for a while and then walk them back into the fold where they would join him in railing against the federal government and the other provinces they blame for getting in their way.
The Fair Deal hearing process did not act as a “pressure valve” to ease separatist angst, but as a pressure cooker that solidified the separatist position.
And insipid Happy Canada Day greetings from the premier will not paper over the corrosive mess he’s created.