It was a time when Alberta's economy was truly booming, and to all appearances, Alberta seemed like an unstoppable economic locomotive. Then Pierre Trudeau's government brought down the NEP in 1980.
More recently, Alberta's fortunes have once again turned for the better - oil prices are at all time highs (making the Oil Sands even more attractive to investment), the Alberta Government just wrote off its debt, and continues to roll in massive surpluses.
I've noticed around the blogosphere a fair number of rather vocal proponents of either Ted Morton's "firewall" concept, or outright secession from Canada. And then yesterday, I found a link to this article in Ezra Levant's "Western Standard".
The article talks about a poll that Levant commissioned some University of Lethbridge professor to conduct. The root question of the poll was:
Western Independence How much do you agree with the following statement: “Western Canadians should begin to explore the idea of forming their own country”?
The first thought that goes through my mind when I read this is "what a mealy-mouthed load of garbage". Yeah - I might "consider" the notion of a sovereign Alberta or West - does this mean I support it? No.
The other questions (you can read the article - if you like...) were so loaded with presupposition that this poll doesn't even qualify as meaningful. Basically, half the questions might as well have read "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?" and the other half were simply irrelevant measures of anything. (What the hell does "alienation" mean anyhow? I get annoyed with Ottawa, angry even - alienated? I don't think so)
The practical realities of western isolationism/separatism:
1. A firewall is a rehash of the notion of Sovereignty Association that Rene Levesque threw up in the 1970s. It was a crock then, it's a crock now.
2. A sovereign Alberta would be a landlocked nation, with no ready access to ports for shipping agricultural products, and limited effective markets for its hydrocarbon products. (Lessee - the ROC and the USA - I'll get to that in a minute)
3. If you could convince multiple provinces to come along (say BC, or Saskatchewan and Manitoba), you could solve the port access problem, but you still have a basic problem with geographic isolation.
4. Separatists/Isolationists also seem to think that the US would welcome us with open arms. Wrong. We'd be greeted with arms alright - loaded and pointed at us while they cleared the new country of the natural resources we hold. Don't be deluded - look around the world at how the US treats "Protectorates" like Puerto Rico. I doubt very much that the US would view Alberta as anything other than "easy pickings".
5. I suspect that most, if not all, of the few billion a year we contribute to Ottawa's coffers would soon get consumed by the new nation's entry onto the world stage. Diplomatic and trade missions would have to be established, and we would find it necessary to fund a military of some size (probably much larger than what Canada currently does). Of course, we shouldn't ignore the fact that a chunk of Canada's per-capita debt comes along with us for the ride.
6. You would have to assume that once a decision to secede had been made, a big chunk of the population of Alberta is likely to move elsewhere - say Ontario or the Maritimes.
However, those are all practical realities of the economic and national picture for a prospective "sovereign" West (esp. Alberta).
The other key thing that the Isolationist/Separatist mind conveniently ignores is the subtle attachment that people have to their citizenship. I was raised in CANADA - yes, I grew up in Alberta, but I was raised as a Canadian. God help the dumb bastard that tries to take that away from me.
To me, there is far more to Canada than mere tax dollars, or the petty regional disputes. It's worth working to make it a better nation, and it would take a lot to convince me - and a lot of other Canadians - that it's time to give up on this nation.