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The myth of Western alienation is back with a vengeance

Right on schedule, us Western Canadians are feeling alienated.

Really! Don't just take my word for it.

The digital editions of the gutter press are full of the complaints nowadays of such alienated Albertans as United Conservative Party leadership contenders Brian Jean and Jason Kenney.

Likewise, we're hearing lots of Western alienation talk from Brad Wall, who is apparently still the premier of Saskatchewan, and Jack Mintz, the reliably pro-Conservative University of Calgary "School of Public Policy" professor and perennial National Post bloviator.

Jean and Kenney, as is well known, have been sending out regular fund-raising emails, press releases and other missives excoriating Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, who has had the temerity to act pleased in public about the fact a pipeline full of Alberta bitumen won’t be running through his backyard any time soon.

The wannabe UCP leaders regularly demand an end to all federal equalization payments, posthaste, to ungrateful Quebeckers and anyone else insufficiently enthusiastic about prostrating themselves before the pipeline industry.

Since both men are former Members of Parliament in the now-departed government of Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, they presumably understand that the government of Alberta doesn’t mail a cheque every month to the National Assembly in Quebec City. They are likewise presumably confident that a significant number of their supporters don't understand that fact.

"They've declared war on Alberta," wrote Jean in a recent fund-raising email. Kenney apparently wants to go full Catalonia and pull Alberta out of Confederation if we have to give the country any of our oil revenues -- a idea, if realized, unlikely to make Quebeckers and British Columbians more amenable to our pipeline demands once our neighbour to the south recovers its sanity, which is bound to happen soon enough.

As University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe noted in the Globe and Mail, Mr. Kenney’s proposed resource-revenue exclusion would actually increase the amount of equalization transfers going to Quebec -- something the a canny former Ottawa insider is also presumably counting on his supporters not knowing.

Saskatchewan Premier Wall, who has promised to quit but keeps turning up in the news like the proverbial bad penny, huffed that "for the west to continue on like this in our federal system is the equivalent of having Stockholm syndrome."

This prompted very little reaction outside the Prairies, which must have annoyed the uncongenial former Mr. Congeniality of Confederation. But then, if it limps like a lame duck, and it quacks like a lame duck, it probably is a lame duck.

For his part, Professor Mintz, in one of his regular screeds in the National Post, explicitly raised the spectre of Catalonia if Ottawa won't do what we want to immediately get us that pipeline to New Brunswick.

Never mind that the closest thing to Barcelona in our alienated Western Canadian oiltopia is Vancouver, where anti-pipeline sentiment runs so fever hot it makes Mayor Coderre's fellow Montrealers look positively Albertan by comparison.

Yeah, coastal British Columbians are feeling alienated too, perhaps even alienated enough to start dreaming of the Pacific Republic of Ecotopia, as the late Rafe Mair suggested not so long ago. But not because we're building too few pipelines through their valleys. As for the Port of Churchill, I hate to disappoint you, but the Western shore of Hudson's Bay is barely tidewater, in the sense we use the term in Alberta, and no one's ever going to duplicate Barcelona there!

In Spain, meanwhile, the national government is about to strip Catalonia's government of its powers and impose direct rule from Madrid.

Anyway, you can count on it, nothing like this is going to happen in Western Canada, if only because it'll be impossible to find anyone in our beloved private sector to build the desired pipelines until the price of oil recovers -- if the price of oil ever recovers.

This too is something all of the gentlemen referenced above understand perfectly well, of course. All this hot air about alienation is entirely for the benefit of local audiences.

Indeed, it was for that reason that two years ago to the day in the aftermath of the October 2015 federal election we were able to so confidently predict the return of this phenomenon on this blog.

Alberta voters may have returned the usual stereotypical Conservative hacks to Ottawa on Oct. 19, 2015, but enough voters in the rest of Canada chose Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberals to have Harper's Conservative loyalists loading up their Conestoga wagons on the banks of the Rideau Canal in preparation for the long trek westward.

"The Western Alienation narrative starts immediately," I wrote at the time, and so it did.

"The immediate post-election consensus here was that we Albertans have been unjustly shut out of power by thoughtless and self centred Canadians in other provinces who don't have the good sense to vote the way we do," I wrote. "The idea that we might contribute to this ourselves by electing so many Conservatives with metronomic regularity appears to have occurred to virtually no one."

I also suggested the rhetoric would get worse once the movers and shakers of the Conservative Party of Canada realized their next leader would have to come from somewhere other than Alberta if their party was to avoid sinking into complete irrelevance.

This happened too, the result of the intemperately spoken Kenney moving from Ottawa to Alberta is hopes he could launch, as a consolation prize, a Conservative Restoration in this province with himself in the van, or, in this case, the blue pickup truck. Jean had already made the trip.

The federal Conservative Party, meanwhile, boldly looked east for a new leader … to Saskatchewan! This must have just about made Kenney, a native of that province, weep when he realized what had happened. Oh well, h’'s stuck with second prize now, and maybe not even that.

If we're not exactly in lockstep thanks to British Columbia's deepening green tinge, no matter, the artificial alienation of Western Canada will surely move ahead apace, at least in the imaginations of the opponents of Liberals in Ottawa and New Democrats in Edmonton.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca

Image: Flickr/72845784@N00

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