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Opinion: Albertans are tired of ‘wolf cries skirmishes’ with Ottawa

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At a time when Alberta is embarking on a new economic emergence, it is high time for the province’s political leaders to show maturity and move our province forward.

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Albertans do not want to repeat history.

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In 1937, the new Social Credit government of the day tried to take on the “eastern establishment” with three acts that were supposed to regulate the banks and protect provincial legislation from constitutional challenges in the courts. These bills were not passed. They were rejected by the federal government using its constitutional power of disallowance. They were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada. They are said to have wreaked havoc on Alberta as it tried to recover from the Great Depression.

Legislation on so-called sovereignty should follow the same path.

In the general elections of 1975 and 1979, the Progressive Conservative government of Alberta found itself locked in a constitutional confrontation with Ottawa. The PCs won a major re-election in 1979. This dispute was later resolved out of court and Alberta federal relations resulted in a new Canadian constitution.

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The UCP is determined to fabricate a new confrontation with Ottawa as a tool to try to get re-elected. But Albertans are tired of the constant skirmishes of cries of the wolf.

If Alberta is to achieve economic success, as it did in the 1970s, it must be part of the solutions, not sit on the sidelines crying war and trying to preserve the status quo. Albertans are blindly electing Conservative representatives, which has the effect of leaving our province on the sidelines and watching national politics be made.

Investors don’t care about “why”, they care about certainty. Like the Socreds’ “Funny Money” of the 1930s, the Sovereignty Bill creates considerable uncertainty for investors, causing them to invest their money elsewhere and investors who invest in Alberta to flee. People don’t move or invest in a jurisdiction whose government threatens to flout the rule of law or wantonly pass laws that are repeatedly found to be unconstitutional and unenforceable. It wastes taxpayers’ money on legal fees and creates uncertainty, and uncertainty hurts business.

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The Constitution of Canada already lists in detail the powers of the federal government and of each provincial government. Neither can encroach on the jurisdiction of the other. The role of the courts is to interpret the Constitution and ensure that each government passes laws that fall within their jurisdiction. The Supreme Court has the final say in the matter, like the high courts in all democracies. It is not for a provincial government to pass a “sovereignty” law that is supposed to give it the power to decide for itself which laws and jurisdictions it wants to recognize and which it does not.

Moreover, real sovereignty would be disastrous for Alberta. Investments would flee, like in Quebec in the 1970s and 1980s. Alberta has no coastline, and the United Nations law of the sea would not give us the right to access tidal waters, contrary to what what some circles think. Alberta should create a central bank and regulate banking, commerce and immigration, and create a currency and fund the postal service, military, border security, an international diplomatic network and international relations. There will be no federal government to buy and build a pipeline in another part of the Confederation. There will be no free trade agreements with the rest of the country, Canada, let alone with other countries or free trade areas. Alberta will no longer be part of a powerful G7 country.

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If Albertans do not elect members to represent them in a Liberal government caucus, then it is up to the provincial government to bring Albertans’ perspectives to national decision-making. The constant slashing and childish trampling to hide behind ineffectual sovereignty politics does not achieve goals that benefit Albertans. Like it or not, there are national issues, like climate change, that cannot be ignored.

It was the radical Eldridge Cleaver of the 1960s who said, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. The UCP chooses to be part of the problem.

Why is the UCP trying to exclude Alberta from solving national problems? Albertans do not want to blame their failures on Ottawa, as the Socreds tried to do during the Great Depression of the 1930s. They want representation in Ottawa and a government that leads.

Mike Shaikh is a business leader, philanthropist and former senator-in-waiting from Alberta. David Khan is a former leader of the Alberta Liberal Party and a lawyer.

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