COVID-19 Updates: Protecting Albertans from the Omicron variant.
Edited – check against delivery.
Good afternoon friends and fellow Albertans.
Thank you Preston (Manning) for your always kind introduction, and for the invitation to speak about What’s Next for Alberta, and for everything you’ve done for our province and Canada during your long and distinguished career of political activism and public service.
I am honoured to work in the office where your father served as one of our great builders and statesmen for 26 years.
Friends, my purpose here today is to respond to the frustration, the anger, and even the fear felt by many Albertans and other Western Canadians, arising from our current circumstances within the Canadian federation.
Let me begin by recalling that Alberta joined the federation under protest. On March 11, 1905, just six months before we entered Confederation, Frederick Haultain, Premier of the Northwest Territories, wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier, protesting the terms on which the national government was proposing to admit the new provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Haultain had a number of grievances, including that Alberta and Saskatchewan should, in his view, join the federation as one big province called Buffalo. He was concerned that Central Canadians wanted to divide us into two smaller provinces that would carry less weight. But his main objection was that Ottawa was offending Canada's founding Constitution, the British North America Act, by failing to grant the new provinces full jurisdiction over various aspects of governance, as defined in the BNA Act.
In Haultain's words: "If the King in Council is bound by the provisions of the Act, in admitting an independent and consenting colony into the union, it can hardly be contended that Parliament has the power to create an unwilling, inferior and imperfect organization.”
Future Saskatchewan Chief Justice Haultain carefully chose those words – "an unwilling, inferior and imperfect organization." But they fell mainly on deaf ears, even in the territories where there was euphoria about being witness to the birth of two new provinces. That enthusiasm and optimism was captured in a special program written for the celebrations accompanying Alberta's birthday on September 1, 1905. The brochure was entitled, "The Province and People of Destiny." It proclaimed that, “This new province of Alberta, by virtue of its extent and varied character, is destined to become the brightest gem in the Crown of the great Empire that encircles the world. It is a delightsome land with its prairies and its mountains, its forests and fertile lands, and a healthy invigorating climate with perennial youth in the very air. There is avenue and opportunity for every kind of effort and enterprise.”
What a beautiful expression of the spirit of Alberta – “avenue and opportunity for every kind of effort and enterprise…for a province and a people of destiny.
Now I think history teaches us that Haultain's anxiety and the optimism of inauguration day were both right. In so many ways, Alberta did become the “brightest gem,” at least within the Canadian Crown. For most of its history, our province has been so prosperous that it has attracted wave upon wave of newcomers, of hard workers and risk-takers from across the continent and around the world. And our wealth has spilled far beyond our borders, creating jobs and subsidizing public services in every corner of Canada. To have achieved all of this, despite what Haultain called the “unwilling, inferior and imperfect” circumstances of our admission to the federation, is truly a tribute to the dynamism of our enterprise culture and the resilience of our people.
Think about that resilience for a moment. Preston's father Ernest Manning became provincial treasurer precisely when the Government of Alberta was effectively going bankrupt. It could no longer finance its debt. And yet, through tenacity, Albertans dragged themselves out of the Great Depression and the terrible drought, the poverty and the despair. The oil discovery in 1947 at Leduc, combined with strong and ethical leadership, built the framework of our energy wealth and our modern dynamism as an economy. All of that, under the leadership of one constant government and one hopeful people.
Still, the wellspring of modern Western frustration and anger lies in the original flawed articles of confederal union. And the key to our contentment lies in repairing those flaws. Fixing them would be easy if they were merely some act of bureaucratic incompetence or political sabotage. But as generations of disaffected Westerners can attest, the flaws are embedded in the economic structure of the federation, our national political institutions, and often the complacency and condescension of the so-called ‘Laurentian elites.’
Let me address one such example of that condescension – a column by David Parkinson in today's Toronto Globe and Mail, in which he writes to Brad Wall and I about the frustration being expressed by Prairie Canadians. He says, "You didn't invent hardship. Your preaching is a slap in the face to all your fellow Canadians who suffered while you thrived."
He talks about how there have been periods of economic hardship in other regions of the country. Dislocation in the industrial heartland for manufacturing workers, in the East Coast fishery following the collapse of the cod, and in British Columbia's forestry industry. He says some of these periods of hardship were caused by bad government policy, and he's absolutely right.
But what he fails to understand is this – that when our fellow Canadians in those regions and industries were going through their time of trial, Alberta had their back. They had the huge, generous support of this province. And tens and tens of thousands of those Central Canadian manufacturer workers, those East Coast fishery workers, those B.C. lumber workers who lost their industries or their jobs, moved from unemployment and underemployment to the dignity of work and the thrill of opportunity here in Alberta.
Together, they helped us to develop the resources which generated the wealth that we share with those fellow Canadians through equalization and other transfers.
And so, to Mr. Parkinson: Yes, let's talk about hardship, because we are going through hardship.
The other thing that those parts of the country did not experience during times of economic adversity is that they did not have a federal government that was going out of its way to make a bad situation worse.
So, let's talk about hardship. We have been going through five years of hardship in this province. Our economy is smaller today than it was five years ago. Per capita incomes are down by 13 per cent from 2014. That means the average Alberta family, after taxes, is still significantly poorer than they were five years ago.
Per capita GDP is down by five per cent. Between 2014 and 2018, business bankruptcies rose more than 50 per cent. And thousands upon thousands of Albertans have lost their homes, their small businesses and their hope.
The human cost of all of this is very real. Too often we cloud and impersonalize it with statistics. But the real cost is very personal and very human. It's expressed in the wave of crime, particularly across rural Alberta, where we've seen a quadrupling of property crimes in many counties and municipalities. It's seen in an unprecedented opioid and addiction crisis that has led, in part, to that crime and to much violence. And an increase in the crime rate in our cities and in every corner of society.
It's expressed most devastatingly in an increase in the rate of Albertans who have taken their own lives over the past five years. The per capita rate of suicide in Alberta is 50 per cent higher than it is in Ontario. This literally is, for many people, a life-and-death question.
It's expressed in a fiscal crisis where Alberta has by far the largest per capita deficit in the country, forcing our government to make very difficult decisions. It is not lost on us that, as we do that, our friends in Québec just posted a $4 billion surplus while receiving $13 billion in equalization payments generated primarily by Alberta taxpayers.
I want to salute my colleague, Premier Legault, for being the first Québec premier to articulate as a social objective eliminating Québec’s dependence on equalization and other federal transfers. But he tells me it’s going to take a very long time to achieve that goal. I joked with him, I said, “François you remind of Saint Augustine, who wrote in his Confessions shortly after his conversion that he prayed, ‘God make me chaste, but not yet.’”
Some of the chattering classes claim that all of this adversity is just the result of "low oil prices." Others dismissively claim that we are getting our just desserts, that we are hanging on pointlessly to a dying industry – the energy industry.
Let's take these arguments on.
First, if this was really about global energy prices, then tell me why is there an unprecedented economic boom driven by the energy industry with full employment in places not far from here – in North Dakota, Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma – to which tens of billions of dollars of capital has moved from Alberta. And with it, equipment, jobs, people and talent. No, it's not about prices. It's about policy.
Policies that have landlocked our energy. Policies that are the deliberate result of a 15-year long, largely foreign-funded campaign, to landlock Alberta energy. The cancellation of Northern Gateway, the killing of Energy East, the surrender to Obama's veto on Keystone XL, the bungling of Trans Mountain, the ‘No More Pipelines’ Law (Bill C-69), the tanker ban (Bill C-48), and on and on. That is why we have a price differential that is being expressed, in practical terms, in five years of economic stagnation.
Second, the argument that this is a dying industry and that we Albertans just better get used to it. And retrain all of our hundreds of thousands of engineers, and geologists and rig hands, and service workers, and all the people who depend on the economy and the wealth that they generate.
According to the International Energy Agency, global demand for oil is projected to increase from the current 100 million barrels per day to approximately 110 million barrels per day by 2040.
Now some say that's too bullish a projection. The same agency’s most bearish projection for the future of oil is for almost 70 million barrels per day of consumption by 2040. And that's based on full compliance with the Paris Climate Agreement. Seventy million. Which would only be off 30 per cent from where we are right now. The same agency projects that global consumption of natural gas will increase by a third over the same two decades.
We have the third largest oil reserves on earth, with a current market value globally of roughly$20 trillion. And one of the world's largest proven and probable reserves of natural gas. The question is, who will supply that demand 10 and 20 and 30 years from now? Given the intensive investments in technology to reduce the carbon intensity and to shrink the environmental footprint of Alberta energy, we will be – increasingly we are – the most responsible barrel of oil produced in the world.
We certainly are when it comes to any metric of social or governance standards. And increasingly we are on environmental standards as well. If we have the wisdom to continue producing energy with a shrinking environmental footprint, we will be the most desirable last barrel available to global energy markets.
I believe, and Albertans believe, that the world needs more of the secure energy produced at the world's highest human rights, environmental and labour standards in this great democracy.
Now despite all the hardship that we’ve been through, we've continued to be major net contributors to the rest of the country. Contributing, in the past five years, on average $23 billion net more through our federal taxes to Ottawa than we've received back in services and transfers – $200 billion more over the past decade, and $600 billion more since 1960.
I saw an NDP Member of Parliament, Don Davies, recently attacking Alberta because he said we were irresponsible and we didn't set aside $1 trillion in a sovereign wealth fund like the Norwegians did.
I had to explain to Mr. Davies that Norway is a unitary state. They got to keep every dime of their royalty and tax revenues from their natural resources. But Alberta is a province that, within the context of our federation, has shared, over the same time, $600 billion in wealth with the rest of the country. How perverse is it to blame the victim, in a sense, when we have been doing so much to share our wealth with the rest of the country?
Peter Lougheed said that if the Heritage Fund grew at the same scale as the Norwegian Sovereign Fund and the Alaska Permanent Fund, it would be jeopardized because governments in Ottawa and the rest of the country would find it far too tempting a target.
So here is the fundamental unfairness: Governments and politicians, in many parts of the rest of the country, benefiting from the resources that belong to Albertans, while trying to impair us from developing those same resources.
A Prime Minister who says that he wants to "phase out the oil sands" and who campaigned in this election against what he called les grandes pétrolières (the big oil companies). It is unthinkable that a Prime Minister would say that we must phase out the auto sector, or phase out Québec's aviation sector.
Could you imagine a Prime Minister saying we need to stand up against the big auto companies? Quebec's big aviation companies? How about up against SNC Lavalin? I don't think that would happen.
When manufacturing was going through adversity in Ontario, or lumber in British Columbia, or fisheries on our East Coast, we didn't have a national leader essentially demonizing those industries. We didn't have a national leader who shut down Energy East with a carbon test by changing the regulatory standards, while at the same time allowing OPEC tankers to bring dictator oil into Canadian waters.
The Prime Minister, at best, bent the law to violate prosecutorial independence, notionally for the commercial advantage of one company located in Montréal. But when Encana, which used to be the largest company operating in our country, finally and formally moved south of the border, we couldn't even get a Tweet out of the Prime Minister to express his concern.
We have the Québec government that exempted from environmental review or emissions limits, a subsidized cement factory in the Gaspésie region. At the same time, that government threatens to block an East Coast pipeline that would allow us to displace OPEC oil with responsibly produced Canadian energy.
These are the reasons why there is a deep sense of inequity and unfairness across Canada's Prairies.
We have tried to address that unfairness in the federation throughout our modern history.
When Preston Manning led the campaign saying that “The West Wants In,” that was in response to the National Energy Program, to the CF-18 maintenance fiasco, to the Canadian Wheat Board, and to a constitutional agenda that seemed focused on the concerns of just one province.
When Peter Lougheed went to war to defend our vital economic interests he won a great victory, Section 92A of the Constitution, which reads: “In each province the Legislature may exclusively make laws in relation to exploration for non-renewable natural resources in the province; (and) development, conservation and management of non-renewable natural resources and forestry resources in the province, including laws in relation to the rate of primary production therefrom.”
That critical victory gave us the power, contrary to the experience of the National Energy Program, to control the development of our own resources. That section he secured was a condition of Alberta signing the Constitution Act. Alberta would have been formally outside the 1982 Constitution, along with Québec, had we not secured that fundamental right to protect and develop our resources.
But now what do we have? A federal government that is walking right in and tearing up Section 92A through their ‘No More Pipelines’ Law (Bill C-69), which asserts a non-existent federal right to regulate the upstream production of our natural resources.
Another way that we fought for fairness was to secure the Fiscal Stabilization Program decades ago. It was designed to be a kind of equalization rebate for "have" provinces when they have a sudden and unexpected decline in revenues. That has only happened once in our history, until recently. That was 1986 when Alberta dipped into recession and received $419 million in uncapped transfers from the Program to recognize the short-term adversity we were going through.
Then the next year, 1987, the federal government capped the Fiscal Stabilization Program at $60 per person. So, fast-forward to this long downturn and we should have received $1.73 billion from this equalization rebate. Instead we were capped and only received $250 million. Another example of how we have fought and worked to make the federation fair, but those victories have been ultimately reversed.
We also fought in this province, successfully, for the right to elect our own Senators and did so on three occasions. Two Prime Ministers appointed five Senators selected by Albertans. But too that has been thwarted, in part, by the Supreme Court and the indifference of the Trudeau government.
And so, friends, this is the frustration we feel. We have made a hugely oversized contribution to the rest of the federation, and we do not begrudge our fellow Canadians the benefit of the resources, hard work and innovation of Albertans. All we ask is the right to develop those resources. But time and again that right and that ability has been thwarted throughout our modern history.
You know, we Albertans, I truly believe that we are big Canadians. We see beyond our borders. We are too often wrongly characterized or stereotyped as myopic and provincial in our perspective. The truth is that this province has received far more in-migration from other parts of the country than any other province. Alberta is made up of Canadians from coast-to-coast and, of course, people from around the world who came here to pursue opportunity.
This province, I believe in many ways is the most cosmopolitan province in the country, with the biggest vision of the bigger, wider world that is out there in the breadth of this great northern country. And our character as big Canadians is reflected in our belief in the founding vision of the Constitution as properly conceived.
We don't look for the federal government to simply shrink away into irrelevance. We recognize that there are essential federal powers that must be exercised by a responsible federal government to ensure the vision of the founders of Confederation – of Canada as an economic union.
For example, we plead with the federal government, as I have done with Prime Minister Trudeau, to take seriously federal paramountcy over interprovincial infrastructure like pipelines under section 92.10(a) of the Constitution. It says, “Works and undertakings connecting the province with any other or others of the provinces, or extending beyond the limits of the province” are the exclusive authority of the federal government. Because, after all, our dominion was built on a huge economic infrastructure program that crossed provincial and territorial boundaries – the Canadian Pacific Railway.
We plead with the federal government to actually occupy and exercise its powers to achieve the vision of an economic union. Instead we have the total inversion of this, Bill C-69, which is violating our exclusive authority to develop our own resources.
You have the federal government, and four of the five federal parties in this last election, saying that provinces can exercise a nonexistent veto over pipelines and interprovincial infrastructure. In giving away this essential federal power they, in a sense, have given up on the economic union, while at the same time violating exclusive provincial authority to develop our own resources.
It is a complete reversal, an inversion of the actual letter and spirit of the Constitution. It reminds me of what Peter Lougheed said when another Prime Minister Trudeau imposed the National Energy Program. He said, "The Ottawa government, without negotiation and without agreement, simply walked into our homes and occupied the living room."
The federal government already violates our exclusive constitutional jurisdiction over health care, and plans to do so again, apparently, with respect to pharmacare. But they refuse to use their powers to ensure free trade within Canada, to knock down interprovincial trade barriers.
We Albertans are big Canadians. We are the greatest champions of the vision of Confederation, of the economic union, of the appropriate exercise of powers. And we call on our friends from coast-to-coast to embrace that vision, to embrace the economic union.
A growing number of Albertans are responding to the sense of unfairness by expressing support for separation from the federation. Let me address that sentiment head-on.
First of all: it is essential that leaders at all levels listen respectfully to the message that a growing number of Westerners are sending. The wrong approach is to deride, dismiss or ignore the large number of Western Canadians who increasingly say that they are not at home in their own country. Sadly, that is the position taken by too many of our opinion elites, and I believe all it will do is to deepen the sense of alienation.
But let me offer you my own personal view on this question. I am and always will be a Canadian patriot. And as frustrated and as angry as Albertans may be, I believe that, in their heart of hearts, the vast majority of Albertans are Canadian patriots.
In two days, we will commemorate our sacred fallen, on Remembrance Day. We will remember those who served and those who died in our country's uniform, as did many members of my family. They came from many backgrounds. Many had political grievances when they went to defend Canada, but they came together to defend our most deeply held values, our belief in human dignity and freedom.
As I say, my own family served in that uniform for generations, so it is part of who I am. My own father was a Royal Canadian Air Force pilot. He was a proud Western Canadian. He felt the grievances that we all share, but he would never give up on this country. He would never allow one Prime Minister, one party in office, one government, or one set of policies to make us feel unwelcome in our country.
Canada is so much more than one government. Canada is so much more than Prime Minister Trudeau. And Canada is so much more than the bad policies currently emanating from Ottawa.
Now let me add that I want to listen respectfully to people who have different views and I do think we need to have a respectful dialogue about our future. My own view is: I cannot conceive of how we would be better off by cutting ourselves off and landlocking ourselves from the rest of the continent.
The single greatest challenge that we face is a lack of coastal access for our energy, because of the campaign to landlock Alberta. I do not understand how the solution to a campaign to landlock Alberta is for us to voluntarily landlock Alberta, to remove ourselves from any constitutional or legal argument to access the other markets around the world. I don't understand how it would be to our economic or political benefit to withdraw from NAFTA, or the Canada-US-Mexico trade agreement.
I think many Albertans have a sense that we are isolated. But that's not true. We've been developing a robust alliance with like-minded provinces that, frankly, I do not think we have seen before in our modern economic history.
We have nine of the 10 provincial governments who expressed their support for energy and resource corridors, including oil and gas pipelines. We have nine of 10 provinces who are strongly opposed to the federal government’s Bill C-69 ‘No More Pipelines’ Law.
We have the majority of provinces opposed to the imposition of the federal government’s carbon tax. We even have the Government of Québec that has agreed to join us at the Supreme Court to oppose that intrusion in provincial jurisdiction.
While many of us were disappointed with the outcome of the federal election two weeks ago, we should recall that 67.5 per cent of Canadians elected a majority of Members of Parliament who support the completion of the Trans Mountain pipeline and market access for Alberta energy.
We all agree that the status quo is unacceptable. For me, and I believe for most Albertans, giving up on Canada forever is not the answer to this problem. So what, then, is the alternative? Well, bold action. Bold action that is urgently executed.
Today I will remind you of the actions we have already taken as a government, and announce new actions we will take to achieve a fair deal now for Alberta within Canada. As I say we hoped the October federal election would have produced a change of course in Ottawa, that it would have mitigated some of the hostile and discriminatory policies that are being aimed at our province.
We hoped that it would mend the divisions that welled up in Canada during the Trudeau government's first term. But that has not happened. Instead, the election exacerbated those divisions and produced a minority government that is potentially even more dangerous to the federation. Albertans know this and they want us to respond boldly and assertively, with strength. And we are.
As Premier, it is my democratic duty to stand up for Alberta. As a proud Canadian, it is my patriotic duty to defend national unity against those who have been trying to drive wedges in our country. It is my job to explain how their destructive economic agenda has been hurting working men and women here in Alberta and across Canada. And it is my mission to make them understand that by relentlessly targeting the engine of our national economy, our energy industry, they are pitting Canadian against Canadian.
I am proud and hope to be in the tradition of Canadian political leaders who have fought to uphold the foundational provincial economic and constitutional rights within our federation. In the West from Premiers (Frederick) Haultain, to (John) Brownlee, to (Peter) Lougheed, to (Ernest) Manning, all we've ever asked for is a fair deal, to enjoy the same autonomy, rights and respect as all other provinces.
It was a core principle of Confederation, championed by founding fathers like the great Ontario Liberal Premier Oliver Mowat, and by Québec leaders from (Louis-Hippolyte) LaFontaine to (René) Lévesque.
The record of assaults on our national unity and prosperity under Prime Minister Trudeau's government is clear. It includes:
Bill C-69, a death knell for the future Canadian energy and resource development.
A tanker ban (Bill C-48) that only applies to one coast and targets only one product – Alberta’s bitumen.
A selectively applied carbon tax that will hit at least $50 in the next four years. It will almost certainly rise higher beyond that, which hits hardest, on resource-based economies like ours and that of Saskatchewan.
The vetoing, cancelling or bungling of major pipeline projects like Northern Gateway, Keystone and Energy East.
Giving provinces a de facto veto over interprovincial pipelines, which as I've said, falls squarely in federal jurisdiction.
Imposing new federal methane emission regulations on top of Alberta's already strong regulatory framework.
The new proposed federal Clean Fuel Standard, which, like the carbon tax, will add even more to consumer energy costs, but be hidden in fuel prices while making our businesses less competitive.
And an overall mindset that is indifference, indifference to the importance of energy and resources to our economy, and is actively hostile to these industries and those who work in them.
Energy policy is Ottawa's primary instrument for inflicting discriminatory economic pain, and this cannot be allowed to continue.
The federal government has given up on the idea of a fair deal for Alberta by capping the Fiscal Stabilization Program, which was supposed to give us a bit of a hand up while we face an economic crisis.
In 2015, we saw a $7 billion decline in Alberta government revenues. But our fiscal stabilization, or equalization rebate, was only $250 million when it should have been $1.6 billion. The same thing happened again the next year when we were shortchanged another $380 million. Together that is a $1.73 billion shortfall that we should have received from Ottawa, but didn't, while they expect us to continue paying the bills via a net fiscal transfer of $23 billion a year.
It's pretty hard to see actions like this as coincidental, especially in combination with Ottawa's stubborn refusal to help Alberta with other serious problems like the pine beetle infestation that threatens our forestry industry.
Or their efforts to sterilize vast amounts of our wilderness from economic development through the application of the Species at Risk Act.
Or their chronic mismanagement of foreign relations, which has had a disproportionately negative effect on Alberta, particularly in relation to U.S. tariffs on softwood lumber exports and Chinese sanctions against our agricultural products.
Albertans have a right to be fed up. I get it. I'm as fed up as anybody else in this province. But also, more than that, many Albertans are afraid. They fear where our economy, our province and our country are headed.
As I toured the province during the three years leading up to this year's provincial election, I could see fear in the eyes of laid-off oilfield workers and their families, in business owners hanging on by the skin of their teeth, in local councillors dreading how to pay for public services as local tax revenues dried up, in energy companies’ CEOs with exhausted lines of credit, in police officers and in social workers and healthcare providers overwhelmed by the explosion of homelessness, crime and addiction.
This is serious. So yes, a growing number of Albertans are afraid for our future and we've had it with Ottawa's indifference to this adversity.
Albertans have been working for Ottawa for too long. It's time for Ottawa to start working for us.
After five years of economic decline and stagnation, Ottawa must meet us halfway. They must stop taking us for granted and they must start listening to us. They need to stop making it harder for us to jump start our economy. They need to understand that they're killing the golden goose. They have both fists wrapped around the throat of that goose, the source of the gold that paid for quality public services across Canada, and they're squeezing it hard.
But despite all this anger and frustration, we Albertans will not lose our heads, because we are practical people. We are not unreasonable people. Nothing we are asking for is unreasonable. Everything that we are asking for is common sense. And it's within the federal government's power to deliver. And none of it would hurt another province.
We are demanding a fair deal now for Alberta within Canada. One that respects the Constitution and gets Ottawa out of our way so that we can do what we do best, what Alberta has always done: grow our economy, create jobs, get people back to work and generate an oversized contribution to Canada's wealth.
As I said earlier, our government is prepared to deploy every legal, economic and constitutional tool at our disposal to maximize our leverage and to win a fair deal for Alberta.
Let me walk you through the actions we have already taken. Since the election six months ago, our government has kept its word to stand up for Alberta with concrete action, including the immediate proclamation of the Preserving Canada's Economic Prosperity Act, Bill 12 – which some have dubbed the turn-off-the-taps legislation – which gave Alberta the ability to restrict the export of crude oil, natural gas and refined fuels. This very first act taken by our cabinet through an Order in Council is now subject to litigation, and we will vigorously defend this important tool that was originally conceived of by Peter Lougheed in response to the NEP.
Secondly, within two hours of being sworn in as Premier, I appeared before the Senate Transportation Committee to make an impassioned appeal for them to vote against the discriminatory Bill C-48 tanker moratorium. We Albertans were delighted, against our expectations, to see that committee vote to delete the bill and to kill C-48.
Two days after that, I was in Ottawa appearing before the Senate Energy Committee to speak out against the ‘No More Pipelines’ Law (Bill C-69). I said to the Senators, “Could you imagine at a combustible moment for national unity in Québec a federal government bringing in a bill that would massively injure one of Québec’s largest industries? It would be unthinkable.”
I had sat around a federal cabinet table, and even the slightest potential grievance for Québec would be a matter of great concern. So I said to the Senators, “It is your role in our federation to protect the regions and to safeguard unity. You cannot allow this bill to proceed.”
We tabled 187 amendments, and the Senate subsequently adopted every single one of them, which remove the objectionable provisions from C-69. Sadly, Mr. Trudeau didn't listen to the Senators that he appointed, to the nine of 10 provinces. He ignored us and restored the bill.
We challenged the constitutionality of the federal carbon tax by supporting Saskatchewan and Ontario, in their judicial references and now in their appeals to the Supreme Court of Canada. We are also leading our own application for judicial reference against the federal carbon tax at the Alberta Court of Appeal.
We secured support from nine of 10 provinces for the principle of energy and resource corridors including, explicitly, oil and gas pipelines.
We have created the Indigenous Litigation Fund to support pro-development First Nations who want to defend their right to economic development through resource projects. Because for too long almost all of the legal and political voice has belonged to a small number of groups opposed to development. While Ottawa and other governments have ignored the vast majority of Western Canadian First Nations who want to be partners in prosperity, who want to benefit from the resources that lie below the grounds first inhabited by their ancestors. I think the vast majority of Albertans agree that that is a moral obligation of our time, and we are going to help them defend those rights in court.
We launched Commissioner (Steve) Allan's public inquiry under the Inquiries Act into the funding sources behind the campaign to landlock our energy. We passed into law the Senate Election Act, which reinstates the right of Albertans to select their nominees to the Senate. We launched the Canadian Energy Centre that will coordinate the fight-back strategy for Alberta's energy future, supported by a $30 million investment.
We created the Indigenous Opportunities Corporation backed up by a billion dollars of the faith and credit of the Alberta Crown, again to facilitate Aboriginal financial participation in major resource projects which, I believe, will be a strategic game changer for market access.
We hosted the Stampede Premiers’ Meeting to consolidate support from a majority of provinces representing over 60 per cent of the population. And apparently, I'm under attack for having done that by the premier (Rachel Notley) who successfully isolated Alberta from much of the rest of the country, and who’s picking fights with her best friends over in Saskatchewan. I make no apologies for going out of our way to build alliances across the country, and Albertans need to know that we do not stand alone.
And we pressed the federal government to exempt Alberta from the Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation stress test that has put the dream of homeownership out of the reach of too many Albertans, with a one-size-fits-all policy designed to cool real estate speculation in Toronto and Vancouver.
Those are just some of the actions that we've already taken in our first six months. Now let me then tell you what further actions will be taken.
Our government will fulfill our platform commitments to fight for a fair deal by demanding reforms to the equalization formula, in part to exclude non-renewable resource revenues from the calculation and to impose a hard cap on equalization transfers. Allow me to restate our clear commitment that, unless we see the completion of a coastal pipeline or the repeal of Bill C-69, we will allow Albertans to vote in a constitutional referendum on removing Section 36 equalization from the Constitution of Canada.
We will insist as a priority that the fiscal stabilization program cap – the equalization rebate – be lifted retroactively to 2014, as a form of fairness for equalization following years of economic decline and stagnation.
We will, as committed in our platform, hold a referendum on an amendment to the Constitution to entrench property rights in Alberta.
We will hold elections for Alberta's nominees to the Senate of Canada further to the recently renewed Senate Election Act, and we'll hold those elections in October of 2021. In the meantime, we will renew our call for the appointment of Mike Shaikh to the next opening in the Canadian Senate. He was the third-place finisher in the 2012 Alberta Senate elections.
We will press, as I've already begun doing, for a Charter of Economic Rights to strengthen the economic union by eliminating interprovincial trade barriers and strengthening federal paramountcy over interprovincial infrastructure, including pipelines.
We will pass legislation to create an Alberta Parole Board to take over responsibility for provincial inmates from the Parole Board of Canada.
We will demand reforms to the Employment Insurance program to make it fair to Alberta workers who continue to subsidize unemployed beneficiaries in other parts of the country, even though Alberta's unemployment rate has been higher than the national average for four years.
We will continue advocating for the federal government to convert the Canada Health and Social Transfers to tax points to give us more control over how revenue is raised and spent within our areas of exclusive jurisdiction.
We are going to be very bold in imagining every way that we can assert ourselves in our fight for fairness in the federation. And that is why I am pleased today to announce that our government is appointing a panel of Albertans to consult with their fellow citizens on achieving a fair deal in the federation.
This panel will be made up of the Honourable Preston Manning; former provincial minister and 25-year veteran of the oil and gas industry, Donna Kennedy-Glans; Oryssia Lennie, OC, who is a former federal deputy minister and current Board Chair of the Canada West Foundation, who worked closely with Premier Peter Lougheed on many of these issues in the 1980s; Moin Yahya, Professor of Law at the University of Alberta, a brilliant Albertan who understands these issues in great depth; Stephen Lougheed, who has a lifetime in entrepreneurship, particularly in the high technology sector and in the sciences, and who happens to be of the son of a former Premier. I think now we have on this panel the sons of two premiers who governed Alberta for 50 of our 114 years. That's a pretty good institutional memory.
We have also asked members of the government caucus to sit on the panel to liaise with the government and the Legislature, including my colleague from Medicine Hat, Drew Barnes; from Banff-Kananaskis, Miranda Rosin; and from Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, Tany Yao.
And my friend Jason Goodstriker, who is a member of the Blood Tribe of the Blackfoot Nation, former band councillor and a former Alberta Regional Chief for the Assembly of First Nations, with a lifetime working in the oil and gas sector.
The panel will be asked to consult Albertans on how best to advance our province's vital economic interests, such as the construction of energy pipelines. Specifically, the panel will consider whether the following measures would advance the province's interests.
Firstly, whether we should establish a provincial revenue agency to collect provincial taxes directly, by ending the Canada-Alberta Tax Collection Agreement. And whether in so doing, we should join Québec in seeking an agreement to also collect federal taxes within the province.
Secondly, the panel will be asked to consult Albertans and make recommendations on the wisdom of creating an Alberta Pension Plan by withdrawing from the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). Doing so, we believe, would allow us to repatriate from Ottawa back to Alberta, $40 billion that belongs to Alberta taxpayers. And, because we are by far the youngest population in the country, we make a net contribution of approximately $3 billion a year to the CPP. Meaning that we are paying higher premiums than we otherwise would, premiums that are being increased by the federal government with the acquiescence of the former Alberta NDP government. Should we decide to repatriate those pension reserves, they would be invested by the Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo), which already has a sterling track record as a world-class asset manager with over $115 billion of assets under management, with rates of return that have consistently exceeded the market. Should Albertans decide to approve this development, it will allow AIMCo to expand significantly and operate in a larger asset class, operating more efficiently and being able to diversify its investments across the country and around the world. It would also allow us to strengthen and grow our financial services sector here in the province, while also reducing premiums, which would create jobs.
We will invite the panel to explore the feasibility of establishing an Alberta Provincial Police Force by ending the Alberta Police Service Agreement with the Government of Canada.
We will emulate Québec’s practice of playing a larger role in international relations, in part by seeking Alberta representation in treaty negotiations that affect our interests.
We want the panel to consult on emulating Québec’s legal requirement that public bodies, including municipalities and school boards, obtain the approval of the provincial government before they can enter into agreements with the Government of Canada.
We invite the panel to consult on using the existing provincial power to appoint the Chief Firearms Officer for Alberta.
We invite the panel to advise us on the possibility of opting out of federal cost-share programs with full compensation, such as the federal government's proposed pharmacare program.
We will ask the Fair Deal panel to advise us on seeking an exchange of tax points for federal cash transfers under the Canada Health and Social Transfer, so we could be more directly accountable to Albertans for areas that lie within our jurisdiction.
And we will ask the panel to advise us on the wisdom of establishing a formalized Alberta Provincial Constitution.
Should Albertans indicate support for pursuing these bold policy ideas to assert our rightful role in the federation, we would continue to do a detailed policy analysis in a very transparent way. On some of these bold proposals, I believe it would be a democratic responsibility of the government to consult directly with Albertans on their wishes through referendums. I can assure Albertans that we would not make a decision to establish an Alberta Pension Plan or an Alberta Provincial Police Force unless the majority of Albertans were to endorse those proposals in a fair and democratic referendum.
Many of the issues I've discussed are of a strategic nature. They deal with big questions about our role in the country. But we have to keep our eye on the prize, which is the economic crisis that our province is in today. We cannot lose sight of that.
That is why I will be conveying to Prime Minister Trudeau and to our provincial allies that we are prioritizing several issues with huge and immediate implications for jobs and the economy, including obtaining firm guarantees on the construction and completion of the Trans Mountain pipeline and a clear willingness to ensure that the rule of law is respected and applied. All of Alberta's leverage will be focused on this goal.
We will prioritize retroactively lifting the cap on the Fiscal Stabilization Program back to 2014-15, to receive a $1.73 billion rebate on equalization.
We will seek federal approval of flow-through shares or other tax instruments to increase job creating investment in environmental technology, such as carbon capture, utilization and storage, or perhaps to incentivize accelerated well reclamation, to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Canada's oil and gas sector to make our industry more competitive for attracting capital, but also to create jobs.
We will seek funding for the creation of green jobs by accelerating reclamation of abandoned wells.
We will seek clear unequivocal support for future liquefied natural gas projects that will significantly reduce GHG emissions by accelerating coal-to-gas conversion in the developing world.
We will seek repeal of Bill C-48 and Bill C-69, or at the very least significant mitigation of that legislation as it goes to the regulatory phase.
We will seek equivalency agreements for Alberta's new Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) program with the federal industrial carbon tax. And we will seek an equivalency agreement on our methane regulations to avoid our industry, yet again, being sideswiped by Ottawa.
And we will seek accelerated federal approval of outstanding job creating projects, like the Teck Resources Frontier Mine and TransAlta natural gas pipelines within the province to convert coal-fired plants to natural gas.
Friends, we have to understand that this is operating at many levels. We have huge long-term strategic challenges. To those who say that we should do all of these things at once, I say we must maintain leverage over the federal government, especially over the next two years, to ensure the completion of Trans Mountain.
Why would we fire all of our ammunition today? Why would we play all of our cards right now? It is existential for us that we get coastal market access. We must use wisdom to carefully stage each element of this fight for fairness, so that we can get a response that helps us to begin creating jobs and get a fair deal for our resources.
Friends, let me close by saying that I know so many Albertans are feeling a sense of despair and fear, as well as deep frustration. But I want to send a message to those Albertans, that we are the province of opportunity. We are the magnet of risk-takers and doers, builders and dreamers. That is who we have always been through our history. We have each other. We have friends across the country. We have a government that is absolutely determined to use every tool at our disposal to secure a fair deal for Alberta in the Canadian federation.
We have resources that are the envy of the world. We have the youngest and best-educated population in the country. Even during a time of economic anxiety, we still have one of the highest levels of population growth in the world.
Calgary was recently voted, for the second straight year, as the most livable city in all of North America. Edmonton has one of the most vibrant tech sectors. This is a province with a huge and vital future.
We must believe in this province. We must draw on our natural resilience, on our history of overcoming adversity. As we have done in the past, we will do it again. Working together for an Alberta that is strong and free, because we know that a strong Alberta means a strong Canada. And it means a bright future for the next generation.
Thank you very much.