All 87 Alberta MLAs should declare that they reject the notion of separating from Canada, the NDP says.
Opposition house leader Heather Sweet said the government’s Fair Deal panel report and comments from United Conservative Party MLAs are prompting her to push for an emergency debate in the legislature on loyalty to Canada.
She’ll ask for MLAs to debate a motion on Monday to reject the idea of Alberta separation.
“What we would like to hear from the premier, and his cabinet, as well as his members, is that there is a commitment from this government to stop playing games with the idea of Alberta separating from Canada,” Sweet said on Wednesday.
The Fair Deal panel, struck by the provincial government to study ways Alberta could assert itself within Confederation, recommended the government study an independent provincial police force and consider withdrawing from the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), among other proposals.
Premier Jason Kenney has said the government will study those options. He has also pledged to hold referendums on Alberta’s participation in CPP and withdrawal from equalization. Alberta could not do either of these things unilaterally.
Panel member and Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes issued a dissenting opinion after the report’s release last month. He said if Alberta failed to get fairer treatment soon from the federal government, Albertans should have an opportunity to vote on independence from Canada.
Also last month, Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan told the legislature Alberta should “liberate” itself from the “mess” of equalization.
“In the real world a partnership agreement providing structural welfare payments to hostile, parasitic partners would never survive,” Stephan said on June 8. “That is equalization.”
Proposals are scaring Albertans, NDP charges
In a Wednesday statement, Kenney’s press secretary, Christine Myatt, said the premier has spoken frequently about his patriotism and desire to improve Alberta’s plight within Canada.
Kenney told reporters last month that empty threats about separation are unhelpful to improving Alberta’s economy.
“I completely understand and sympathize with the profound frustration that so many Albertans have with the way Canada has worked — particularly in recent years,” Kenney said on June 19. “I understand the frustration that has driven a not insignificant number of Albertans to talk about separation. But I fundamentally believe that that’s the wrong path for Alberta.”
Although he disagrees with some of them, backbenchers in his government are free to speak their minds, he said at the time.
Sweet said Kenney is sending mixed messages by entertaining the Fair Deal panel’s recommendations and leaving some UCP MLAs’ separatist statements unchallenged.
“When you start talking about getting rid of the CPP and creating your own police force, all of these different things, we know that that makes Albertans nervous, and it makes people nervous to come to Alberta,” Sweet said.
She went to a physically distanced pancake breakfast at a legion on Canada Day and the first thing people asked her about was the future of CPP, she said.
Earlier this week, members of the Freedom Conservative Party and Wexit Alberta also voted to merge into a new Wildrose Independence Party of Alberta.
Kenney knows there is separatist sentiment out there, and he may be attempting to appeal to those folks while trying to keep hold of more mainstream, federalist supporters, Sweet said.
Myatt pointed to the United Conservative Party’s founding principles, which include, “Loyalty to a united Canada, and a commitment for Alberta to be a Leader in the Canadian federation that constructively defends the best interests of the province and its constitutional sovereignty.”
The NDP would need unanimous support from all MLAs in the chamber to debate their motion.