The past two years has been a bit of a slow motion SHTF situation for my home province of Alberta. The Canadian main stream media has highlighted repeatedly how the present economic recession we are experiencing is a consequence of the drop in oil prices, although there are also several other factors exacerbating our circumstances.
In Spring 2015, the socialist New Democratic Party (NDP) won the Alberta provincial election. I believe their victory was a consequence of scores of economically displaced Canadian leftists from Vancouver, Toronto, and even Saskatchewan. The NDP have traditionally opposed Alberta’s oil sands development and draw tremendous support from public sector unions, particularly in Edmonton.
In Fall 2015, the left leaning Liberal Party of Canada won the federal Election, thrusting Justin Trudeau into the Prime Minister’s office. Justin Trudeau is the son of former Prime Minister, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, who Albertans generally despise for his attempt to nationalize our oil industry in the 1980’s.
Neither of these developments bode well for Alberta in the present, and there has been a sense of malaise province wide as we have gone from “the economic engine of Canada” to running the largest deficits in our province’s history with nearly 100,000 jobs lost in the past two years.
Both my wife (an accountant) and my brother (a petroleum engineer) were laid off and among our groups of friends, there is a pervasive fear of layoffs and economic hardship. Crime, drug use, homelessness have all spiked and the impact of the downturn can be felt everywhere.
One of the most surreal examples was when the head pastor at my church mentioned prior to a sermon that the church would be laying off support staff and the entire pastoral team would be taking a significant reduction in salary.
Through hardship like this, a new movement has emerged whose sole objective is to see Alberta secede from Canada.
I use the term “new” in that every Canadian province has had secessionist movements throughout Canadian history, even though most believe it is only a Quebec phenomenon.
Alberta, today is in a unique situation that differs from when all prior Canadian separatist movements emerged.
We have the youngest population even without inter-provincial immigration. Generally socially conservative, Albertan’s tend to be more pro-life and it is evident in that unique in Canada, our birth rate exceeds our mortality rate.
Alberta has a per-capita GDP that is close to 50% higher than the Canadian average. Most attribute this to the oil industry, although it also has to do with the fact that the Calgary-Edmonton urban corridor has some of the highest concentrations of skilled and educated labor in North America. My home town of Calgary is considered “the Engineering Capital” of Canada, and I myself am a Software Engineer with over 10 years experience outside the oil industry.
As a consequence of both our young demography and our high levels of personal income, Alberta is subject to Federal transfer systems known as “Equalization,” which redistributes wealth from wealthy “have” provinces (like Alberta) to poorer “have-not” provinces (like Quebec). If Canadians were honest, they would call it socialism.
At present, the value of the per-capita transfers from Alberta is approximately $5000 per person, per year. The only nation on earth with comparable regional transfers is Saudi Arabia.
Within the next decade, this number will rise to $20,000 per Albertan, per year for the privilege of being “Canadian.”
Canada as a whole has a decrepit demography. Owing to mass abortion and exodus of skilled labor and opportunistic youth to the US, Canada has one of the largest cohorts of Baby Boomers and the smallest cohorts of both GenX and Millennials in the world.
This is the reason Federal transfers from Alberta, along with the other Western Canadian provinces, can only go up in the coming years.
Ontario and Quebec (who constitute the democratic majority of Canadians) are aging into mass retirement while Alberta is still young and wealthy.
With the advent of American shale oil, Alberta’s oil industry is struggling to get our energy to Eastern Canada and beyond. The Eastern Canadian market is flooded with American oil loaded on tankers in the Gulf of Mexico that sail into the Canadian east coast. This is particularly exacerbated by the leftist politicians in every Canadian province (excluding Saskatchewan) who oppose pipelines and maritime transport that would enable us to get our oil to international markets.
All of this is to say that Alberta’s situation is grim and there is very little hope on the horizon.
Most Albertans, including myself, can sense it.
Most, excluding myself, are not prepared for it.
This desperation is what has propelled the new Alberta Separatist movement.
How this relates to North American geopolitics, and in particularly to the concept of “The American Redoubt,” (a term coined by American survivalist James Wesley Rawles, founder of survivalblog.com) is that Alberta’s successful separation from Canada will have fundamental consequences for what remains of Canada and the United States.
It is worth noting that American energy independence, even with the shale industry, still depends on Alberta oil. Alberta’s oil sands constitute the 3rd largest reserves on the planet, so unlike any other region on earth, we Albertans possess something the Americans need but can not take by force.
Alberta’s geography, climate and infrastructure render it such that we constantly have to struggle to raise capital and gain market access, however it also renders us one of the most secure regions on the planet.
External threats from outside North America are buffered by the Rockies to the West, the arctic territories to the North, the vast prairies to the East, and of course, the United States to the south – particularly by the Redoubt state of Montana.
The potential for hostile American aggression is tempered by the fact that the crown jewel of Alberta’s economy, our oil sands, are located in the Northern most part of the province. There is such little infrastructure in much of Alberta that a conventional land invasion by the Americans could be easily defeated by a scorched earth campaign consisting of disrupting the highways, railways, and pipelines and simply surviving in regions that have some of the harshest and most volatile living conditions on the planet.
A counter-insurgency operation required to pacify Alberta would make both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars seem like a cakewalk in comparison.
Nevertheless, the 400 lbs Harambe in the room on the subject of Alberta’s independence is the question of diplomatic ascension to the United States.
While this remains an option, many (if not most) Albertans will not support it.
Personally, I prefer the prospect of independence and an attempt to reconstitute a new nation with the other Western Canadian provinces. However, I am indifferent to the prospect of American statehood, provided the terms of Alberta’s entry in the Union were far more favorable than either independence or any offer by Canadian Federal government to rejoin Canadian confederation.
Personally I would support Alberta’s ascension to the United States, provided a condition of our entry included a full review and revision of the constitution such that:
- State rights were more greatly enshrined, especially with respect to writing State laws or opting out of Federal laws,
- States were independently responsible for collecting taxes,
- The US Federal government’s power was much more severely curtailed, especially through enhancements to both the First and Second Amendments,
- Restrictions on Presidential Executive Orders were instituted,
- Federally mandated interstate wealth transfers were prohibited,
- States were granted greater control and ownership of land and natural resources, and
- Provisions were added to establish a framework for a state’s democratic secession.
All of this, of course, is assuming the first hurdle can be overcame and the new Alberta separatist movement grows beyond the realm of social media and the web and into a real world political movement.
To the American Redoubt and to the Western Canadian separatists (both in Alberta and the neighboring Western provinces), the key development to watch over the next few years are the is the outcome of any Alberta Provincial elections, especially in Calgary.
There are three primary voting blocks in Alberta that determine the outcome of our Provincial elections: Edmonton, Calgary, and Rural Alberta.
Edmonton has almost always leaned leftist and federalist. Rural Alberta is always socially conservative and most receptive to secession. Calgary, while generally socially conservative, is also a hub of inter-province migration, which causes it to be a political wildcard.
The conservative, Alberta provincial Wildrose Party is NOT a secessionist party, however it enjoys tremendous support in Rural Alberta, where secessionist sentiment is more common. Embedded in the Wildrose party platform are policies concerning recall and referendum and if they win the 2019 Provincial elections, there is a remote possibility that Alberta could shortly after hold a provincial secession referendum akin to the separatist referendum Quebec held in the 1990’s.
If Wildrose loses the 2019 election, I believe the odds that a secessionist party enter into Alberta’s political landscape increases significantly and the odds of a secession referendum within two – three election cycles (4 years per cycle, assuming a majority government) is even higher.
It is impossible to say what the outcome beyond that will be, however the fact remains that should Alberta secede from Canada, there will be a tremendous impact on the American Redoubt.
(This is a great video from a speech given by American geopolitical analyst, Peter Zeihan from 2 years ago which explains our dilemma in Alberta. Although some of his points are presently outdated, most of his points were accurate.)
In my next post, I will write about Alberta Independence and it’s impact on British Columbia.