Every year, billions of dollars are siphoned out of the Alberta economy by the Federal Government who proceeds to squander it on initiatives that Albertan’s do not benefit from at all save for the privilege of being able to wave a silly red flag around and call themselves Canadian.
Upon separation, those billions of dollars Ottawa wastes trying to hold together a country that should not exist would come right back into Alberta.
Here are three things Alberta could (and I submit, should) do with that windfall immediately after separation.
1. Upgrade Alberta’s domestic infrastructure
I grew up in small towns in North Alberta. Grand Prairie, Swan Hills, and Cold Lake specifically.
Great little towns, all “in the middle of nowhere.”
This remoteness is one of the biggest economic challenges built into Alberta as a consequence of our membership into Canada.
Because so much of our wealth is stolen from us by the Federal government, it is difficult to invest in the infrastructure necessary to connect our outlying communities, especially in the North, where some of our prime resources: our oil, gas and boreal forests, are located.
For our oil industry especially, lowering transportation costs is key, as this most recent downturn in oil prices has illustrated.
What Alberta’s sparse infrastructure translates to is massive increase in the cost of doing business, as our road, rail, energy, and pipeline infrastructure is not capable of supporting transportation of our exports.
With the significant windfall that comes with being free from Ottawa riding our backs we could change all that. It would be to our advantage to do so, by reducing transportation costs, we both lower the cost of living and increase our level of economic competitiveness.
2. Upgrade British Columbia and Saskatchewan’s Infrastructure
After separation, Alberta should deal only with the provincial governments of British Columbia and Saskatchewan, being intentional to stone wall what remains of the Canadian Federal government.
Alberta, with it’s significant financial windfall upon independence would have the financial means to commit to invest heavily to upgrade both province’s (and even Manitoba’s) transportation infrastructure to reap the same benefit we would receive domestically: lower cost of living and a stronger economy.
That is a very sweet carrot Alberta could offer, but we also have the stick of raising tariffs or outright blocking transportation through our territory. In particular, British Columbia would be the province I believe Alberta might have to play hardball with given that B.C.’s tidewater access is a very large form of leverage against us.
Historically, Vancouver has only been able to interact with Eastern Canada by infrastructure that bisects Alberta (namely the TransCanada highway and the CP Railway). This is the only reason British Columbia became and has remained a Canadian province.
Upon gaining our independence, this is a benefit that British Columbia would no longer be guaranteed.
The Eastern United States is the largest market on the continent and without free transportation through Alberta, British Columbia almost instantly loses it’s sovereignty to the Americans.
The shortest land route from Vancouver to New York is south into Washington State, and a near perfect eastward beeline through the United States. The maritime route requires a detour either through the Panama Canal, assuming the Americans played nice, or entirely around South America if they don’t.
Were Alberta to cut off transportation routes through it’s territory, British Columbia’s access to the world’s largest consumer market would be entirely at the mercy of the Americans.
For British Columbians, it would be a choice between partnering with Alberta to be the recipient of billions of dollars of Alberta infrastructure investment or becoming an American vassal.
I believe British Columbians would make the right choice.
While Saskatchewan has the ability to stonewall Alberta exports into the Eastern United States, Alberta would have the ability to block Saskatchewan’s access to British Columbia and to tide water.
This would significantly weaken Saskatchewan’s position at the bargaining table with the newly independent Alberta, however I do not believe it would necessarily come to that.
I believe Saskatchewanians would be the most receptive in partnering with us.
Given the commonality of both our energy and agriculture industries, as well as the generally cordial and friendly culture our two provinces have established throughout our history as victims of being provinces in Canadian confederation.
3. Upgrade the Infrastructure in the Northern United States
Washington State, Idaho, Montana, North and South Dakota, and Minnesota are fairly sparsely populated American states. Their infrastructure, with the exception of North Dakota, is similarly sparse, compared to the rest of the United States.
Were Alberta to separate, we would be able to enter into negotiations with the American Federal and State governments to change that.
As an independent country, we would have the ability to commit billions of dollars significantly upgrading the transportation infrastructure in all of those states.
This is particularly poignant, as the Bakkan shale formation in Montana and North Dakota has put enormous stress on the road and rail infrastructure in both of those (and the adjoining) states. If we put up the money, the Americans would certainly be eager to partner with Alberta in building new roads, railway lines, and pipelines.
For Alberta, this would also be an ace up our sleeves in were negotiations with British Columbia and Saskatchewan to go sour.
If either province or the Canadian federal government were to attempt to isolate Alberta, Alberta could in turn retaliate by isolating them and by establishing trade deals with the United States exchanging infrastructure development for market access.
Regardless, one of the most common arguments against Alberta separatism I hear is that because Alberta is land locked, we would could not make it as an independent country.
Personally, I believe that is not the case.