Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Wither The Federation

There is a great deal of interest in the Alberta election outside of the province. Some of the attention has to do with the province's growing status within the federation, part is due to a fascinating horse race and part is due to the fact everyone rubbernecks to see a car wreck in the making. Perhaps I'm being alarmist, or maybe I'm conveying some foresight, but should Albertans choose Danielle Smith as their Premier next week, I see storm clouds on the federal horizon.

Currently, Canadians operate within a bit of illusionary state of calm. The Harper government gets credit for the lack of acrimony within the federation, separatism is off the radar, relative to past dramatic periods, there is an argument to be made for good stewardship on this front. However, that superficial analysis doesn't quite understand the "drift" that is taking place, rather than calm it is disengagement and apathy, people simply moving in different directions, no binding force to bring cohesion. A high profile example, the environment file, wherein provinces are acting in hodge podge fashion, filling the vacuum left by federal inaction.

I contend tensions are just under the surface, the warning signs are everywhere, this federation is very close to a real, serious tipping point. What is required is a simple spark and much of this supposed federalist calm with evaporate and we will enter a phase of dangerous rhetoric and regional acrimony that is unprecedented. Enter Danielle Smith and her views on climate change:
The woman leading a front-running party in Alberta's provincial election has cast doubt on the widely accepted scientific theory that human activity is a leading cause of global warming.

Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith made the comment in an online leaders debate organized by two Alberta newspapers.

"We have always said the science isn't settled and we need to continue to monitor

Fast forward to post-election, the prospects of a climate change sceptic leading a province that is at the center of the climate change debate, both domestically and internationally. For all the progress Alberta has made in changing its former image, in one dramatic act, a Smith led government will obliterate that perception and will effectively signal to everyone that the kooks are in charge. Tough language I suppose, but there is no real debate occurring, only those who are intentional ignorant or downright intellectually stubborn still cling to the big "debate", serious science has moved WELL past this phase. Yes, many people still have doubts about climate change, but many people are frankly stupid, that is hardly an argument or an endorsement. The insanity of a climate change sceptic overseeing the oilsands will send a message to the world that Canada is a farce. As well, within the federation, you will now have the perception of a federal government disengaged, as well as a core province exposing nonsensical questioning, raising questions about fitness. To be blunt, many in the rest of Canada will have ZERO faith when it comes to true intent, it isn't a flattering picture. We will actually move forward on a central discussion about resources and consequences with what many will perceive as a whack job at the helm. Albertans decide for themselves, in many respects this is an "outsider" opinion, but when the dust settles, the chasms will be real and confidences will wane in favour of striking disconnect.

Rarely do people see a crisis coming, it's human nature to fail to see retrospective warning signs. In this instance, I envision a scenario where the last semblance of niceties are replaced by outright disdain, because there will be no credibility moving forward. How can a country move forward on a sensitive topic when you question the commitment from a core party? We aren't taking about a simple differing opinion on an issue, we are talking about science, we are confronted by the reality that Alberta may be run by people who don't even accept a fundamental problem. How can anyone have confidence that the "resource" will be managed responsibility? I won't, and I suspect I'm not alone. If you can't accept the science, I can't accept you as a credible actor and will see a province I actually have a great deal of affection for being run by the backward and ignorant, an entity that needs to be overcome, rather than any partner. Wither the federation, just watch...


Shiner said...

You're right, and you don't even have to read the tea leaves to see the trouble coming... they're coming right out and saying it: "F*ck Canada".


Steve V said...

I read that as well Shiner.

Tof KW said...

It's weird though. Alberta railing against Ottawa again, despite their guys being firmly in power on Parliament Hill. So why is Wildrose acting like they're the Parti Quebecois? Only thing I can figure is this stance is a big "vote getter" in Alberta politics, the truth be damned.

Anyong said...

The thing about Alberta is the fact there are people who know but don't want to place themselves in a position of no longer being considered part of the elite of a community. Medicine Hat is a wonderful place for that sort of thing. The Medicine Hat News is all for D. Smith and the huge hope is, she will win and turn the province around. The question is, around from what?

Steve V said...