Danielle Smith: Derek Fildebrandt’s Freedom Conservative Party says fix Canada or Alberta will vote to go it alone

It was only a matter of time before the threats of Alberta separation found a political outlet — and now they have.

On Thursday, Derek Fildebrandt’s Freedom Conservative Party launched an “Equality or Independence” campaign, which is just as it sounds. Either Alberta gets major constitutional reform that recognizes the province as an equal partner in Confederation within a year of the next provincial election, or the province will hold a referendum on independence.

An internal survey of Freedom Conservative Party members found 52 per cent support the first option, with 41 per cent supporting the second option.

In launching this campaign, Fildebrandt promised rallies across Alberta in the coming weeks.

Fixing how our country works is probably as simple as this two-item wish list:

Let’s deal with these in turn.

Those of us who seethe at the unfairness of the equalization program have been accused of not understanding it. I understand perfectly well how the overtax-Alberta-and-transfer-money-to-Quebec scheme works.

Because Albertans have a higher workforce participation rate, higher incomes, more corporate head offices, more businesses and more consumer spending, we pay a disproportionately higher share of personal and corporate income taxes, payroll taxes, GST and other taxes to Ottawa, and the federal government spends far less in Alberta than we give to them. That amounts to a net transfer to Ottawa in the order of $22 billion, which just so happens to be pretty close to the total amount of money that gets transferred to other provinces through the equalization program.

LISTEN: Ted Morton joins Danielle Smith to discuss Canada’s equalization payments

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I spoke to Ted Morton about his article in C2C magazine, “Screwing the West to Pay the Rest,” which confirms my understanding — as well as my suspicion — that the equalization program has nothing to do with its stated principle of enabling provinces to provide roughly equivalent programs for roughly equivalent tax rates.

As Morton puts it, “what begins as bribery, over time, becomes a form of blackmail, as the recipients learn how to play the game.” Albertans won’t be blackmailed any longer. Morton believes a referendum on equalization is so necessary that Premier Rachel Notley should put it on the provincial election ballot.

LISTEN: Jack Mintz joins Danielle Smith to talk about the case for Alberta to leave confederation

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I also spoke to the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy economist Jack Mintz, who said that separation may actually be the preferred option. If Alberta continues to be faced with an existential crisis — meaning our very economic survival is threatened by Canada’s unwillingness to let us build pipelines — we would have more success by striking out on our own.

In his column, “Alberta has better reasons to Albexit than Britain did to Brexit,” he argues that the negatives of separation “are easily swamped by the positives.” Not only would we be able to set our own policies on oil and gas development, health care delivery, pensions and other issues, but we’d be able to negotiate our own trade and access deals with the United States and other provinces. Plus, we’d have that extra $20 billion a year in additional tax revenue to help us do it.

Fildebrandt has had recent political missteps that may cause some to dismiss this initiative out of hand. That would be a mistake. Central Canada, take note.

In the past two weeks, we have seen rallies and truck convoys draw thousands of people in Calgary, Drayton Valley, Grande Prairie and Nisku to send the message to Ottawa that what it is doing is simply not enough.

Whether through benign neglect or deliberate sabotage, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has awakened an anger in Alberta that is real, raw and escalating. I predict it won’t subside until these grievances are addressed — one way or the other.

Danielle Smith is host of The Danielle Smith Show on Global News Radio 770 Calgary. She can be reached at [email protected]

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