If you?ve been experiencing flashbacks to the eighties lately, you?re not alone. As oil prices surge throughout the world, eastern Canada and the federal government have been stealing jealous glances at western Canada?s oil and gas revenues just as they did before the National Energy Program (NEP) was imposed by the Trudeau Liberals in 1980.
This week, a so-called ?expert? on equalization and inter-provincial relations said Alberta should share a portion of its estimated $7-billion surplus ? much of it earned through Alberta?s crude oil and natural gas deposits ? with the rest of Canada.
Here we go again.
That report from a Montreal-based think tank coincides with Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty?s cries of ?unfair!? and demands that Ottawa alter his province?s federal transfers and program spending. There have even been wild claims that Ontario is set to become a ?have-not? province! Alberta premier Ralph Klein told Ottawa to keep its ?hands-off? his provinces surplus and energy revenues.
Meanwhile, Paul Martin pronounced proudly last week that he?s ?making progress? in addressing ?Western Alienation?. Too bad he neglected to check with those of us living here. Mr. Martin?s failure to quickly and unequivocally kill any of this ridiculous speculation of a second NEP-like scheme not only increases western alienation, it fuels western separatism.
Oil and gas revenues belong to the provinces. Period. The Conservative Party of Canada had to drag the Liberals, kicking and screaming, into meeting their commitment to Newfoundland-Labrador and Nova Scotia to keep their offshore oil and gas revenues. With the ink barely dry on this Altantic Accord, are the Martin Liberals preparing to raid the coffers of Alberta and British Columbia for our oil and gas revenues?
This speculation over funneling oil and gas revenues to the rest of Canada is not harmless. It has far-reaching implications for future economic development. What will happen if offshore drilling proceeds off the Queen Charlotte Islands? Will Ottawa be demanding from BC a share of those revenues as well?
I remember very clearly, as I know my constituents remember, the devastating consequences of the NEP in the eighties. It might be easy to forget in Ottawa or Toronto or Montreal, but here in Prince George-Peace River, we will never forget how the NEP slammed the brakes on our local economy.
Alberta and BC?s good fortune is good news for all of Canada. We don?t need to hand-over the cash. As our economies prosper, the ripple effect will be felt all across the country.
Paul Martin says he will partially judge the success of his term as Prime Minister by how well he addresses western alienation. Yet he still hasn?t picked up the phone to call U.S. President George Bush to straighten out the mess over Softwood Lumber. He has refused to appoint the two candidates duly elected to the Senate by the people of Alberta. He abandoned beef producers by failing to legally challenge the U.S. ban on Canadian beef.
And now, he has not unconditionally rejected proposals to raid the West?s oil and gas revenues. So far, Mr. Martin must give himself an ?F?!