The Alberta-Ontario nexus

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith (pictured) recently sat down with the Coalition of Concerned Manufacturers and Businesses of Canada. Among other topics, she discussed the interdependencies and interconnectedness of Alberta and Ontario, as well as the intrusion of the federal government into provincial jurisdiction. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld


Last Friday, we at the Coalition of Concerned Manufacturers and Businesses of Canada (CCMBC), the organization where I am President, held our annual Gala dinner. Alberta Premier Danielle Smith was the keynote speaker and recipient of the Coalition’s Game Changer of the Year Award. The theme of the evening was the many solid relationships and interdependencies that Ontario and Alberta enjoy, and the fact that so many of the citizens in both provinces are unaware of this synergy. 

Premier Smith took the opportunity to outline the principles she intends to provide the foundation for her business policies. One key approach will be business incentives that are broadly-based and available to all businesses instead of the subsidy approach pursued by the federal Liberals where the government attempts to “pick winners” – virtually always unsuccessfully. Broadly-based business incentives have a much greater track record of success than subsidizing a handful of firms, which usually ends up as a costly waste of taxpayer dollars, as the successful businesses end up paying for the subsidies to businesses that may be politically palatable but are failures as businesses. 

Another principle Smith plans to practice is to rely on market forces and measurable outcomes rather than the virtue-signalling the current federal government favours. During our discussions, Smith noted how in her meetings with Trudeau it was clear how little the Prime Minister understands about the important issues facing the Canadian economy, and how the fact he is driven by so many ideological matters means federal policy is geared to trendy “woke” causes rather than successful economic outcomes. 

Smith also spoke of her much-maligned Sovereignty Act, emphasizing the reality that the Canadian Constitution clearly outlines areas of jurisdiction for the federal government and the provincial governments, and that in recent years the federal Liberals have frequently intruded onto provincial territory.  

Canada is not a unitary state, and the federal government has no right to move into the provinces’ turf, despite the fact that many provinces have not fought back when they did. Alberta clearly is fighting back, which should embolden other provinces to follow suit and reassert their jurisdiction in their key areas of responsibility. Resources are a good example of provincial jurisdiction where the federal government has stepped on provincial toes. Another good recent example was the federal government getting into policy on plastic waste with their plastics bans, despite the fact that waste issues are within the provinces’ purview.  

With respect to the so-called “Just Transition” policy of the federal government to transition oil and gas workers away from those well-paid, highly skilled jobs into supposedly “green” employment, Smith emphasized that the true transition we need to talk about is the transmission away from emissions-producing activities, not a transition away from the oil and gas sector. She noted that despite the views of many, Alberta is not hostile to the goal of net zero emissions, merely that it cannot realistically be achieved within the timelines the federal government has stated. Since the federal government’s own record is abysmal in achieving even one of its climate goals, Smith’s position has a lot of credibility. 

Alberta’s current electricity grid is 90 per cent based on natural gas, and currently environmentalists are trying hard to phase out natural gas which would be disastrous for Alberta, not to mention other jurisdictions. Smith commented that even though wind and solar power is not a large part of the current grid, this past winter the grid nevertheless almost failed because the wind and solar components could not deliver when power was needed. This has also happened in other provinces and US states, emphasizing the difficulties in relying on intermittent wind and solar power that is often not there when it is needed, and the foolishness of continuing to build wind and solar capacity at considerable cost when it does not solve our energy problems and often creates unnecessary crises. 

Smith concluded by saying that although some people think Alberta is against achieving climate goals, the truth is they want to achieve them in a way that makes sense for them. Many of the federal government policies, in contrast, do not make sense and are not the most productive way to meet objectives. Federal policies towards plastics have been a good example of this, where banning a few plastic items often ends up with replacements that are actually worse for the environment than the products banned, and the main goal seems to be virtue signalling instead of achieving substantive, meaningful goals. 

The interdependence between businesses in Alberta and Ontario was also resoundingly confirmed during the meeting, emphasizing the importance of each province to the success of the other. Too many Canadians don’t realize all the synergies among so many of the provinces, and when they see the federal government implement a policy that hurts Alberta as the current federal government has done, they don’t think it affects them. Nothing could be further from the truth.  

We really are all in this together, and need to support our fellow Canadians in other provinces to maximize our potential as a country. Not surprisingly, Smith’s message was music to the ears of Ontario businesses. 

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