Premiers Jason Kenney, left, and Scott Moe face big challenges.

Glen Argan: West’s long-term interests neglected

By 
  • October 30, 2019

With 47 of 48 seats in Alberta and Saskatchewan going to the Conservative Party in the Oct. 21 election, those Tory MPs make up almost 40 per cent of their party’s caucus. They would have a dominant voice in government had the Conservatives won the election.

However, they didn’t. The Liberals were elected, and not a single Liberal between Winnipeg and Vancouver will sit in the House of Commons. Much hand-wringing has ensued: Who will represent the interests of Alberta and Saskatchewan in the new government? Anger is said to be rising in the West and some predict that in these voiceless provinces, separatist sentiments will again emerge.

I have not heard a hint of anger among my friends and acquaintances who are all going about their business without any animosity towards whoever is responsible for this situation. Some want to avoid all political discussions. Perhaps my viewpoint is skewed because I live in the one seat out of 48 which did not elect a Conservative MP. As well, I know angry Albertans are out there. I have talked with some of them and they are fit to be tied at any mention of the Trudeau government or its policies. 

One might first respond that if voters in the two Western provinces had wanted government representation, they would have re-elected a couple of the Liberal MPs who represented them in the previous Parliament. 

Conversely, 31 per cent of Alberta voters chose to vote for candidates who do not represent the Conservative Party. In Saskatchewan, that figure was 36 per cent. These people also will go without government representation in the new Parliament. 

Thirty-one and 36 per cent of the ballots cast represent sizeable portions of the electorate. And while Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe will claim to speak for their provinces’ interests, that minority has a different understanding of those interests.

And what of those of us who don’t believe any political party will uphold and promote the common good as we understand it? 

Personally, I have been writing since 1979 that the future for Alberta’s economy should include significant development of renewable energy resources. The energy minister of that day poo-pooed the idea, saying Alberta would look foolish if it developed alternative energy sources which undermined the petroleum industry. 

My response is that the province’s foolishness for failing to take that route is now apparent; more Canadians today are employed in the green energy sector than in Alberta’s oilsands. The green sector will continue to grow while Alberta’s political leaders still bury their heads in the oilsands.

Further, no significant political party represents my views — and that of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Canadians — on abortion, assisted suicide and same-sex marriage. Nor has the Canadian government ever come to close to recognizing and defending the rights of Indigenous Canadians.

So, I am skeptical that the proper longtime interests of Albertans, or other Canadians, will be represented by any of the current lot of politicians. As well, I regard the country’s mainstream media as an obstacle to a fair and full airing of informed discussion of some issues I mentioned. 

As a longtime journalist, I know how much news organizations favour coverage of hot-button controversies of the moment. As well, the media is dependent upon and supportive of consumer capitalism and untrammeled personal autonomy.

In short, the obstacles to presenting a real alternative to the current societal ethos and having it receive an intelligent and fair hearing are enormous. It may take a massive national or global catastrophe to make such a hearing possible.

This is a glum prognosis, and I know people want to hear cheerier news about the possibility of Western society rising out of its current crises. 

But history is littered with stories of major civilizations collapsing because they failed to recognize the need for change and instead sucked their own natural resources dry in order to meet the outrageous material desires of their elites.

This is the context in which we ought to view the fact of Alberta and Saskatchewan not having MPs on the government side of the House. If such MPs had been elected, they likely would have lobbied for more jobs in the oil industry, building more pipelines and more development of the petroleum industry.

But would this be in the long-term interest of the people of Alberta and Saskatchewan? I have my doubts.

(Argan is program co-ordinator at Star of the North Retreat Centre in St. Albert, Alta.)

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