Alberta premier refutes separation threats: ‘Either you love your country or you don’t’
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney delivered a clear message to Albertans on Friday, disputing separation talks made by fellow conservative caucus members.
“I regard it as an empty threat, and I think making a threat like that would be counterproductive,” Kenney said in a news conference Friday morning.
“First of all, I am an unqualified Canadian patriot and I don’t believe you can qualify your patriotism. Either you love your country or you don’t, and I love Canada.”
Kenney addressed separation talks after Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA and fair deal panel member Drew Barnes urged the provincial government in a letter to take a more aggressive approach when demanding equality for Alberta.
“There has to be consequences if Ottawa continues to treat us less fairly — if we don’t have resource access, if we don’t get free trade, if we don’t get equality in the supreme court and if we don’t get a senate that’s effective,” Barnes said in an interview with Global News Radio 770 CHQR.
“I think that at some point, blind loyalty to Ottawa when we’re not treated equally has to be addressed.”
However, Kenney noted that threatening to have a referendum on separating from Canada would not be logical. He stated that separation would lead to many more barriers than successes.
“The real crisis in this province is an economic crisis, it’s a jobs crisis,” Kenney said.
“We’re not going to get our economy growing again or get jobs back here if, first of all, we landlock ourselves with no potential access to the coasts for pipelines,” he added. “We’re certainly not going to get investment to bring jobs back in Alberta if we create a crisis of confidence by having a vote on separation.”
Kenney also noted that holding a referendum to separate is not on the radar for many Albertans.
“I understand the frustration that has driven, not a significant number of Albertans, to talk about separation. But I fundamentally believe that’s the wrong path for Alberta,” he said.
“You don’t make a threat that you’re not prepared to keep, and I have not seen a single public opinion poll that indicates we’re anywhere close to the majority of Albertans voting to leave Canada.”
Separation talks have been heightened in Alberta as the province continues to ask for reforms on equalization payments and more opportunities for provincial success from the federal government.
In May, the government announced its fair deal panel had submitted a finalized report to the federal government. The panel was created in November 2019 to hear from frustrated Albertans on Western alienation and propose recommendations on how to advance the province’s economic interests.
With input from tens of thousands of Albertans through town halls and surveys, the report “deals with how best to define and secure a fair deal” for Alberta in Canada’s Confederation, the province said. Ideas included establishing a provincial pension plan and a provincial police force.
“I believe we have a solid report coming from the panel about ways to strengthen Alberta, to get more Alberta and less Ottawa and to maximize our leverage in the federation to get a fair deal,” Kenney said of the finalized report.
He added that while change needs to happen for Alberta, he believes the province should work with the country, not against it, to create a better future.
“I love it (Canada) to the point where I want to improve it so that the federation works as it was originally conceived,” Kenney said.