MP Glen Motz says the idea of Western separation should be “stamped out” but also that Alberta should actively pursue a “fair deal” as proposed by the provincial government.
“I will not accept turning away as a solution,” Motz told a breakfast audience in Medicine Hat on Nov. 12, days after the Alberta government announced a panel to explore greater autonomy for the province.
“Please don’t misunderstand … I’m very concerned about Ottawa’s indifference to our struggles, but Albertans don’t take our ball and go home.”
The comments came as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer on Tuesday.
The annual breakfast included statements and a Q&A session with Motz, two local mayors and administrators, and two local MLAs, including Cypress-Medicine Hat MAL Drew Barnes who on the weekend was named to a new panel exploring greater autonomy.
Premier Jason Kenney told the Manning Centre think tank gathering on Saturday that the province should more urgently consider collecting its own tax revenue, fund a provincial police force, pension or add a new approval process to how federal funds are spent in the province.
Barnes, who will sit on the panel, also spoke on Tuesday.
“I’m a Canadian and I’m a federalist, but Alberta needs to exert its strength and independence within Canada, whether that’s a police force or a pension,” he said.
He concluded with a response to Motz’s comments, saying that pundits argue federal success for the Conservatives lays with adjusting policies to make them more attractive to central Canadian voters.
“I would challenge the Conservative party to do the opposite,” said Barnes. “Be a lot more like Medicine Hat, where people concentrate on families and care on each other. Let’s not forget it’s strong fiscal conservative values that built this province in the first place.”
For his part, Motz placed the blame for increased tension between the Prairie provinces and Ottawa on the Liberal government that was re-elected to a minority mandate that includes no government MPs from either Alberta or Saskatchewan.
“Our prime minister tried to turn the West into the villain to score cheap political points in the East and sadly, to our detriment, he succeeded,” said Motz.
“Let’s be clear Ontario and Atlantic Canada didn’t vote against the west; they voted for what they saw as important, just as we did. It’s not voters or regions that are working against each other. It’s policies, Liberal policies, that pit one region against another.”
Motz also said Conservative MPs who are returning to Ottawa ahead of the commons reconvening on Dec. 5, are planning to launch a “complementary” communications program with constituents and the government.
Brooks-Medicine Hat MLA Michaela Glasgo said that a co-ordinated effort is beneficial to Alberta’s case.
“Obviously there’s a strong sentiment here and we need strong bold and decisive action,” she said.
Motz also reiterated his party’s platform stance that greater economic activity between province’s would improve the relationship, and that natural resource development and export was key.
“We need a plan, a long-term vision, that will go beyond what political fights ever could,” he said. “We need to tear down provincial trade barriers and build a natural resource trade corridor.”
Barnes said that along with corporate tax cuts and reducing regulation on business, Alberta has been a leader in unilaterally cutting internal trade barriers.
“Alberta should be the freest, richest place in North America,” said Barnes. “It will be a slow steady road back to job creation … at some point I hope our government has the courage to return to the (10 per cent) flat tax.”