An actual wall of fire.

Thank Goodness we didn’t build that Firewall!

Fifteen years ago, in Jan. 2001, six prominent Conservative lobbyists and university professors, including future prime minister Stephen Harper and provincial cabinet minister Ted Morton, penned the Firewall Manifesto.

Prime minister Jean Chretien‘s Liberals had been re-elected to a third-term in office and the failed rebrand of the Reform Party as the ‘Canadian Alliance‘ was quickly becoming apparent.

In reaction to the re-election of the Ontario-based Liberal government, the Firewall Manifesto called for then-premier Ralph Klein to build a firewall around Alberta by taking a number of actions, including the creation of an Alberta police force, an Alberta pension plan and the reduction of funds transferred from Alberta to the federal government*. Thankfully for Albertans, Mr. Klein ignored the Manifesto.

Fast-forward to Feb. 2016 and Alberta’s economy has slowed following a sharp decline in the international price of oil. For the first time in decades, Alberta’s traditionally cash-flush government is asking for economic and financial assistance from the rest of Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Rachel Notley at the Alberta Legislature on Feb. 3, 2016.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Rachel Notley at the Alberta Legislature on Feb. 3, 2016. (Photo from Rachel Notley’s Facebook Page)

Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and New Democrat Premier Rachel Notley stood in the Legislature Rotunda yesterday and explained plans to fast-track $700 million in previously committed infrastructure funds from the federal government to Alberta. Mr. Trudeau also announced changes to Employment Insurance rules to help recently unemployed Albertans.

Alberta’s current economic situation and the drive to expand oil pipelines across Canada serve as an important reminder about why building bridges is more effective than burning bridges and erecting (fire)walls between our province and the rest of the country.

Thank goodness we didn’t build that firewall.

*It is completely unclear how this actually would have been done.

14 thoughts on “Thank Goodness we didn’t build that Firewall!

  1. Norm Wiebe

    If we had adopted the suggestions in the firewall letter; It’s likely Alberta would be far more wealthy, with the NDP only holding 2 seats, and weathering the current economic situation far better than we are now…

    Reply
    1. David Khan

      Right, because the so-called conservatives in charge of Alberta until recently were really good at saving money for a rainy day!

      Reply
    2. Maria

      Norm Wiebe your comments are ridiculous. Had there been a firewall the Tory government would have wasted even more money on their corporate friends, advertizing – a 24/7 Ralph Klein channel…. The provincial Conservatives just like the Harper Conservatives did not demonstrate good stewardship of our resources and money.

      Reply
  2. The Invisible Hand

    “and the reduction of funds transferred from Alberta to the federal government”

    False. That was not one of the firewall letter’s recommendations. (And no one except hard-left partisans call it a “manifesto.”) They were:

    – Create an Alberta pension plan (like Quebec)
    – Re-create the Alberta provincial police (like Ontario, Quebec, & Newfoundland)
    – Collect its own income taxes (like Quebec, and like Alberta already does for corporate taxes)
    – Take more responsibility for health care policy (like BC, Quebec, and Ontario all do)
    – Hold a referendum on Senate reform

    Please explain how any of that would deprive us of federal infrastructure money or make the EI situation worse.

    Reply
    1. Dave Cournoyer Post author

      “…we believe it is imperative for you to take all possible political and legal measures to reduce the financial drain on Alberta caused by Canada’s tax-and-transfer system.” – This is a direct quote from the Firewall Manifesto.

      Reply
      1. The Invisible Hand

        Except that you embellished “reduce the financial drain on Alberta” into “reduction of funds transferred from Alberta to the federal government.”

        Reply
  3. Joe

    The very reason that we don’t have the fireawall that the visionaries talked about is the cause of our economic downturn. Instead of accepting welfare from Trudeau, we need to be stopping all equalization payments and working towards our free market economy first. Stop socialism now!

    Reply
    1. jay

      Yeah, the senate reform recommendation alone would have brought oil prices back up. After the coup in February–or is it March now?–everything will be alright.

      Reply
  4. Jerrymacgp

    “…the reduction of funds transferred from Alberta to the federal government…” There is a persistent myth, popular among the tinfoil-hat brigade, that equalization payments are funds transferred from the Alberta Government, i.e. Alberta taxpayer dollars, to eco ideally disadvantaged provinces like Quebec and New Brunswick. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    All Canadians, including Albertans, pay federal tax: income taxes, GST, federal excise tax, etc. The federal budget contains equalization payments to provinces with limited revenues to allow them to provide an equivalent level of health and social services as those with healthier bottom lines. If equalization ended tomorrow, it would not save the Alberta government or Alberta taxpayers one thin dime.

    And who knows? If oil stays at $30 for more than a year or 18 months, maybe Alberta will start receiving equalization…

    Reply
    1. Darren

      Actually, from the perspective of Albertans (and all Canadians), it would save more than a thin dime since a portion of federal taxes goes to fund the equalization program. Taxpayers would likely see their federal taxes decrease. The Alberta government wouldn’t likely notice any difference if the program ended, I agree with you there.
      As well, from what I understand, the equalization forumla is based on a three year average so Alberta wouldn’t likely see any benefits from the program for at least another year, if not another two years, if at all since that would assume the federal government would not simply just move the goalposts on on the program.

      Reply
  5. Ryan

    If Alberta had its own pension plan, it would in fact have made an enormous difference. We have a significant demographic advantange vs the rest of Canada with the lowest median-age, second-highest or third-highest birth rate, and lowest percentage of seniors, and even now we still have the highest employment percentage (versus unemployment). If we had collected pension tax and paid-out pension at the same rate as the rest of the country, we still would have been well ahead because we would be collecting pension from a larger number of people and paying out a smaller amount.

    Of course, that beggars the question if the PCs would have been financially disciplined enough not to raid the pension plan.

    If an Albertan government, NDP or otherwise were innovative enough, they could come up with still more options than those outlined in the Firewall letter. Conceivably in the future instead of raising wages of provincial employees they could make a part of their income tax-free: the worker makes more net income but because she doesn’t make a single extra penny in gross income, she doesn’t pay more in federal taxes either.

    Reply

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