MD council reflects on western alienation

·4 min read

Alberta and Saskatchewan are, of course, geographically landlocked. If you were to look at an electoral map, however, a wide blue ocean of Conservative party MPs have flooded the Prairies — and a good portion of British Columbia too.

The western dominance by the Conservatives during the 2019 election is a clear indicator that Canadians in Alberta and Saskatchewan do not feel the current Liberal government represents their best interests.

Much of the conflict stems from the federal government restricting the construction of pipelines and oil tankers, which specifically target the major western industry of oil and gas. Insistence of implementing a mandatory carbon tax has also won very few supporters.

The difference in political opinion has trickled down into municipal representation at the federal level via the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Prompted by a letter sent by the MD of Bonnyville, the MD of Pincher Creek spent a portion of its Feb. 9 council meeting discussing the polarization of federal politics and the quality of FCM’s representation.

The letter from Bonnyville pulled no punches.

“The past few years have presented convincing evidence of the continued lack of advocacy and blatant disregard at the federal level for Western Canada’s needs and one of its highly significant industries that impact us all: the natural resources industry,” the letter reads.

“Do you feel that FCM advocates for the needs of your municipality or Western Canada? Does the annual FCM conference agenda provide relevant value for your municipality?” it goes on to ask.

The MD of Bonnyville acknowledged that the creation of a Western Economic Solutions Taskforce was a step in the right direction by FCM to address concerns.

Though the task force has advocated for the creation of a national utility corridor (which could include pipelines and other resource structures) and pushed for federal measures to clean up orphaned and inactive oil and gas wells (such as the $400 million Site Rehabilitation Program announced by the Alberta government Feb. 12), the letter stated WEST had not yet accomplished “any real results” in addressing feelings of alienation.

Issues over energy production and the western economy, said Coun. Rick Lemire, were accurately identified by the letter.

“I do believe this is a growing issue,” said Coun. Lemire. “There’s fire; there’s a legitimate concern here. How we want to address it, I’m not sure.”

Coun. Terry Yagos expressed a similar sentiment, saying that action on how to change western representation at the FCM wasn’t straightforward. Being aware of current events, he continued, was the best place to start.

“Some of us are still supporting keeping our petrochemical industry going, but remember, there are a lot of people in Western Canada who agree with the position that some of these people are taking too,” he said.

In regards to issues of representation, Coun. Bev Everts said it would be useful to have a larger perspective than any one municipality was capable of generating on its own. “I’d be interested in what the RMA’s [Rural Municipalities of Alberta] position is on this,” she said. “What’s their feedback?”

Discussing the matter with the RMA, agreed Reeve Brian Hammond, was the best way to get a feel for how municipal representation at the federal level was going.

“Just because we don’t always see that on a daily or monthly or longer term basis doesn’t mean that it isn’t going on,” he said.

The failure of the FCM to consider western needs, the reeve added, was something he was a bit skeptical about.

“I don’t think it’s a fact, but I would like to hear some kind of response from RMA exactly on that. Because you can bet your bottom dollar that they’re going to come back in spades if they really are doing an effective job,” Reeve Hammond said.

Communicating with the RMA, concluded Coun. Lemire, was the best course of action in order to raise the issue with the FCM.

“They’re going to get a lot more traction provincially than two little lonely MDs such as maybe Bonnyville and Pincher Creek sending a letter,” he said.

Administration was instructed to contact the RMA on the issue for stronger western municipal advocacy and return any correspondence for council’s consideration.

The next regular MD council meeting is Feb. 22 at 1 p.m. Online agenda packages for the meeting will be made available at https://bit.ly/MDcouncil. The link to attend virtually can be found at www.mdpinchercreek.ab.ca.

Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze