A German lesson for Alberta politics

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It’s a lesson in German that’s increasingly sticking in the craw of so many Albertans during these troubling times.

The word is schadenfreude – taking a perverse delight in the misfortune of others – and a recent, wide-ranging survey into Canadian attitudes shows how deeply aggrieved this province feels over such a perceived, small-minded view from the rest of the country.

Whether most people in other parts of Canada actually are wallowing in self-satisfaction that our province, which has been the economic leader of this land for so long, faces such an entrenched tough time because of the collapse in energy prices is debatable. But you don’t have to dive too deeply into the mire of online forums to see such nasty, small-minded views getting a public airing, usually behind the mask of anonymity.

Regardless of how widespread is such nastiness, what’s not in question is the anger, sadness and confusion felt by so many in Alberta these days when asked about our province’s present place in Confederation.

Only one in three Albertans now feel they are being treated fairly by the rest of Canada – as a comparison six out of ten Quebecers think they’re getting a fair shake. Meanwhile 86 per cent of us believe we contribute more than we get back from the country as a whole – a number higher than any other province. You see, as the great Aretha Franklin once sang, when I give you all my money all I want is a little respect. Heck, it could be our new provincial theme song as, when it comes to respect, only 45 per cent of us think we’re getting such a much desired thing these days. Such an emotional break with the rest of the country is a disturbing trend. Let’s face it booms and subsequent busts are not new in Wild Rose Country – we long ago launched a cottage industry in bumper stickers promising not to waste the next upturn.

What’s different this time around is that to the east of us and the west of us well-organized and determined groups are doing their level best to ensure Alberta stays on its knees. And getting the rest of the country to understand this seems to be an increasingly forlorn hope.

It is the current ludicrous situation over the proposed expansion of the national pipeline system that is crystalizing this feeling of abandonment by many Albertans. It isn’t the strident and relentless protests of the entrenched environmentalists, quarrelsome native bands and perennial government grant lovers that so frustrate ordinary Albertans. No, it’s the ho-hum, sit-smugly-on-the-fence attitude of the vast majority of regular Canadians who somehow are unable to see how this row could ever impact them. Well it can and it will. Despite all the blather emanating out of Ottawa about us becoming a resourceful rather than a resource economy the fact remains that the energy industry is by far and away the largest contributor to our national economic wellbeing. The effect of the curtailment of such an industry will be felt far and wide across this land, especially in the coffers of all levels of government.

Yet too few Canadians are able to grasp this salient fact.

Oh well, as the start of another NHL season here in Alberta always exhibits, we must remain optimistic. If Premier Rachel Notley can finally see that she and her party will be as well done in the next election as that Thanksgiving turkey if they can’t get a new pipeline to tidewater then there’s hope for the rest of Canada after all. And wouldn’t that be wunderbar.

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About Author

Chris Nelson is a long-time journalist. His columns on Alberta politics appear monthly.