Politically Blocked isn’t the Same Thing as Geographically Landlocked

Commentary, Government, Marco Navarro-Genie

In mocking response to those wishing to separate, some quip that Alberta would remain landlocked the day after it becomes independent.  With a more respectful tone, Alberta’s own premier used similar words in his recent “Fair Deal for Alberta” speech. 

Those endorsing and those opposing Alberta’s separation from Canada would benefit from a clear statement of the problem to which separation presents as a solution. 

Alberta and Saskatchewan are the only landlocked provinces in the country. Being landlocked means that a territory does not border an ocean. Being a landlocked territory is a problem of geography but not an unsolvable problem. One can obtain territorial corridors to access ocean waters. Or one can secure passage through neighboring territory for one’s exportable goods by building highways and railways, airways and waterways, transmission lines and pipelines. These are known solutions to lacking tidal shores.

Alberta’s and Saskatchewan’s geographic problem of being landlocked needs to be distinguished from the political problem of having lawfully exportable goods blocked across territories of sister provinces from reaching tidal waters. 

Stated plainly, obstructing Alberta’s and Saskatchewan’s oil from reaching far away markets builds walls against solutions created to solve the geographic problem. Such walls are existential threats. 

Thus, the current problem isn’t that Alberta and Saskatchewan are landlocked per se. Many territories in the world, independent states and sub-national states, are landlocked but are very prosperous without obstructing neighbors. 

For all the inequity and unfairness in policy that Alberta and Saskatchewan have been subjected to since they were carved out of the Northwest Territories and became provinces in 1905, being landlocked has not been the principal problem. 

The eco-green doom fuelling the blockage is an excuse. The alarmist doom is the means by which Laurentians seek to strangle Alberta’s economy. 

While a federal tanker ban shuts out Western oil from British Columbia’s North coast, oil tankers filled with foreign oil enter the Bay of Fundy in the Atlantic and up the Saint Lawrence River, where given flow and tide even a small spillage can spoil thousands of kilometres of unique ecosystems along sensitive shores, parks and natural reserves. 

Similarly, there is no Ottawa campaign (nor should there be) to stop the oil flowing out of Newfoundland and Labrador or out of Nova Scotia. No prime minister has ever visited those provinces to announce his/her desire that they keep their oil well beneath the ocean.  

Blocking Western oil is not about the environment. And neither is it about safety. With all their risks, pipelines remain the safest mode of transport for oil, given the alternatives of trucks and trains. The people of Lac-Mégantic understand this very well. 

Drilling a bit deeper, it’s worth stating that blocking our oil goes beyond the faction currently running Ottawa.  Ottawa represents the dominant population of the country who have declared war on our principle resources under the ecological banner. That’s not likely going to change with changing administrations. 

The war against Western oil is 100 percent political. 

If you think I am taking too much of an interpretive license in reading the facts when I suggest that Laurentian Canadians mean to subjugate the West, let us be reminded of the sentiments our current prime minister expressed on a radio interview in Quebec before he became prime minister, before he became better-schooled in the political art of concealing what he means. Paraphrasing and translating, the PM said that Canada belongs to Quebeckers, and that the country can only best be run by federal Liberals from Quebec. He went on to say that whatever troubles Canada had at the time, it was because Albertans were running things. Power, therefore, it is clear, needed to be wrestled away from Albertans. 

This last point has crucial political implications in finding solutions for Alberta and Saskatchewan. Despite the manifested words of the prime minister on election night that he wants to address Western concerns, Saskatchewan’s search for solutions was met with platitudes and climate slogans when its premier recently visited Ottawa.  

So here is the greater problem. One can only negotiate with those whose minds and spirits are open to negotiations.

Dismissing and reducing the blockage of Western oil to a geographic issue is a misapprehension of the problem. Blocking Alberta’s and Saskatchewan’s oil is a political problem that will require political solutions, and political solutions require cooperation. 

For Alberta and Saskatchewan, the future is at stake. Without that openness and cooperation from Ottawa, from Quebec and from British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan will have to find their own solutions.