Sounds All too Familiar

As I have come in to the house after filling the outdoor wood burning stove, doing the chores outside to make sure the animals are well looked after on this cold stormy Manitoba day, and getting some repairs done to equipment in the shop, I get an email about an article where Western Canadians are being told what to do and think by some Quebec political leader yet again. Sounds all too familiar.

Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet has gone and exposed his role in Canada as a blowhard conveyor of division yet again by telling Westerners to suffer as long as they insist on extracting oil and gas. Quebec telling the West what to do again? Does this sounds all too familiar.

Now, some of you may not remember the political climate of the ‘70s and ’80, and the then Trudeau v1.0 government of Pierre Elliot in Ottawa along with the then Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed. Peter Lougheed, Sheik Peter as he was called back then, was cast into the Premiers chair in the 1971 provincial election defeating the Social Credit Party.

Back in the day Canada and North America were going through an energy crisis that had the Trudeau government finding ways to impose sweeping changes to get more Alberta oil to Canadians, especially Eastern Canada. Sounds odd but it is true. Canada at the time was importing oil, as it still does today into Eastern Canada, but after a Middle East war with Egypt & Syria invading Israel and Israel fighting off the attack with the help of the USA, the Arab countries that the US were importing oil from decided to put a stop to the US imports. Fearing Canada would aid the US by allowing oil imports by Canada to be piped into the US, it was decided by the Arabs to limit the supply of oil causing a huge spike in price. This high priced oil import put a strain on the energy system in Eastern Canada and had the Trudeau v1.0 government looking for ways to keep their electoral base happy. Sound all too familiar?

These changes included setting a domestic price for oil far below the then world price, placed restrictions on Alberta’s ability to export oil abroad, guaranteeing Canadian investment in domestic oil, and financing a pipeline expansion into Quebec. Then there was the creation of the Crown Corporation, Petro Canada. Petro Canada was created by an act of Parliament in 1975 spurred by a suggestion by the NDP who thought a public run corporation with extraction and distribution capabilities would help keep oil prices down for Eastern Canadians. So,… it is not the first time the NDP and the Liberals have worked together to use the West to benefit the East. Sound all too familiar?

This all culminated in the National Energy Program (NEP) in October of 1980 which laid the groundwork for full scale Western alienation and built upon the framework for wealth redistribution from oil producing provinces to consumers and Eastern provinces by ways of taxes and price controls. “Re-balancing” as Trudeau called it. The federal energy minister at the time, Quebec’s Marc Lalonde called it, “a fair compromise for the West.” Sound all too familiar?

Premier Lougheed was having no part of this, a mere 48 hours after the NEP was put in place, Peter Lougheed was on TV with the famous words, ”…if the resources were based in Ontario, every Canadian would be paying the world price.” He then laid out his plan to cut Alberta’s oil production by a mere 15% which would impact the Alberta Governments bottom line, but would force Eastern Canada to import overseas oil at $40 a barrel instead of $17 a barrel for Alberta oil under the NEP. Mr. Lougheed suspended any new oilsands projects and announced legal challenges on the grounds that it was in violation of the constitution. Sound all too familiar?

In March of 1981 the taps were turned down, and again in June of 1981. The Liberals countered by implementing a special tax on gasoline to help pay for oil imports and Pierre Trudeau was defiant claiming that the NEP was being attacked by the provinces and the financial press, editorial writers and the large newspapers of the day,… so they must be doing the right thing. Does the arrogance sound all too familiar?

Throughout the life of the NEP we have seen what amounts to $100 billion dollars pulled out of Alberta, as figured by some economists, which amounts to the largest one time regional transfer of wealth from one side of this country to the other. We have seen how the Federal government keeps pushing the boundaries of federal overreach into provincial jurisdiction again and again. It is time for this to stop.

Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet can go on about how he believes Westerners should “suffer” for not doing what Quebec wants. Well, Mr. Blanchet,…you sound like and 50 year old record,…worn out to the point that the once great quality of the sound is no longer audible or meaningful. You just keep repeating the same old worn out grove in history no matter what side of the political spectrum and keep spewing out the time-tested rhetoric that the West needs to pay in one form or another. Western Canada has been listened to the rhetoric for over 50 years and we know there is always an ulterior motive behind it. Western Canada is getting closer to the point where the title of the book by author Mary Janigan has more meaning today than when it was first published. “Let the Eastern Bastards Freeze in the Dark”.  I hope you hugged your heat pump today. It’s going to need a lot of solar panels to keep you warm this winter and next.

Bevan Kelbert is a grain farmer in West Central Manitoba growing wheat, canola, soybeans peas, barley and oats using a combination of old and cutting-edge technology to maintain a successful small farm. Armed with a diploma of Agricultural Engineering Technology, Bevan aspires to be a farmer version of Nasa’s Gene Kranz, “I don’t care about what anything was DESIGNED to do, I care about what it CAN do.” Bevan sits on the Maverick board as the representative for Manitoba.