In the wake of the last federal election,
six prominent Alberta residents – Stephen Harper, Tom Flanagan,
Ted Morton, Rainer Knopff, Andrew Crooks and Ken Boessenkool
– published an open letter to Premier Ralph Klein, arguing
that their province should take advantage of its constitutional
rights and in effect repatriate certain powers to the provincial
Here is the full text of their letter.
The Alberta Agenda
Dear Premier Klein,
During and since the recent federal election,
we have been among a large number of Albertans discussing
the future of our province. We are not dismayed by the
outcome of the election so much as by the strategy employed
by the current federal government to secure its re-election.
In our view, the Chretien government undertook a series of
attacks not merely designed to defeat its partisan opponents,
but to marginalize Alberta and Albertans within Canada’s political
One well-documented incident was the attack
against Alberta’s health care system. To your credit,
you vehemently protested the unprecedented attack ads that
the federal government launched against Alberta’s policies
– policies the Prime Minister had previously found no fault
However, while your protest was necessary
and appreciated by Albertans, we believe that it is not enough
to respond only with protests. If the government in
Ottawa concludes that Alberta is a soft target, we will be
subjected to much worse than dishonest television ads.
The Prime Minister has already signaled as much by announcing
his so called “tough love” campaign for the West.
We believe the time has come for Albertans
to take greater charge of our own future. This means
resuming control of the powers that we possess under the constitution
of Canada but that we have allowed the federal government
to exercise. Intelligent use of these powers will help
Alberta build a prosperous future in spite of a misguided
and increasingly hostile government in Ottawa.
Under the heading of the “Alberta Agenda,”
we propose that our province move forward on the following
- Withdraw from the Canada Pension Plan to
create an Alberta Pension Plan offering the same
benefits at lower cost while giving Alberta control
over the investment fund. Pensions are a
provincial responsibility under section 94A of
the Constitution Act. 1867; and the legislation
setting up the Canada Pension Plan permits a province
to run its own plan, as Quebec has done from the
beginning. If Quebec can do it, why not
- Collect our own revenue from personal income
tax, as we already do for corporate income tax.
Now that your government has made the historic
innovation of the single-rate personal income
tax, there is no reason to have Ottawa collect
our revenue. Any incremental cost of collecting
our own personal income tax would be far outweighed
by the policy flexibility that Alberta would gain,
as Quebec’s experience has shown.
- Start preparing now to let the contract with
the RCMP run out in 2012 and create an Alberta
Provincial Police Force. Alberta is a major
province. Like the other major provinces
of Ontario and Quebec, we should have our own
provincial police force. We have no doubt
that Alberta can run a more efficient and effective
police force than Ottawa can – one that will not
be misused as a laboratory for experiments in
- Resume provincial responsibility for health-care
policy. If Ottawa objects to provincial
policy, fight in the courts. If we lose,
we can afford the financial penalties that Ottawa
may try to impose under the Canada Health Act.
Albertans deserve better than the long waiting
periods and technological backwardness that are
rapidly coming to characterize Canadian medicine.
Alberta should also argue that each province should
raise its own revenue for health care – i.e.,
replace Canada Health and Social Transfer cash
with tax points as Quebec has argued for many
years. Poorer provinces would continue to
rely on Equalization to ensure they have adequate
- Use section 88 of the Supreme Court’s decision
in the Quebec Secession Reference to force Senate
reform back onto the national agenda. Our
reading of that decision is that the federal government
and other provinces must seriously consider a
proposal for constitutional reform endorsed by
“a clear majority on a clear question” in a provincial
referendum. You acted decisively once before
to hold a senatorial election. Now is the
time to drive the issue further.
All of these steps can be taken using the
constitutional powers that Alberta now possesses. In
addition, 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.
The most recent Alberta Treasury estimates are that Albertans
transfer $2,600 per capita annually to other Canadians, for
a total outflow from our province approaching $8 billion a
year. The same federal politicians who accuse us of
not sharing their “Canadian values” have no compunction about
appropriating our Canadian dollars to buy votes elsewhere
in the country.
Mr. Premier, we acknowledge the constructive
reforms that your government made in the 1990s—balancing the
budget, paying down the provincial debt, privatizing government
services, getting Albertans off welfare and into jobs, introducing
a single-rate tax, pulling government out of the business
of subsidizing business, and many other beneficial changes.
But no government can rest on its laurels. An economic
slowdown, and perhaps even recession, threatens North America,
the government in Ottawa will be tempted to take advantage
of Alberta’s prosperity, to redistribute income from Alberta
to residents of other provinces in order to keep itself in
power. It is imperative to take the initiative, to build
firewalls around Alberta, to limit the extent to which an
aggressive and hostile federal government can encroach upon
legitimate provincial jurisdiction.
Once Alberta’s position is secured, only
our imagination will limit the prospects for extending the
reform agenda that your government undertook eight years ago.
To cite only a few examples, lower taxes will unleash the
energies of the private sector, easing conditions for Charter
Schools will help individual freedom and improve public education,
and greater use of the referendum and initiative will bring
Albertans into closer touch with their own government.
The precondition for the success of this
Alberta Agenda is the exercise of all our legitimate provincial
jurisdictions under the constitution of Canada. Starting
to act now will secure the future for all Albertans.
Stephen HARPER, President,
National Citizen’s Coalition;
Tom FLANAGAN, professor of political science
and former Direct of Research, Reform Party of Canada;
Ted MORTON, professor political science and
Rainer KNOPFF, professor of political science;
Andrew CROOKS, Chairman, Canadian Taxpayers
Ken BOESSENKOOL, former policy advisor to
Stockwell Day, Treasurer of Alberta.
represents the personal views of its authors and not those
of any organizations with which they are or have been connected.