Alberta Politics
Conservative Party of Canada Leader Andrew Scheer, never far from a Canadian flag despite the makeup of his caucus (Photo: Flickr/Andrew Scheer).

Is the Conservative Opposition a national government in waiting or a separatist bloc? Andrew Scheer must decide

Posted on February 24, 2020, 1:11 am
9 mins

Who said, “At time of global economic instability, Canada’s government must stand unequivocally for keeping the country together”?

I won’t tease you. It was Stephen Harper, on Dec. 3, 2008.

Former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper (Photo: Prime Minister of Greece).

Prime minister Harper, desperate to avoid a non-confidence vote in Parliament that was certain to defeat his Conservative government and be followed by a minority Liberal-NDP coalition, raised the spectre of the separatist Bloc Québécois propping up the coalition in a televised address to the nation. “At a time like this, a coalition with the separatists cannot help Canada,” he stated unequivocally.

There was to be no coalition with separatists, of course. That was just spin. But the Bloc had agreed to keep the coalition in power for a spell, possibly until the next constitutionally required election, and that was enough to unhinge many voters in Alberta.

Stephane Dion, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada in 2008 (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Mr. Harper’s argument resonated powerfully here. Naturally, it was reported abundantly and favourably by our reflexively Conservative mainstream media. More importantly, though, it was repeated constantly by ordinary Albertans, in letters to the editor, on the Internet and, of course, in office chat and at family dinners.

Even many of that minority of Albertans who understood that having another party or a coalition of parties try to form a government after a ministry has fallen on a vote of confidence is a normal and democratic part of our Westminster Parliamentary system seemed to buy the argument there could be no truck or trade with separatists.

In the event, the matter was moot. Mr. Harper worked out an undemocratic and possibly unconstitutional deal with governor general Michaëlle Jean and Parliament was prorogued without a vote of confidence. After that, the Liberals replaced leader Stephane Dion with the calamitous Michael Ignatieff. Jack Layton, leader of the NDP, would thereby become Opposition leader in 2011 and Mr. Harper was able to continue as prime minister for seven more years.

The late Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party in 2008 (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

This is relevant today, of course, in light of the so-called Buffalo Declaration, the much-publicized 6,000-word screed published by four Conservative MPs from Alberta that essentially tells Canada: Do what we want or Alberta will separate from Confederation and found an independent state, maybe with Saskatchewan along for the ride.

In other words, essentially the position supposedly advocated by the Bloc for Quebec, at least as understood on the Prairies.

Near the top of the must-do Buffalo Agenda, according to Michelle Rempel Garner, Glen Motz, Blake Richards, and Arnold Viersen, was federal approval of the uneconomic and environmentally controversial Teck Frontier oilsands mine.

This would likely have been granted regardless by the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later this week, had it not been for Teck Resources Ltd. President Don Lindsay’s surprise announcement yesterday that the Vancouver-based resource company was pulling the plug on the project.

Chief Bufalloon Michelle Rempel Garner, MP for Calgary Nose Hill (Photo: Flickr/Olds College).

Reading Mr. Lindsay’s Sunday Surprise letter to federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, the implication was clear Teck walked away because it realized without the former Alberta NDP provincial government’s Climate Leadership Plan the project would never have the social license needed to proceed.

Also doubtless in the company’s calculations, conveniently left unsaid, was the real possibility oil prices will never recover sufficiently to make the project economically viable.

Regardless, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and his extensive online support machine went into an immediate apoplectic meltdown last night, blaming it all on Mr. Trudeau’s reluctance to have police crack skulls at Indigenous rail blockades and hysterically denying UCP policies could have had anything to do with it.

Former governor general Michaëlle Jean (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Readers can now expect a renewed frenzy of Wexiteering by the Conservative Party’s Buffalo Wing.

Now, obviously, the Buffalo Declaration does not represent the views of all Conservative MPs, or even all Alberta Conservatives. But is it a trial balloon that enjoys deep support in the party’s powerful Alberta and Saskatchewan caucuses.

In other words, the Conservative Party of Canada, which as the Official Opposition in Parliament purports to be the government in waiting of Canada, is at best now a coalition with a group of separatists, and at worst nothing more than a regional separatist party itself like the Bloc.

Buffalo Wing MP Arnold Viersen doing, I kid you not, a rap routine designed to appeal to elderly Conservative Party voters; Forrest Gump’s mama had a saying about people like this (Photo: Screenshot of Youtube video).

If Mr. Harper was right in 2008 as the vast majority of Albertans then believed he was, how can Andrew Scheer, who remains Conservative Leader for the time being, tolerate this situation in his Parliamentary Caucus?

Or is any position now taken by the party entirely situational and likely to be completely hypocritical?

If the Conservative Party of Canada is to retain any credibility, the Gang of Four who attached their names to the Buffalo Declaration must either leave the caucus or recant significant parts of the program they have endorsed.

If the party will not deal with this separatist rump within its caucus, Canadians outside Alberta, where doublethink already appears to be no problem on any number of Conservative positions, will be right to abandon the Conservatives as nothing more than a Saskalbertan Bloc.

As much as I disagree with most of the positions taken in recent years by the CPC, I recognize that Canada needs a strong opposition Conservative party to represent the many Canadians who hold such views.

But if the Opposition leader is unprepared to deal with this separatist contagion in his caucus, that party can no longer be the Conservative Party of Canada.

NOTE TO READERS: In the next few days, some advertisements will begin to appear in the columns of this blog. To many readers, I know this will be an annoyance, but as I ease into retirement in the months ahead, producing additional revenue based this blog’s large readership will be a necessity. It is my intention that the content of the blog will never be hidden behind a paywall. In the near future, I hope also to offer an email newsletter for readers who wish to subscribe that will provide links to the previous week’s stories, and perhaps occasional exclusive material. Again, the subscription service will be free to readers, but will provide an advertising opportunity for a sponsor. David J. Climenhaga

16 Comments to: Is the Conservative Opposition a national government in waiting or a separatist bloc? Andrew Scheer must decide

  1. David Harrigan

    February 24th, 2020

    I am puzzled why you, and most mainstream media, call Teck’s decision a surprise. See https://calgaryherald.com/opinion/columnists/varcoe-facing-political-and-economic-challenges-final-decision-on-frontier-should-shift-to-teck
    Does no-one read the Calgary Herald anymore? OK, it was rhetorical. I know nobody reads the Calgary Herald anymore.
    And as for the Conservatives, they do not want to be the government in waiting. Much like for years the NDP wanted to be the conscience of the government, the conservatives simply want to be the anger and victim.
    Interesting note though.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      February 24th, 2020

      Good point. My surprise was not that the decision had been made — as you point out that’s been obvious for some time — but that it was unequivocally announced so soon. I didn’t expect that. I thought Teck would continue to play the UCP along as long as possible, or at least not fess up until after the federal government had ruled. Who knows, maybe Ottawa could have been persuaded to buy the flippin’ thing. It’s not as if there’s no precedent for such foolishness. That said, it is true that I try hard not to read anything in the Calgary Herald nowadays, especially when it happens to be by writers who crossed my picket line when I was VP of CEP Local 115-A. DJC

      Reply
  2. Dave

    February 24th, 2020

    We have in our Federal history already had a separatist official opposition, so the Conservatives can site that as precedence.
    Thus, they don’t have to actually choose anything more than contradicting what they said in the past and hypocrisy. They are good at that already.

    I’m sure they will come up with some way to explain this to satisfy their more loyal and less inquiring supporters here, but their divided loyalties may not go over well in the rest of Canada. I suppose in the end the buffalo chips will fall where they may, but they may splinter the already uneasy Conservative east/west coalition. Lets put it in terms even a Conservative could understand. In the fairly short history of the current version of the Conservative Party, the larger and more right wing western side has dominated. This time the eastern side wants in.

    The Teck letter was very well written and was a brilliant strategy for the company. The project was not viable at current oil prices or in the forseeable future, so best to withdraw it and save themselves a lot of grief. They have also saved the Federal Liberals from having to make a political no win decision. Of course, Kenney and the buffalo chips gang will blame Trudeau anyways. They always do, but more thoughtful people in the east and west will not be so quick to blame.

    For the Federal Liberals, one big crisis averted and the week has just started. They are either lucky or clever or pehaps a bit of both. Unlike the Federal Conservatives who seem to be setting themselves up to choose between Rempel’s buffalo stance western separatism and Canada.

    Reply
    • Scotty on Denman

      February 24th, 2020

      Western Canadian Conservatives can cite Quebec separatism as precedent that Saskalbertawan separatists might avail, but it’s a weak argument, the two regions’ pre~ and post-confederation histories being so different. True, both regions have had their kick at Loyal Opposition, but from beginning to present Quebec has had popular heft, opposite shores of a lengthy, unavoidable chunk of navigation to the industrial heartlands of two of the world’s trading heavyweights and, now or soon, another shore and potential ports-of-call on the eastern end of the seasonally ice-free Northwest Passage which might freight even greater international trade; Alberta’s population is relatively light, Saskatchewan’s even lighter, and neither has any tidewater ports at all. Although distribution of parliamentary seats (both houses) favour Quebec unfairly by constitutional enshrinement, its independent viability, still underpinned by population and tidewater, is light years superior to any imaginable Saskalbertawan. Neither does this region have the depth of tradition and culture of Les Habitants —well, at least not since Métis-Indian alliance was broken up at Batoche and Frog Lake two decades before Canada confederated this southern chunk of territorial spare cloth.

      Certainly it would be hypocritical for the Western Prairies to threaten to separate from the federation after so viciously (and churlishly) vilifying our eldest sister province for wanting a room of her own; but, that notwithstanding, the preposterousness of landlocked separation for no apparent advantage, and bellicose threats radiating to three points of the compass simply shows how absurdity passes for shibbolethed virtue-signalling among Wexiteers only slightly better than for their foolhardy provocativeness.

      Scheer lashes out at JT, Wet’suwet’en, “criminal [Aboriginal])” blockades, and spooky foreign environmentalists by trying to substitute alligator outrage for petulant squealing about losing his leadership. Again, scapegoating also deludes Wexiteers as to UCP petro-slutdom; perhaps interpreting Teck’s withdrawal from the Holy Bitumen Mines of Albetaria as tossing a life-buoy to JT explains the wantonness of the CPC’s indiscriminate blaming, as well. I agree: it strains upon the increasingly strange alliance of Western and Eastern Conservatives (Jeez! Wonder how the Westernern CPCers would take to an Eastern CPC leader?)

      There’s one more absurdity of Wexitism: whatever the differences or prospects of separation for either Saskalbertawan or Quebec, there hasn’t been any separation attempt since the wily Jean Chrétien’s government passed Minister Stephane Dion’s Clarity Act in the wake of the last, very thin federalist victory over the Souveraintists —to which the court has attached constitutional interpretation that makes this, the only mechanism for a province to leave the federation, quite a bit harder to achieve, more like amending the Constitution which, naturally, secession from any geographically contiguous and integrated federation would require. And remember: “If Canada is divisible, […] is divisible.” Now that’s what you might call abstruse virtue-signalling and provocation!

      Reply
  3. Just Me

    February 24th, 2020

    The CEO of Teck Resources has made it abundantly clear that Climate Change is a predominant issue that must be addressed at all levels of government. It was also the large-carbon emitters that wanted Alberta’s provincial carbon tax to remain in force, because social-license has a powerful effect on the discussion.

    Kenney decided to lie his way into Alberta’s premiership, so now the die has been cast.

    As the Buffaloons among the CPC caucus get ginned up over the thought of building the new free-state of Buffalovia or Albertastan (Saskatchewan hasn’t decided if they’re going to buy into Alberta’s meth’d up crazy, yet.) one thing is certain: the lunacy west of Lloydminster is about to get awesome.

    While Peter Downing is pushing that much harder for his #Wexit dream, Ken-Doh is in quite the pickle. Does he continue to remain and wage his war against Albertans who didn’t vote for him? Or, does he make the step he really wants to make and jump into the CPC leadership race? There’s no doubt that Peter MacKay will undoubtedly be elected as the the most unpopular leader a party ever had. Alberta’s favourite angry midget may just decide that his Socon cred is better served in a potentially successful run against PMJT and blow the Alberta crime scene.

    As for Andrew Scheer, things just got more entertaining as he tries to convince his party what a big mistake they are making kicking his leadership to the curb. Look for Crazy Andy to act like a desperate man as he throws increasing more impressive tantrums in the H of C. He needs this leadership gig, because finally getting that insurance license just doesn’t interest him.

    As the CONs and Alberta are pushed that much closer to their respective nervous breakdowns, Canada as a whole can thank PMJT for finally shoving their clown car off its last cliff. Kudos.

    Reply
  4. Patrick Hertel

    February 24th, 2020

    “that party can no longer be the Conservative Party of Canada.”

    It hasn’t been, since before Alliance/Reform, since MacKay sold them down the river.

    Reply
  5. Bob Raynard

    February 24th, 2020

    I read parts of the Buffalo Declaration as I followed your link in yesterday’s column, David. While there was so much to comment on, I loved the part where they complained about being called rednecks.

    Reply
  6. Abs

    February 24th, 2020

    The question in my mind is, were these four people trying to buffalo the nation over a single issue: Teck? The timing of it seems to say yes.

    Their manifesto encompasses more, but it’s the timing that really sticks out. Why choose that particular moment, and that particular issue to mention in the manifesto? And now that Teck has withdrawn for what surely must be economic reasons too big to ignore (social licence being a lesser, secondary excuse IMO) will these four people shuffle off to Buffalo? The problem with being corporatist is one of economics and the marketplace. Some politicians ignore these forces at will, but corporations can’t.

    The teachers’ pension fund is safe for another day. And did those three runaway bison ever arrive in Valhalla? Kindly advise.

    Reply
  7. J.E. Molnar

    February 24th, 2020

    “The promise of Canada’s potential will not be realized until governments can reach agreement around how climate policy considerations will be addressed in the context of future responsible energy sector development.” – Don Lindsay, Teck Resources Ltd. CEO (Feb. 23,2020)

    Jason Kenney and his tail-wagging cadre of MLA misfits only have themselves to blame for Teck pulling the plug on this oil sands project. That’s abundantly clear in reading Teck CEO Don Lindsay’s announcement to the federal government (see above). Conservatives trying to spin this as an NDP or Justin Trudeau-led conspiracy to hijack oil sands investment are all delusional — nothing could be further from the truth.

    If all of the provincial Conservative Mad Hatters in charge hadn’t spent so much time in court trying to block efforts by the Feds to institute a much-desired, industry-approved “carbon levy/tax,” and the UCP hadn’t completely nixed Rachel Notley and the NDP’s climate mitigation efforts, chances are this project would have been green-lit by Tech Resources Ltd. without all the UCP caterwauling and bellyaching now being used as cover for their political boneheadedness.

    Reply
  8. Scotty on Denman

    February 24th, 2020

    It is well deserved tribute to DJC’s excellent blog that we don’t need a glossary for the avalanche of new terns since the Teck rejection.

    I dare say even those who’ve never had the privilege of reading the tos-and-fros of this sterling site won’t take long to decipher such descriptors as;

    -“tail-wagging cadre of MLA misfits”
    -“Conservative mad hatters”
    -“boneheadedness”
    -“the buffalo chips gang”
    -“buffalo-stance Western separatism”
    -“buffalo Cons”
    -“[West of Lloydminster] lunacy”
    -“meth’d up crazy”
    -“Ken-Doh”
    -“favourite angry midget”
    -“Crazy Andy”
    -“clown car”
    -“Buffalo Declaration” and, of course,
    -“Wexit”

    (As a teenager in the late sixties who had a small transistor radio glued to my ear, dial glued to American Soul-music radio stations which mercifully broadcast across Lake Ontario to save us white bumpkins on the northern shore, I hesitated to include “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” as a too-mixed metaphor—but the point’s taken, nonetheless.)

    Andrew Scheer’s response to Teck’s announcement was merely a reactionary cherry on the cake.

    This is inside politics, right here! Thank you a million times!

    Reply
    • Abs

      February 25th, 2020

      “Shuffle off to Valhalla, Alberta” didn’t have the same ring to it.

      Reply
  9. Abs

    February 24th, 2020

    So today is Monday, and Jason Kenney is holding some sort of mega press conference at 2 p.m. Matt Wolf already blamed the Teck decision on “rabid environmentalists”. So, either they’re going to scorch the earth today, or maybe we’ll see the Wrath of Con on budget day? The people of Alberta clearly need to be punished for something, and everything, and especially this.

    Please keep us in the loop if martial law comes into effect later today, or something. Wouldn’t want to miss that, but cant stand to watch the talking heads explode. Thanks.

    Reply
  10. Just Me

    February 24th, 2020

    Now that Kenney has managed to find a court that took his nonsense seriously, and even rendered a decision in his favour, there can be no doubt he will be ginned up beyond belief.

    But once the matter goes to the CSCC, there is no doubt the nine august justices will find for the feds.

    Kenney will scream, throw another tantrum, and embarrass everyone near him…and beyond.

    While I can’t wait for the prospect of that kind of hilarious stupidity, let’s be clear about one thing: Ken-Doh’s unbalanced mind and ego will ruin a lot of lives.

    I am reminded of the wisdom found in the lyrics of Randy Neuman’s opus “Short People” where I learned the unspoken truth about Short People. They are the worst of humanity and Jason Kenney is their undeniable mascot.

    Reply
  11. anon

    February 24th, 2020

    Meanwhile in the real world outside the UCP bubble from the Detroit News Feb 18/20:

    “GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly poised to begin electric transformation, Detroit — The last Chevrolet Impala will roll down the line next week at Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly, making way for the plant’s next phase: electric vehicles.”

    Reply
  12. Don

    February 24th, 2020

    As a short (skinny) guy ….can we focus instead on how fat Kenney is instead of his height for a while?

    Reply

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