The “Fair Deal” Panel at work, in Fort Saskatchewan (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Is the Kenney Government trying to persuade Albertans, one step at a time, that separation from Canada would be a good idea?

How else do we explain the gratuitous inclusion of a question giving respondents the opportunity to express support for Alberta’s separation from Canada in an online questionnaire published by Premier Jason Kenney’s so-called “Fair Deal” Panel?

John A. Macdonald, Father of Confederation and first prime minister of Canada, who would emphatically not have approved of the Fair Deal Panel (Photo: Public Domain).

The question is a two-parter, which begins with the general query: Given what you currently know, how much would the following options help Alberta improve its place in the federation?”

After that, there are 13 follow-up options, one of which is “Alberta alone or with other Western Provinces separating from the rest of Canada.”

Asking anyone with an Internet connection whether or not Alberta should separate from Canada may not be the best idea the Kenney government has had. As one Internet wit asked on social media: “What could possibly go wrong?”

By any standard, the questionnaire — which Albertans are being urged by the government to complete — is risibly unscientific and biased to dovetail with the panel’s pre-determined recommendations.

Panel Chair Oryssia Lennie (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Not only are answers provided by a self-selecting group of respondents, the tendentious wording of questions is clearly intended to steer respondents to the “right” responses from the panel’s perspective, thereby supporting the Premier Kenney’s preposterous assertion Alberta is the red-headed stepchild of Confederation. Moreover, there’s no space at all for those who might want to suggest, as Sir John A. Macdonald most certainly intended, that the federal government should be as strong as possible.

Playing a larger role in international relations,” is one option — blithely ignoring the division of powers in the Canadian constitution to advocate a blatant invasion of federal jurisdiction.

Other options are tautologically rhetorical — “reassert and strengthen provincial authority over areas of provincial jurisdiction…”

Some are worded to lead the witness to a dubious conclusions — “more equal representation in the federal institutions, such as the … House of Commons.”

Panel member Donna Kennedy-Glans (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Some are intended to create the impression there is support for bees that buzz only in the premier’s bonnet — “Alberta establishing its own institutions, such as a tax collection agency, police force, or pension plan.”

Some pander to the worst instincts of the United Conservative Party’s extremist base — “appointment of an Alberta Chief Firearms Officer.”

And some, like the separation question, are in addition to everything else ludicrously illogical — I mean, seriously, how the hell do you improve Alberta’s place in the federation by separating from it? Say what?

Panel member Dew Barnes (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

This would be hilarious, were the implications not potentially tragic. Did the leading intellectual lights on the panel — Donna Kennedy Glans, Preston Manning, c’mon down! — draft the questions themselves without asking for help from someone who actually knows something about running an honest public opinion survey? Or were they the work of some propaganda brainiac in the bowels of the soon-to-be-renamed Manning Centre?

The opening questions — do you think Alberta is treated unfairly, and what should we do about it? — are also clearly biased in favour of the panel’s mandated conclusions. The final section consists of the usual demographic questions, with the option of opting out of all — which suggests to me the panel doesn’t really give a hoot who you are, as long as sound like you’re old, white, male and might vote UCP again.

Panel member Tany Yao (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Oh, and you can go back and re-vote as many times as you’d like — different answers or the same ones, as you please. One enterprising tourist Tweeted last night that he’d voted three times — from Belize!

One wonders if there will be a surprising number of Albertans seemingly enjoying winter holidays in St. Petersburg, Russia, this week?

Panel member Preston Manning (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

In short, this survey is ludicrous, fatuous, risible, biased, intentionally misleading and a damned poor use of our supposedly scarce tax dollars. No real public opinion researcher would come near this thing with a barge poll!

The “Fair Deal” Panel can safely reach the conclusions Mr. Kenney wants from this survey, and the government can argue it provides support for hare-brained ideas like stealing your pension savings to invest in the bitumen industry, claiming any old federal jurisdiction, firing the RCMP to replace it with a politically pliable provincial force, or writing an Alberta constitution that sets up conflicts with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Panel member Stephen Lougheed (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

We know from the history of the postwar world that separatist movements are among the greatest threats to peace and security in modern nation states, whether those with some historical and cultural justification as in Scotland, Catalonia and Quebec, or those that exist only to serve the mischievous ambitions of local power elites.

For that reason, one would hope Canada’s national security agencies are paying attention to what the Kenney Government and some of its supporters are up to, along with the other threats that compete for their attention.

As I told the panel members in my run through the survey, “we should stop wasting money on rigged, unscientific questionnaires like this one designed to create support for separatism, thereby creating conditions that weaken the Liberal government in our nation’s capital in order to advance Premier Kenney’s personal political agenda.”

The members of the panel are:

  • Oryssia Lennie, chair, a former senior civil servant
  • Preston Manning, former leader of the Reform Party of Canada whose eponymous Manning Centre funds anti-Liberal troll factories with names like Canada Strong and Proud
  • Stephen Lougheed, son of the late Alberta premier Peter Lougheed
  • Donna Kennedy-Glans, a former Alberta PC cabinet minister and author of a loopy blog that sometimes promotes separatist notions
  • Drew Barnes, a backbench UCP MLA
  • Moin Yahya, a lawyer and university teacher
  • Miranda Rosin, another UCP backbencher
  • Tany Yao, yet another UCP backbencher

A ninth panel member, Jason Goodtriker, died suddenly on Jan. 16.

Two of these individuals are members of the Order of Canada.

Join the Conversation


  1. The best part this whole weirdo separation exercise is that there as clueless what to do after separation and Peter Downing #Wexit movement. The reality is that separation is a complicated matter and the whole process will be beyond expensive, especially for a newly founded petro-state that has to sell its low-quality and hard to refine oil at a substantial discount. And considering that no one living in the newly independent state of Albertastan wants to pay taxes of any kind, it’s going to get weird and angry fast.

    Having met many an Alberta sovereigntist in my day, I find that they tend to have a number of things in common, among them short tempers, a terminal victim mentality, gullibility, irrationality, self-righteousness, and an inability to get their personal lives grounded. In other words, males who are caught in a state of terminal adolescence. They believe that their dream of an independent and free Alberta — free of Ottawa’s tyranny and oppression — will assure that they will be able to realize all their aspirations of being kings and masters of their own destinies. They are heroes in their own minds. My assessment is both funny and sad — kind of like Alberta’s pattern of constantly making new budgets in the hope that the price of oil smashes the $300/bbl barrier by summer.

    Given my sterling assessment, would any sane person want to give these people want they want? If that is Kenney’s intention, he has just proved that he is completely unhinged and desperate.

    As for the notion that Ottawa is paying very close attention to the goings on of Alberta sovereigntists, I have no doubt that CSIS and the RCMP are watching and building a considerable knowledge base concerning these activities and their participants. The files should be impressive and form the basis for the criminal prosecution of these traitors and seditionists.

    Seeing Presto Manning in cuffs and shackles while being frog-marched before a court for treason would be such a joyous moment — it would surely kill me. But it would be so worth it.

    1. I have met many of the same people. “They believe that their dream of an independent and free Alberta — free of Ottawa’s tyranny and oppression — will assure that they will be able to realize all their aspirations of being kings and masters of their own destinies.” This is exactly my assessment of this group too. DJC

      1. All the more reason for the federal government to vigilant concerning secessionists. They practise a toxic form of nationalism that is dangerously close to persecuting groups outside their tribe. What should be noted of nationalist movements is that they attract the worst people. Sociopaths, psychopaths, and all those with violent imaginations and intentions have always found comfort and gainful employment is such movements.

  2. Questions: Where is Manning in that photo at the top? What is his attendance record? Is he holding events to pitch his book in the same towns as the Panel is appearing?

    In other words, are we subsidizing Manning’s book tour?

    1. This was on Jan. 10, in Fort Saskatchewan. Too close to Edmonton, maybe. DJC

  3. “We know from the history of the postwar world that separatist movements are among the greatest threats to peace and security in modern nation states…”

    Of course. And that is the point of this exercise. It’s in Kenney’s playbook for undemocratic rule in New Buffalonia.

    If you’ll kindly notice, he dressed in cheap sport jackets and khakis and drove a blue pickup when he was precampaigning in the hinterland. Then — voilà! He stays in a fine hotel and goes suit-shopping in London while pretending to be on a business junket and appears in Washington (D.C., not the apple state) in a shiny custom pinstripe suit, fit for an audience with the U.S. elites, or The Penguin from Batman, your choice. We are being played, my friend, and it’s not for the good of the people of Alberta. It’s for the advancement and feathered rookery of Jason Kenney, The Once and Future King.

  4. I wonder. If Teck hadn’t pulled out like it did, leaving Jason Kenney with precious little to excuse himself with, would this half-assed but inflammatory little diversion have surfaced? This is what Jason Kenney considers governance.

    1. I hate to be a party pooper, but I believe this foolishness was in the works well before the Teck announcement. DJC

    2. As I understand it, the Teck Frontier mine is still approved. Just postponed. Am I wrong?

        1. The Teck Frontier was approved by the regulator, but was awaiting Cabinet approval, which was very much in doubt, given the open & public divisions in Mr Trudeau’s Cabinet & Caucus. However, the Government never had to make that final decision, since the company formally withdrew its application. Whether, if it were resubmitted, it would simply pick up where it was left, i.e. at Cabinet, or it would have to restart the entire regulatory process over again, is unclear … to me, anyway.

  5. One has to now wonder whether our Premier is a closet separatist. Given his long career in Federal politics, I would still be inclined to say no, but recent actions raise doubts and concerns.

    His poltical strategy of becoming a big fish in a small pond worked, except the part for an exit strategy back to greater federal power. If the economy here continues to struggle, it may be only so long until voters turn on him. Hence all the frantic distraction and the 24/7 blame Trudeau for everything campaign. Separatism could become the Alberta version of the US Mexico wall. Unrealistic and not much will happen, but it could preoccupy and galvanise the UCP base enough, so they stick with Kenney and not boot him, like what happened to his PC predecessors (Getty, Stelmach and Redford) who faced bad economic headwinds.

    Unfortunately, threats will probably not get Alberta many concessions from the rest of Canada. Anyone who has looked at a map knows Alberta is only one of two provinces that are landlocked. It would sort of be like Kansas threatening to separate. If the US gets rid of its climate change denying leader soon, separatism here will become even less viable.

    However what could go wrong is miscalculation. The right wing here could become even more frustrated if others in the rest of Canada do not seem to take their hollow threats seriously. Kenney may have already burned his bridges for a return to power in Ottawa and is now desperate to cling to the power he has here. It could easily become a dangerous situation.

    1. I could take the low hanging fruit about Jason Kenney being a ‘closet’ something, but I will refrain myself! In actuality Jason Kenney has no group that he plays nicely with other than those who help him with his self aggrandizing nature. Jason Kenney stands for, and with himself and never forget that (also don’t get in his way!).

  6. Seems that in Alberta “more equal” means just what it says – not equal but more than equal. Unfortunately we have moved away from being a province of hard working stand up Canadian citizens to being a province of many (not all) “me first” people who love to blame anyone and everyone who does not support their “right” to a 6 figure income. I sent the panel a old fashioned paper letter letting them know I objected to almost every proposal. It will not have much effect but I had to do something.

  7. This separation baloney is just a distraction from Jason Kenney’s other self created problems, such as his nightmare budget. Anyone who has watched the news can also see that oil prices are going down, down, down. Oil prices will never recover to the very high prices we had prior to the oil price slump that began in 2014. If Peter Lougheed were still around, he’d certainly lecture his son Stephen about the absurdity of firewalls and Alberta separation. Peter Lougheed would be disgusted at the UCP in general, in relation to the shortsighted things they are doing, which are hurting many people.

  8. The only “rationale” (if you can call it that) for this horse-puckey is that the voters of Canada, in their wisdom, chose not to elect the Conservative Party of Canada to be their next government. It’s a toddler’s screaming temper tantrum, pure & simple. I’m surprised Ms Rempel-Garner & her Buffalo Declaration co-authors haven’t thrown themselves onto the floor of the House of a Commons between the Government & Opposition benches, screaming, stamping their feet & pounding their fists, and holding their breaths until they turn blue.

  9. Good luck to you Alberta if you #wexit out of Canada. The rest of us are not gonna be too torn up about it. Kenney you’ve committed political suicide already. This would sadly end so badly for all those poor folk who think you actually have their best interest in mind.

  10. Now, why in the world would these people want more power? Hmm… maybe the honest advertising of the Australian Government could explain all this:

  11. separate now!! if alberta separated and kept our transfer payments to spend on ourselves instead of on provincial welfare for quebec and others, we would have 6000 dollars per person per year, and that’s including kids. we would be rich. instead, we pay for quebec’s free tuitions and free daycares.

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