The notion that our nation is a bilingual mosaic has never gone down any better in rural Western Canada than it has in Quebec. In Canada, we are what we are.
We are a nation strung across the northern edge of the new world’s arable land, with vast tracks of rock, forest, bog and snow-covered nonagricultural land to our north.
We are the second biggest country in the world, yet only the 7th (49.4 million square hectares) when it comes to arable land. This doesn’t make us a poor nation.
We have vast forestry, mineral, oil and natural gas wealth most nations can only envy.
However, what it makes for is an impossibly difficult country to govern because of our massive regional and cultural differences.
For example, while getting that raw material product to port isn’t as crucial in Eastern Canada, it is of dire importance to us in the landlocked West.
And in a confederation like ours – a parliamentary democracy where the West happens to be disadvantaged by three and half centuries of settlement patterns favouring the east – it is especially important to have strong regional voices.
As he comes to end of us rather successful tenure in public life, this is something Premier Brad Wall clearly wants to see. In doing so, Wall is leaning on the legacy of another populist prairie politician in his argument that we should be one nation with equally strong regions.
Wall’s criticism of the Energy East pipeline cancellation has not gone over well in much of the country. Many see it as little more than a partisan political attack on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau government policies Wall blames for the pipeline cancellation. To some extent, this may be true.
However, Wall also noted the Western alienation that this decision is causing – especially given that Energy East’s cancellation seemed so pleasing to Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre and Trudeau’s critical urban Ontario and Quebec vote.
“They have manifested themselves in economic policy. NEP (National Energy Program), Energy East, Bombardier, and CF-18 procurement (moved from Winnipeg the 1980s),” Wall responded in an e-mail rep. “These are not all direct nods to Quebec, of course, but they are usually more controversial – even divisive.
“For many in the regions, it is hard to see them as anything but further instalment payments that may not usher Quebec out of the country but most definitely contribute to the perception of two Canadas.”
Wall is referencing former Progressive Conservative prime minister John Diefenbaker’s “One Canada” view.
“There must be no compromise with Canada’s existence as a nation,” Wall wrote, quoting Diefenbaker executive assistant Thomas Van Dusen’s summation of Diefenbaker’s “One Canada”.
“Opting out, two fl ags, two pension plans, associated states, two nations and all the other baggage of political dualism was ushering Quebec out of Confederation on the instalment plan. He could not accept any theory of two nations, however worded, because it would make of those neither French nor English second-class citizens.”
As a national railway was the 19th-century dream for Canadian unity, Wall saw a national pipeline in which Western oil could flow to Atlantic province refineries as a 21st Century response to the national unity issue.
Instead, Canada seems to be opting to continue 20th Century appeasement of Quebec interests above all others – what Wall described in his e-mail as “instalment payments” like $11 billion (out of $18-billion dollar) in annual transfers/equalization payment to Quebec. “Yet so few (provincial leaders) are prepared to question the long-standing/still current and inexorable march to two Canadas,” Wall wrote.
As he prepares to leave public life, Wall is having no such qualm. Dief’s view of Canada is not lost on so many Canadians,” he said. “It is not lost on me.”