MLA Drew Barnes: Alberta’s Fair Deal panel findings don’t go far enough

MLA Drew Barnes: Alberta’s Fair Deal panel findings don’t go far enough
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United Conservative MLA Drew Barnes says Alberta’s Fair Deal Panel findings don’t go far enough.  

The news comes in the heels today’s announcement of the recommendations of the Fair Deal Panel into Alberta’s role within Canadian Confederation, a group comprised of Barnes, Preston Manning, Stephen Lougheed, Oryssia Lennie, Jason Goodstriker, Donna Kennedy, Moin Yahya, Miranda Rosin and Tany Yao and tasked with holding public meetings across the province to get Alberta a “fair deal” within Canada.  

Barnes has formally written to Premier Kenney to insist that the panel’s findings must do even more to exert provincial autonomy, including provincial control over immigration, recall legislation and a draft provincial constitution.  

Earlier today, the determinations of the long-awaited Fair Deal Panel were made public. The panel made 25 recommendations including the formation of an Alberta provincial police force, the creation of a provincial pension plan, negotiating unobstructed resource corridors between provinces, strengthening Alberta’s presence in Ottawa in international treaty negotiations, the appointment of a Chief Firearms Officer (CFO) by the Government of Alberta — as opposed to the federal public safety minister — and a province wide referendum on the equalization program.  

The MLA for Cypress- Medicine Hat wrote:  

“I am grateful to you [Premier Kenney] for giving me the opportunity to listen to the thousands of Albertans that came to share their vision with the Fair Deal Panel.  

With an increasingly hostile government in Ottawa, you have had the foresight to understand that Albertans will no longer accept the inequities of being a second-class people under the constitution. My colleagues on the panel have given thoughtful consideration to the proposals before us, but it is necessary for me to express clearly to you and to Albertans what I feel in my heart must be done.” 

In the letter, Barnes recommended the following: 

  • A firm referendum date six months from now expressly forbidding Ottawa from legislating any kind of Equalization program. 
  • Alberta should collect its own provincial and federal personal and corporate income taxes. 
  • Alberta should hold a referendum expelling Ottawa from spending inside areas of provincial jurisdiction and transferring the tax points of the Canada Health and Social Transfers to the provinces. 
  • Albertans should elect a constitutional convention to draft a provincial constitution, to be ratified in a referendum. 
  • An Alberta Constitution should include the right to initiate referenda and recall elected representatives.
  • Alberta should immediately take back control over its own immigration under its provincial jurisdiction.
  • Albertans should hold a referendum on a constitutional amendment to not only elect senators, but to equally and justly determine how many seats each province holds.
  • Alberta should hold a referendum on a constitutional amendment to clarify and strengthen internal free trade provisions, including the right to move our resources across provincial boundaries.
  • This constitutional amendment should make supply management an exclusively provincial matter, allowing provinces to opt out if they so decide, while trading freely between them.
  • Albertans should hold a referendum on a constitutional amendment to strictly firewall off any encroachment by the federal government over the internal development of our natural resources 

Though many of the recommendations of the Fair Deal Panel affirm and reinforce Alberta within Canada, Barnes also did not rule out an independent Alberta as a solution to the structural inequities facing the province within Confederation identified by the Fair Deal panel:  

While I appreciate that my colleagues on the panel do not believe that Alberta can raise the prospect of independence under any circumstance, I must respectfully disagree. A free people must be willing to at some point of injustice without rectification, to draw a line and make a stand. 

I do not make any of these recommendations, and the last in particular, lightly. I was born a Canadian, and sincerely wish to build a reformed Canada that treats all of its people equally and fairly. In fact, this is another opportunity for Albertans to lead the way, for by finding equality and fairness for ourselves, we can create the framework for others to find the same. Ultimately, this will help to build a stronger, freer, prosperous, and more united Canada. 

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  • By Sheila Gunn Reid


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