The oil and chemical tanker Esta Desgagnes makes her way west on the St. Lawrence River on Dec. 17, 2018 in Brockville, Ont. The Alberta Party said in a news release this week that if Ottawa is truly serious about protecting marine habitats, then prohibiting oil tankers should apply to the Atlantic and Pacific coasts equally, noting the endangered status of the Beluga whale in the St. Lawrence.
Ronald Zajac / Postmedia, file
It’s no secret Albertans are feeling a bit indignant at many of their fellow Canadians these days.The list of grievances has grown so long over the past year that it’s been hard to keep track.Pipeline delays. Overly rigorous changes to the approval process. Obstructionist governments in B.C. and Quebec. Apathy from Ottawa to buy rail cars. A tanker ban that seems to ban only Alberta petroleum products. Equalization.The frustration many Albertans feel from such issues comes in a couple of different forms.One is the knowledge that rectification is largely beyond the control of the province, which is landlocked and has less than 12 per cent of Canada’s population.The second is the thick sheen of hypocrisy that clings to such injustices, in which Alberta and its primary industry have been seemingly singled out for treatment that isn’t being extended to everyone.It was for that reason I viewed with interest a proposal from the Alberta Party this week calling for a tanker ban in the St. Lawrence Seaway, if not the entire East Coast.If Ottawa is truly serious about protecting marine habitats, then prohibiting oil tankers should apply to the Atlantic and Pacific equally, the party said in a news release, noting the endangered status of the Beluga whale in the St. Lawrence.The demand is ludicrous of course. The federal government says that 82 million tonnes of petroleum products are moved in and out of Atlantic Canada each year, while Quebec sees movement of 25 million tonnes.The Clear Seas Centre for Responsible Marine Shipping suggests the totals are even higher, but whatever the numbers, the traffic is substantial enough that no federal government would ever consider a moratorium.Nonetheless, the Alberta Party’s proposal serves as an effective tool for highlighting the hypocrisy of Bill C-48.It got me thinking, what else could Alberta propose to bring attention to the disparity it faces?One idea that came to mind was a ban on open-net fish farms, which threaten wild fish populations. The idea already seems to be gaining traction in B.C., but if it fails to materialize, Alberta could consider implementing its own ban on farmed fish. I’ll miss the occasional sushi lunch, but I’ll just have to find another way to get my Omega-3s.Or if we really want to protect our oceans, perhaps there should be a prohibition on Victoria’s practice of flushing sewage into the Pacific Ocean — a proposal that seems eminently reasonable for a city considering a class-action lawsuit against oil companies.Staying with the lawsuit theme, perhaps Alberta could consider launching court action against B.C. to recover policing and medical costs resulting from that province’s illegal pot industry.In the same vein, is it a fair question to ask how much of the fentanyl that has killed more than 1,400 Albertans over the last three years came through B.C.?Switching to the other side of the country, if Quebec’s leaders aren’t interested in helping Alberta’s energy industry, then surely they won’t have objections to our province calling for an end to dairy subsidies.The same should go for Bombardier, which has received billions in federal assistance despite a track record that could best be described as troubled.After all, if Quebec’s environmental conscience is unwilling to facilitate pipelines to carry Alberta oil, should it be demanding support for a company building planes, trains and automobiles that burn fuel?Though it didn’t get enough attention at the time, I was pleased to see the Alberta government’s decision in November to launch an overdue trade challenge against Ontario for inhibiting Alberta liquor products to be sold in that province.Still, I think we can go further to underline the harm of trade barriers. There’s lots of potential avenues.Highway tolls on vehicles with Ontario licence plates. Applying international tuition to Ontario students wanting to attend Alberta universities. Extra charges for out-of-province patients who come here for transplant surgeries. Special airport landing fees. Differential hotel taxes.To be clear, I don’t like suggesting these ideas. Most, if not all, are irrational, damaging and narcissistic.But then, so too are the attitudes of leaders in Ottawa and other provinces who seem to have sacrificed national prosperity for personal political gain.Perhaps merely proposing some of these extreme actions might help to raise awareness that our country is acting less and less like a unified federation and more like a bunch of squabbling teenagers at the dinner table.Ultimately we are lucky to be a part of Canada, which at least makes some effort at environmental protection, action on climate change and respect for Indigenous rights.Those principles are vital, but applying them must be fair and consistent, rather than singling out one province or industry to carry the burden while allowing others to make exceptions for themselves.On that score, Alberta is legitimately aggrieved, but we may need to work harder to show firstname.lastname@example.org/keithgerein