"Alberta is worse off today than it was 30 years ago. Despite the considerable efforts of such exceptional leaders as Peter Lougheed, Preston Manning, Ralph Klein and others, Alberta is more vulnerable to destructive federal policies than we were in the 1980s. Here’s the balance sheet:
Lougheed’s greatest achievement was the addition of Section 92A to the 1982 Constitution Act. Section 92A affirms and protects all provinces’ rights to develop their own natural resources. For Alberta, this meant primarily oil and gas and was intended to prevent a repeat of Pierre Trudeau’s National Energy Program. But today, his son’s carbon tax and Bill C-69 — the no-pipelines-ever law — are NEP 2.0. They make section 92A almost meaningless. This stranding of Alberta’s oil is aggravated by the Liberals’ tanker ban off the north coast of B.C., Bill C-48. Of course, there is no similar ban on oil tankers in the St. Lawrence River bringing OPEC oil to refineries in Quebec.
Lougheed also was familiar with the centralist bias of the Supreme Court of Canada. He understood that the adoption of the 1982 Charter of Rights amplified this risk. As a precaution, Lougheed insisted on the addition of the Section 33 Notwithstanding Power to protect Alberta (and other provinces) from policy vetoes by judges appointed unilaterally by the prime minister. Today, the notwithstanding power is in disrepute and disuse.
Lougheed was also the strongest advocate for the new constitutional amending formula that treated all provinces equally and gave no special veto to Quebec. This was a major victory for all the western provinces. In 1996, Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien gave the veto power back to Quebec via ordinary legislation.
A final Lougheed achievement was his insistence on limiting the scope of Section 35 to “existing aboriginal rights.” He successfully demanded the insertion of “existing” to prevent it from becoming a “blank cheque” for judicial policy-making. The Supreme Court subsequently ignored the framers’ intent and invented the “duty to consult,” words found nowhere in the Constitution. The result is that Canadian pipeline policy is now made mainly by unelected, unaccountable judges.
Alberta’s economic collapse has been exacerbated by Ottawa’s abdication of federal responsibility for interprovincial pipelines. In the 1980s, it was unthinkable that a province could block the construction of an interprovincial pipeline that had been approved by the federal government. Now it’s happened twice: Energy East by Quebec and Trans Mountain by British Columbia. Nothing falls more clearly under federal jurisdiction. But in this fall’s election campaign, Justin Trudeau pandered to Quebec voters with the promise that he would “fight (premiers Kenney and Ford) and the energy companies that support them.”
Equalization and other federal transfer programs continue to drain billions of dollars a year out of Alberta — over $300 billion since 2000. Meanwhile, Quebec continues to see its share of equalization dollars increase — from less than $3 billion a year in the early 1980s to over $13 billion a year today — or 66 cents of every dollar Ottawa sends out."