An independent Alberta would be less landlocked than a provincial Alberta - Western Standard
While being landlocked presents challenges for a national Alberta, those challenges are not as great as those currently facing a provincial Alberta.
How to deal with being landlocked is a frequent and fundamental question when talking about getting a fair deal for Alberta, as a province, or as an independent nation. While being landlocked is an issue, it is not the make-or-break issue for Alberta that federalists claim it to be. Instead, the federalists should consider how Alberta’s landlocked status could force it to seek independence if a genuine “fair deal” fails to be obtained.
In seeking a fair deal, we should consider what leverage a landlocked national Alberta would have in achieving market access.
As a province, there is little to no ability for Alberta to build adequate pipeline capacity. Politically and legally, we have run out of options. For more than a decade, Ottawa, B.C., and Quebec have blocked market access to the oceans that all functioning countries on the planet allow; that is, as a province. This is not how Canada’s founding fathers intended confederation to work in 1867, but it is where we are today.
Federalists – both inside and outside of Alberta – point only to the geographic fact. An independent national Alberta would have no border with an ocean. They assume as a given that a post-independence Ottawa would build walls around the new nation and seek to starve it into economic and political submission. This ignores three vital considerations.
Firstly, most of Alberta’s trade goes neither east or west, but south. The Americans would be happy to continue trading with Alberta. In fact, our trading relationship with the U.S. would most likely be stronger than it currently is, hemmed in as it is by Ottawa’s obsession with Ontario and Quebec in trade negotiations. Without the need to protect Quebec’s supply-managed dairy cartel and Ontario’s auto and aluminium sectors, Alberta would be free to negotiate much more favourable trade terms with the Americans.
Secondly, it would not be in Ottawa’s interest to effectively embargo Alberta. As much as leftist governments in Ottawa and several provinces might protest, they still need Alberta’s energy. Without it, energy prices across Canada would skyrocket.
Thirdly – and most importantly – Canada needs to trade through Alberta much more than Alberta needs to trade through Canada. If a vengeful Ottawa were to disallow pipelines and trade westward through B.C., Alberta could stop all trade in both directions between B.C. and Eastern Canada. Unless Ottawa proposed to build a wildly expensive highway and railroad through the Arctic muskeg and permafrost, B.C. would be turned into a proverbial East Prussia; that is, an exclave separated by Alberta and two oceans from the rest of Canada. This option would be untenable for obvious reasons. Ottawa would be cutting off its nose to spite its face to vengefully try to isolate an independent Alberta.
As an independent nation, Alberta would have the legal and political right to play hardball with Ottawa to force market access. As a province, all Alberta can do is complain.