Should Alberta Join Montana?
Right now, every (Alberta) man, woman and child pays $6000.00 more into the national budget than they get back. By 2020 the number will exceed $20,000.00. That will be the greatest wealth transfer per-capita in the Western World. - Peter Zeihan, National Post, 2015
Outrage over Alberta’s treatment at the hands of Canada is a casual hobby for people, but no one is ever truly motivated to move forward on actually doing anything about it. When times get tough, like they were in the early 80’s, some political traction can occur. In 1982, Gordon Kesler won a seat in the Alberta legislature sitting as a member of the Western Canada Concept party for example. These anomalies never gain traction though, as Albertans are essentially Canadian at the end of the day and thus, too timid to do anything revolutionary. If Albertans and their relative comfort is in anyway threatened they retreat to the status quo... even if the penalty for doing so is high.
Peter Zeihan, a geopolitical strategist and author of numerous books, thinks the penalty for remaining in Canada is going to get really, really high for Alberta. His main factor is demographics. Since Alberta is a younger and more productive province, saddled with the horrendous burden of carrying an older and unproductive Canada on it’s back...the pressure for a “non-Canada” solution will grow.
What sort of solution might be found?
Alberta independence is usually floated as one possibility, but being a sovereign nation of our own would require a lot of work. Everything from building a military from scratch to embassies around the world, to setting up pension plans and negotiating with Canada and the U.S. in order to avoid being a landlocked nation...the problems are huge. Building countries from scratch was popular two hundred years ago, but it’s not done very often these days and Albertans certainly don’t have the moxie to take a risk like that.
The next option is to join the U.S. as the 51st state. This too is virtually impossible. The United States isn’t interested in chasing manifest destiny anymore. The process for statehood requires the winning of a referendum, followed by the creation of a state constitution and then approval by Congress. All three of these factors are insurmountable in this day and age.
The third option is for Alberta to join an already existing state. In this case... Montana.
“I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.” - John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America
Merging with Montana would solve a lot of technical problems for Alberta. We wouldn’t have to do all the heavy lifting of starting a nation from scratch and we wouldn’t have to face the obstacles necessary in achieving independent statehood.
Merging with an already established state would fast-track everything.
Negotiations could happen between Alberta and Montana exclusively, thus avoiding (to some degree) the international awkwardness of involving Canada/U.S. relations. Montana would still have it’s political system intact, but it would add 4.1 million new voters and accrue roughly 6 new Congressmen. Albertans would thus become Montanans and the focus would be on details, not impossibilities.
Those details would include Alberta giving up 10% of it’s land area due to federal ownership. We’d lose Banff & Jasper and the Cold Lake military area as well as the big Wood Buffalo national park up by the North-West Territories. Small prices to pay.
We’d also have to negotiate with Indian reserves. A simple…”Are you coming with us and living as free adults or are you staying with the crown and continuing with the status quo?” would suffice.
The biggest problem might be convincing the people of Montana to take us. They’ve already got a nice big state. What do they need us for? We’d have to appeal to their sense of ambition and power. Montana would be a bigger, richer, more powerful state in the union as a result of absorbing Alberta. I don’t even need to argue the benefits for Alberta...
"Despite the lack of a serious instrument for the expression of separatist values, separatist sentiment is virtually universal amongst people born and raised in Alberta. The class of federal-government beneficiaries here is small. Most Albertans are vaguely aware that Confederation, for us, is a huge financial rip-off, with outgoing net government transfers amounting to thousands of dollars a head every year. It is a mystery to us exactly what we get for our federal taxes nowadays. Sit down and try to work it out sometime if you're an Albertan, remembering that health, welfare, and education are provincially funded and administered. What, are they spending the money on our elite, powerfully equipped armed forces? Asked outright "Stay or go?", most Albertans (real Albertans, not people who came over from Montreal at age 16) will tell you "Go", privately. It's not just the rural loonies, either: as a rule, the more you know about trying to run a business, the more likely you are to answer "Go". I have a lot of trouble making Easterners understand this. If any well-known leader decides to step up and give a voice to Alberta separatism, they will learn. And fast." - Colby Cosh, journalist
Many people in Alberta are hoping that Jason Kenney and the UCP will take over the government of Alberta next year, oil prices will keep climbing and we can begin the long road to economic recovery. The status quo of griping about Ottawa and “The East” will resume and prosperity will paper over any unsightly realities.
The problem is that this cycle never changes and this time things might not recover to a degree that prosperity will really paper over the unsightly realities. As mentioned at the top of this article, Canada’s demographic time bomb is going to make the pilfering of Alberta all the more essential for Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes. This pilfering will take place at a time when the increasingly left-tilting culture of Canada just keeps getting more and more extreme. The American ambition of energy independence would be far more beneficial to Alberta’s future than constantly battling entrenched communist-level Leap Manifesto ideology.
Jason Kenney might win an election, but it will take more years to undo the brand damage that Alberta has suffered over the past decade. In the meantime he’ll be raging against Ottawa in order to placate the base and, at the same time, he’ll keep handing over billions of dollars to Quebec as usual. At the end of the day, he’s a career politician aping the tired Lougheed/Klein rhetoric that keeps Albertans stirred up and walking tall, without actually changing anything of substance.
The status quo isn’t working for Alberta. It’s time for Alberta to get off the boom/bust/blame treadmill and aim for something bigger and better and bolder.
It’s time for Alberta to become Montana.