Were the policies that seemed to favour the interests of Central Canada, necessary as nation-building endeavors?
Policies which depicted favoritism of Central Canadian interests were unnecessary in nation building. This is because they resulted to charges of intolerance among different Canadian provinces for example Alberta and Ontario which seemed to conflict over the National Energy Policy (1). Charges of intolerance are a hindrance to nation building as they challenge Canada’s cherished self perception as a peaceful and non-racist society.
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According to Shawn, there are considerable economic disparities in Canada (2). Therefore a policy which seems to favor central Canada worsens these disparities and is likely to be the cause of charged intolerance among disadvantaged provinces hence being a hindrance to nation building (3). The varying dynamics among Canadian provinces in terms of resource endowment, geographical location, racist perceptions and policy implementation causes competitive undercurrents (2). According to Simeon and Robinson, these were worsened by policies which seemed to favor central Canada and interfered with nation building by causing province-province and province-federal conflicts (3).
Are Canadians more regionally oriented than nationally oriented?
According to Simeon and Robinson, vertical competition of federal government and provinces since1970s and 80s (era of competitive federalism) and in Canadian politics depicts a shift to regional orientation because the constitution does not enumerate areas of provincial and federal jurisdiction, hence forcing federal and provincial governments to devise policies (jointly), such as environmental policies (3). Furthermore, federal-provincial conflicts from growth of provincial welfare states, revenue-sharing conflicts from expansion of Albertan oil sector and emergence of nationalism in Quebec depict the regional orientation of Canadians (3).
According to Bakvis and Skogstad (1), competitiveness of Canadian federalism enhances single party governments to form executives in provincial-parliamentary settings. This creates the perception of a Canadian-regional orientation, since provincial premiers forcefully challenge federal government by arguing for provincial citizen-advocacy roles against elected members of national parliament (3). In addition, racism and diversity of demographic features of Canadian provinces cause state-federal competition thus creating a notion of regional orientation (2). Polling data also suggests that citizens from economically and geographically peripheral provinces advocate for a regional orientation, as they have a sense of alienation from the political, industrial and economic centre in a national orientation (2).
Was Alberta right to be upset about the National Energy Policy?
According to Bakvis and Skogstad, the attempt by the Canadian government to maximize control and ownership of the energy industry (through the National Energy Policy) was legitimately justifiable and hence Alberta, the richest of Canadian provinces, was not right to be upset by the National Energy Policy (NEP). NEP aimed at protecting consumers from surging oil prices which affected Canadian oil-dependent activities (1).
According to Shawn, the price controls and federal taxes on energy products were misconstrued by Albertans as an intention to protect consumers in certain regions such as Ontario (2). This was contrary to NEP’s aim which was clearly stated as aiming to protect all Canadians from surging oil prices. Demonstrations and law suits against the federal government by Albertans was not right because Alberta was bailed and saved from bankruptcy by Ontario in 1930s (2). Furthermore, in 1960s, Diefenbaker’s National Oil Program was instituted to dispatch oil to Alberta, despite negative consequences on consumers in Ontario (1).
Though NEP has been a subject of controversy between Albertans and other regions until recent times, critical analysis on how it is implemented should be carried out to avoid regional interests and inconveniences to Alberta including western alienation, intrusion in Alberta’s right to control its natural resources, use of NEP to benefit Central Canada and emigration of oil companies from Alberta causing unemployment (1).
- Bakvis H, Skogstad G. Canadian federalism: Performance, effectiveness and legitimacy. Second edition. Toronto: Oxford University Press; 2008.
- Shawn H. Revisiting western alienation: Towards a better understanding of political alienation and political behavior in Western Canada. In: Young L, Archer K, editors. Regionalism and party politics in Canada. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2002; p. 40-80.
- Simeon R, Robinson I. State society and the development of Canadian federalism. Toronto: University of Toronto Press; 1990.