Prairie fire

Last week, when I sat in the Senate Committee meeting in Calgary with Brad Schell,  I began thinking about prairie fires.

As I listened, and as Brad and I spoke on Bill C-69 on behalf of Suits and Boots, I thought about the upcoming  Alberta election on Tuesday and how it just might prove to be the spark the sets off a prairie fire.

I could imagine the fire – a smoking wall of western Canadian frustration.  It would sweep from Manitoba through Saskatchewan and Alberta, across to British Columbia, sparing only the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.

Fantasy as it may be, that’s been the thought crossing my mind in the past few weeks as I’ve watched the Bill C-69 Committee hearings unfold.

There is a clear, palpable and strong undercurrent of deep discontent across the resource-producing sector of Western Canada. You know it – everyone at Suits and Boots does. It’s one of frustration, and increasingly, lost hope that things will ever change. It’s at those depths of despair that fuel movements that have a surprising velocity and mass once they are set off.

Our Suits and Boots team has seen this first hand since September, when we started our #KillBillC69 campaign. We have 3,700 supporters across Canada, as you know, with 80% of them in Western Canada. You call us, email us, write us and phone us every day. And you provided 37 pages of letters to the Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources studying Bill C-69.

These letters were poignant, heartbreaking and moving. Our panel presentation at the Senate committee, including Young Women in Energy and Pembina Pipelines, received a strong round of applause from the Senators, and thanks from Alberta Senator Paula Simon, for bringing these truly personal stories to their attention.

They had no idea. Many of those in the Senate still don’t. And a large number of them never will.

And that’s the problem. People who don’t live in Western Canada, or who aren’t from here, have no idea of the hurting here. No idea of the anger out here. And no idea why we’re standing up so strongly against a bill that would continue to choke off investment in the West and make it worse.

If there is a change in government in Alberta on Tuesday, we may see how difficult it will actually be for a Premier of a single province to bend Ottawa’s will, no matter who is Prime Minister. So if this doesn’t move the needle, what can?

The answer to that for western Canada might be to look at Quebec. Maybe it will take a new “nation” in the West to get things done. It works well for Quebec, doesn’t it?

Wikpedia defines “nation” as “a stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, history, ethnicity, or psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.” Sounds like western Canada – outside of the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island – to me, doesn’t it?

The House of Commons, in 2006 under Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, overwhelmingly passed a motion to recognize Quebec as a “nation” within a united Canada.

Why not the Prairies as a “nation”?

So maybe those of us who don’t necessarily want “out” of Canada – for now, at least –  should start to work on the platform of a Prairie “nation” within Canada.

It would constitute about 30% of Canada’s population. It is young and growing. It is resource-rich. It attracts more investment capital into the region than any other area of the country. It funds most of the Rest of Canada.

So let’s see what happens in Alberta on Tuesday and beyond. Let’s see what happens to Bill C-69. Bill C-48.

And let’s start looking closely at the reality of what a Prairie “nation” inside Canada could look like.  Let’s start seeing if there’s support for this idea. Let’s hear from you and others about how we can best take our energy and resources and people and put them to use in a constructive way.

Let’s call it our “Prairie Fire Campaign”. And let’s see if we have any support for this. We have nothing to lose – look where we are now – and everything to gain. And we just might set something off that helps us all.

After all, Prairie grass grows greener and stronger after a fire.

And if you’d like to add fuel to our “Prairie Fire” campaign, please click here to donate.

All the best.
Rick Peterson, Founder