Judging from the Conservative insiders’ Twitter feeds, they plan to keep the Coalition Hypothesis alive as long as possible. I have faith in my fellow Canadians to come to the right decision on this over the next month, especially now that they know Stephen Harper actually forms coalitions, too. But, since Harper is all into the “unCanadian Bloc” shtick, it’s fair to ask just how far his own commitment to Canada runs. Not very far, if his associations with the Albertan sovereignty movement are any indication.
In fact, in 2001, Harper and a number of men who went on to become his close advisors wrote an “open letter” to Albertan premier Ralph Klein outlining their vision for an independent Alberta within Canada — precisely the same sort of “distinct society” notion espoused by certain Quebec activists during and after their referendum defeats. At the very least, Harper argued, Alberta should cut itself off from the federal government as far as possible to pursue its own course, and it should use the model of the Quebec independence movement as its guide. (Can you imagine how Harper would react if Ignatieff said that?) But I won’t put words in Harper’s mouth on this. Instead, I’ll just quote him directly:
If Quebec can do it, why not Alberta?
Why not, indeed. So much for Harper’s principled stand against the forces that would weaken Canada.
The letter proposed an “Alberta agenda” and declared that the federal government was “attacking” Alberta, and particularly Albertan proposals to privatize healthcare. In response, Harper issued a call to arms, declaring that
it is not enough to respond only with protests… The time has come for Albertans to take charge of our own future. This means resuming control of the powers… that we have allowed the federal government to exercise. Intelligent use of these powers will help Alberta build a prosperous future in spite of a misguided and increasingly hostile government in Ottawa… It is imperative to take the initiative, to build firewalls around Alberta.
Proposals for immediate action included cancelling the Canada Pension Plan for Albertans, kicking out the RCMP, blocking personal tax payments to the Canada Revenue Agency (Alberta would collect it directly, instead), defying the Canada Health Act by creating a privatized provincial healthcare system, stop allowing the federal government to collect more tax revenue in Alberta than it spent there, and create more private schools.
The letter I am referring to is referred to in the media as the “Firewall Letter,” after the passage I quoted above. Its first author was Harper, who at the time was president of the National Citizens’ Coalition, an organization founded explicitly to oppose public healthcare and promote private healthcare.
He was joined by co-authors Tom Flanagan (later a Harper advisor known for his calls for the death penalty for people who leak government information), Ted Morton, Rainer Knopff, Andrew Crooks, and Ken Boessenkool. Boessenkool advised Stockwell Day, and then Stephen Harper, and now works for GCI Group as an unregistered lobbyist consultant.Tweet