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Anything Alberta can do, Saskatchewan can do worse. It’s become one of the iron laws of Canadian politics over the last few years, and it was borne out most recently by Scott Moe’s refusal to learn from Jason Kenney’s lethal “best summer ever.” After watching Alberta’s premier tip his province’s health-care system into crisis, Moe dutifully followed in his freedom-focused footsteps — and was forced to ask Ontario to take the ICU patients his province was no longer able to treat.

Now, it seems, he wants to follow Kenney into another political dead end: constitutional cosplay. “Saskatchewan needs to be a nation within a nation,” Moe tweeted on Nov. 9. “When the federal government implements policies that are detrimental to our province, our government will continue to stand up for Saskatchewan people.”

Never mind the unpleasant irony that at the moment Moe made that statement, the federal government was providing emergency assistance to Saskatchewan to help it out of the hole it had dug itself on COVID-19. If the past is any indication, it’s only a matter of time before Saskatchewanians are voting in their own equalization referendum.

This is, of course, abject silliness. Albertans may misunderstand the nature of the equalization program and the role it plays in their own recent misfortunes, but they’re not wrong about the fact taxpayers from their province have historically been big benefactors to the rest of the federal family. Saskatchewan, on the other hand, only emerged as a “have” province in 2009, and the previous decades saw it receive upwards of $100 billion in net transfers from Ottawa. Any argument it wants to make about the inherent unfairness of the federation is going to have an even harder time passing muster than Alberta’s.

Moe’s claim that Saskatchewan is a “nation,” meanwhile, is about as credible as Idaho asserting itself as an economic superpower. Yes, his province’s residents all support the same CFL team (hence the phrase “Rider Nation”), but that doesn’t come close to meeting the test that Quebec has long been taking. There is nothing unique or distinct about Saskatchewan’s culture, and it speaks the same two official languages — English and oil and gas — as its direct neighbour to the west. Both provinces were carved out of the Northwest Territories in 1905, and neither can claim any pre-existing political identity that informed those boundaries.

Saskatchewan, then, doesn’t look anything like Quebec. But its claim to nationhood can’t even measure up to the standard set by Texas, a more natural and comfortable comparison for prairie populists to make. After all, Texas was actually an independent republic prior to joining the United States in 1845, and its colonial history stretches back to the late 17th century. It has flirted with the idea of secession since the late 1990s, and unlike Saskatchewan, it actually has the kind of cultural and economic heft to make independence a viable option.

Moe insists his claim to nationhood doesn’t mean Saskatchewan actually wants to secede. Like Kenney, he’s only using the language of independence to extract concessions from Ottawa, just as Quebec’s premiers have for years. And like Kenney, he’s pretending the rest of Canada is going to be forced to respect his province’s show of strength. “We’re going to flex our autonomy,” Moe said on the Roy Green Show. “Flex our provincial muscle, if you will, within the nation of Canada.”

Moe can flex as much as he wants, but there are two fundamental differences here that he and Kenney haven’t considered. First, the threat of secession in Quebec is a real one, and Canada very nearly saw it come to fruition in 1995. In both Alberta and Saskatchewan, political support for independence at the provincial level remains confined to the fringes. And second, as the pitiful results for the western separatist Maverick Party in the recent federal election show, there is no credible federal presence that either Liberal or Conservative governments need to keep in check.

That’s why this play by Moe at nationhood for his province is simply bad political theatre. One wonders why he wants to run the same production as Kenney, who’s the least popular premier in Canada and is facing both a challenge from within and the prospect of political annihilation at the polls in 2023. If the pattern holds, Moe’s results in the 2024 election will be even worse than Kenney’s.

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very sad to see the flailing fool grind the proud socialist history further into dust. What percentage of citizens there think he is great? is gerrymandered ridings the way the majority gets shut out of power like in Ontario?

No, he really does resonate with the local farmers. They can all recite "Trudeau has got to go" but none can explain why, or even why they use the longer, poetic form. It is important to understand that smart people get ostracized in Saskatchewan, so they leave. People who have worked close to Moe say that he is profoundly stupid, but smart enough to have an even duller cabinet.

Stupid is all that may be left, after 40 years of an ideology that believes it's God's answer to all possible situations. Why think things through when the conclusions are so glaring they blind you to any other possibilities?
The sad fact is that most stupidity is achieved, not a gift of birth. But for sure the dullards have little use for the intelligent...reading all those books is a waste of time that could be spent fracking the life out of some of the most fertile soil in Canada. Besides...once the Alberta cons open pit mine the watersheds that feed the prairies, irrigation farming will be impossible.
Best to clean up while we still can. Or so goes the silly refrain of the earth movers that now govern in both prairie provinces.

The nation may yet benefit from the idiocy of populist Conservative them replay the past, copy cat off each other, make claims that only the illiterate might accept as them recycle betrayals like O'Toole copying Harper's 'tax gift' to well off Canadians instead of establishing affordable day care for Canadian parents, keep an eye open as they play yo-yo with the virus:

A separate nation??? There's more folks in the cemeteries of many small towns than remain in those small towns. The land is falling into fewer and fewer hands, many of them foreign multinationals...and if another dry spell descends, as it well might the poverty that is mostly hidden now will become glaring.

Saskatchewan, and Alberta to a great extent, are cautionary tales. Let's stay tuned, and support more sustainable narratives.

How Saskashewan is goes hand-in-hand with how Albetar is. “Landlocked syndrome”? Probably. “Spare-Cloth” provinces? Historically, yes. Integral part of “Western Canada”? Definitely more so than, say, BC or Manitoba (both of which pretend they don’t know said Spare-Cloth provinces out of blameless embarrassment). “Albetarian Envy”? Ask a pothole in Lloydminster—the eastern half, that is. “Wannabe Independent Nation”? Ask Albetar.

It wasn’t easy to attract settlers to the middle of a virgin continent. The feds set up emigration offices all across Eastern Europe to lure settlers to Canada’s ‘steppes’, quickly ushering them off transatlantic ships onto waiting transcontinental trains from which they could not disembark until arriving at their destination: the lonely, bald prairie. The feds even admitted communal anarchists and polygamists (who built the second-largest Mormon temple—still, to this day— in Cardston. If “plural marriage” is still practiced in the Foothills, it is done discreetly). At first, over 80% of these immigrants almost immediately moved thence to the USA. As infrastructure improved, gradually more settlers so expensively purchased actually stayed. Canada owes them a debt of gratitude. (We should also remember Indigenous Plains and Métis nations already long-settled in this territory and who were ready and willing to confederate had their applications denied before becoming target-practice in Canada’s first official military engagement. Canada owes them more than an apology.)

European settlement would have been impossible without federal help, but its motivation was primarily strategic: Canada was embarrassed that it had to deploy troops through the USA to quell the Northwest Rebellion in 1885, and was reasonably worried about American designs on territory it could not defend itself. British North American colonies first confederated to defend themselves from post-Civil War USA, reminded of Manifest Destiny (b. 1845), American invasions during the Rebellion (1776-83), War of 1812 (1812-14), and Fenian raiders based south of the border (1866-71). British Columbia confederated in 1871 to strategically preclude the remaining West Coast being ceded by Britain to the USA like the Alaskan Panhandle and Oregon Territory were (BC’s culture of shady, “Wild West” politics and money are probably due to the feds’ lavish, eutrophic inducements to keep it from confederating to the USA instead—Britain hardly cared, either way, just so long’s the carping colony was gotten off its books and out of its periwigs). Almost as afterthought, the trackless expanse between BC and Manitoba thus also needed to be developed strategically by settlement, but neither Easterners nor British Columbians were much interested: too far inland, too cold, too wild. Enter a new batch of Europeans.

The region had no colonial society to speak of: rather, it was a Hudson Bay Company commercial charter. Prairie development was officious from mirrored remoteness in Ottawa. Confederation didn’t happen until 1905 after the so-called “Numbered Indian Treaties” had already been settled. As paternalistic, sovereign control over resources wasn’t granted the new provinces until 1931. Meanwhile, railway companies dictated freight prices to prairie grain farmers while they watched boxcars full of commodities they couldn’t afford chug by them, back and forth, between the Port of Vancouver and the East. If today’s Prairie resentments have roots, they grew out of this bygone era of corporate and federal government remote-control.

Today, Saskashewan and Albetar are cultivating resentments hysterically historical and maudlinly modern, hitching their partisan wagons to climate-change denialism strongly espoused by reactionary tRumpublicanism now gripping the USA. With it, according to the tRump playbook Albetarian premier Jason Kenney unabashedly reads from, comes Covid Anti-Vaxxerism and visceral hatred of so-called “Coastal Elites”, tropes which underpin the US Redoubt Movement in geographically contiguous Montana and Idaho just south of the border. The rhetoric consists of hyperbolic accusations, alleged victimization and self-justified vengeance for ‘loss’ of an heroic age that never really existed. Naturally, it comes with more than a hint of white supremacism and perverted religious fervour that rational observers recognize as fear-and-hate mongering. Indeed, the two province’s political leaders’ pandemic and petroleum policies defy science and common sense in ways almost identical to absurdist nose-thumbing and sabre-rattling seen in so-called “Red States” and the Redoubt movement in the USA.

Canada’s Western Prairie received the largest Slavic diaspora in the world, mainly from Ukraine whence emigrants continued the art of wheat growing. The United Farmers Association and Co-operative Commonwealth Federation formed socialist governments in both provinces, strongly supported by grain farmers. Radical, pseudo-progressive, Bible-thumping Social Creditism became popular in Albetar in the 1930s. In these senses, the Spare-Cloth provinces are distinctive—but only by way of extermination of previous indigenous cultures which were wholly unique anywhere in the world—a racist tabula rasa, as ‘t were (yes, BC’s WAC Bennet also adopted the Socred name in the early 50s but never once adhered to its goofy ideology).

Most distinctively, oil was struck in both Prairie provinces in the 40s and workers came from all over Canada, substantially changing the region’s society. Albetar was better endowed with conventional oil and, by prudent, fiscally conservative public policy afforded high wages and standard of living, low personal, corporate and property taxes, and the Heritage Trust Fund fed by lucrative oil royalties. With a single exception, Albetar has been ruled by conservative parties for the past eight decades. Until 2014 when the bottom fell out of bitumen market prices, times were so good in the Wild Rose Province its voters never sought an alternative governing party, loudly boasted of the “Alberta Advantage”, and encouraged a big-belt-buckle sense of exceptionalism and entitlement.

Much lesser-endowed Saskashewan was obliged to remain socialist for longer, sharing more modest agricultural and mineral wealth. Until recently, it was one of only three North American jurisdictions (including Montana and North Dakota) to perennially lose population. Conventional oil feasibly ran out here first, a small bitumen industry limped along and, gradually, Saskashewan too became politically dominated by conservative parties, as it is today. Never was heard anything like the braggadocio crowed from its sister province.

In both provinces, oil depleted and production switched to bitumen with its highly polluting process of smelting “tar” out of sandy deposits by burning petroleum and recovering marginally more petroleum than was used to get the bitumen, the lowest grade of petroleum —except for asphalt. The “Tar Sands” makes up one of the largest deposits of petroleum in the world, a remarkable quantity which seems to have blinkered promoters as to its low quality (Harper was fond of calling Canada an “oil superpower”—but was referring almost entirely to bitumen, not oil). Unfortunately, recurring market and production infeasibility required continual public subsidy which, for one example, depleted the Heritage Fund by many tens of billions of dollars; industry was also officially spared the expense of keeping the messy process cleaned up (presumably leaving it for the public purse to deal with, sometime in the future).

Doubly unfortunate, increasingly catastrophic effects of climate-change have focused criticism on sources of CO2 pollution of which bitumen smelting is among the worst of the worst. Growing public opprobrium of this industry effectively killed the Northern Gateway and Keystone pipelines, and opposition to the existing TM and as-yet-completed TMX pipelines continues to grow. Greener energy is gaining popularity around the world, depressing prospects for especially dirty petroleum products like coal and bitumen—especially bitumen that as to be smelted out of sand which effectively doubles its GHG footprint per unit of refined fuel.

Many features of Redoubterism and tRumpublicanism are shared in miniature by the Spare-Cloth provinces. Their main concern, however, is manifestly about bitumen. While the reactionary right in the USA is most paranoid about race while preaching its own disgusting brand of pseudo-evangelism (supposedly to do with the demographic nothing-burger that whites will no longer comprise a majority of Americans by 2040), Albetar’s delusions of grandeur revolve around bitumen—which happens to seriously conflict with a flagging, one-industry economy: all the eggs were put in one, bituminous basket.

All the rest of rural Anti-Vaxxer and quasi-religious posturing in Spare-Cloth Land is just that: aping tRumpublicans. Cultivating historical resentments, jingoistic exceptionalism from the heady days of real oil, and the sudden wave of chickens coming home to roost, Jason Kenney et al have ginned up a toxic brew of defensive hatred and anti-federalism marked by crude ad hominem against the Prime Minister and preposterous threats of secession. Premier Scott Moe thumps his chest standing safely behind a laughable pipsqueak the rest of us Canadians tolerate like a family does a spoiled brat. Moe is a brat, alright, just not nearly as spoiled as Kenney—in proportion correlative to their respective reserves and reliance on bitumen.

Lump both prospects of secession together, both being as preposterous. But using Albetar, alone, there are about 60 permutations of possible routes from the bitumen mines to tidewater. For example, BC and Albetar seceding together to form a separate, diluted bitumen-exporting nation counts as one permutation. Note there’s no route through the Northwest Territory to Arctic tidewater because, as a non-sovereign federal jurisdiction, there is no mechanism to secede like provinces have. Assume, for the sake of argument, there’s a secession mechanism in the USA by which some hypothetical permutations could include, say, an Albetar-Montana-North Dakota-Minnesota route from Fort Mac to Lake Superior (‘tidewater’ by way of Great Lakes/St Lawrence River). Whatever the US rule, a province can secede from Canada and apply to confederate with the USA. Another set of permutations includes one called “Cascadia” which might include, variously, contiguous jurisdictions stretching from California to Alaska, including BC and, sometimes, Yukon and/or Albetar ( Sarah Pallin’s husband was a card-carrying Alaskan separatist —until his wife got onto the Republican presidential ticket as John McCain’s VP candidate). Cascadia would be the sixth largest economy in the world—but it’s as likely as the Mormons’ “Deseret” in the 1850s, also a dud.

Presumably Moe would have Saskashewan hitchhike with its big sister: all they’d have to do to get to Hudson Bay would be to get Manitoba to join them in joint-secession-and-nationalization—a mere hop-skip-and-jump to dilbit riches. Judging from widespread opposition to TM and TMX on the West Coast, the Hudson Bay route certainly seems a more plausible permutation, such as it is. Melting Arctic sea ice would be a bonus here.

Of course, Albetar could, pure Wexit, go it alone, just like Kenney and his blubbering Wexiteers most often threaten—if such an unlikely ultimatum could even be called a “threat”. That would mean BC could, as part of a separate Canada, block TM/TMX without offending the Constitution (protections under which the newly independent nation would naturally forfeit)—which appears to totally contradict the proclaimed tidewater aspiration. Unlike Quebec separatism, biting the Spare-Cloth out of Canada thither-regions doesn’t present territorial contiguity problems—although it’d be a really long drive through the Northwest Territories to get into the northeast BC from the ROC. BTW, Wexit has about 3% support in Albetar.

Somebody should ask Kenney about the two provinces’ 1905 Terms of Union wherein the flow of river water from glaciers and snowpack in the Rockies, vital in naturally dry country, may not be substantially depleted before going into downstream jurisdictions (which I think might include, unofficially, a short bit of American riverine flow). This provision alone could be a real secession-sinker. (Sorry, Jason. It’s the Constitution)

As unlikely as any of these scenarios is, it’s certainly educative to consider how they might be done hypothetically—for example, it’s about history, North American Constitutions (including Mexico vis a vis whatever NAFTA’s called now), and geography, about undefended borders, and diplomacy between the two largest bilateral trading nations in world history.

As to engaging with either premier on this and many other attitudes and demands they entertain—it’s probably pointless: they aren’t making absurd threats seriously, and we shouldn’t take them as such. Rather, they’re ginning their increasingly restless electorates with twaddle they think was successful in their most recent, respective elections and with which their base virtue-signals its members. But remember: Moe has one more incumbency win as premier than Kenney who has yet to win his first—maybe that’s where the Parisian of the Prairies gets his secession cajones from...

Finally: it really is a shame Moe tarnishes his province’s glorious socialist past with his ridiculous pseudoCon present.

One forgets too soon that Conservative Premier Grant Devine bankrupted SK ifrom 1982 to 991 when he was defeated. Roy Romanow became Premier and with Federal help got SK back on track. Without federal help and backing SK cheques would have bounced