I do not live in the Canadian prairie provinces and as a resident of Nova Scotia would stand to lose a lot if Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba decided to pull up stakes and leave Canada. These provinces are becoming increasingly alienated from a federal government that is not responsive to its needs for the simple reason that keeping Ontario and Quebec happy commands enough votes to stay in power. Quebec has had several referendums to leave Canada which have been taken very seriously yet similar suggestions by western Canadians are pooh-poohed as being ridiculous or insane.
Most residents of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are dissatisfied with the lack of consultation extended to them by the federal government in measures to tax and reduce petroleum production and use of fertilizers with concomitant drop in crop production by about 30%. They argue that this will be very damaging to not only their own economies but to Canada as a whole. Since Canada, and especially the Prairie provinces have freezing temperatures in the winter and often have to travel long distances to get food, supplies etc it is important to have affordable energy for heating purposes and travel. Poor planning in this area could have serious consequences for the average Canadian.
So what would the Prairie Federation (PF) look like? For starters, the population total of the three prairie provinces is about seven million versus a Canadian population approaching forty million. Within this region exist the world’s third largest oil reserves, third largest uranium reserves and about ten percent of the world’s wheat output. Twenty five percent of Canada’s exports are petroleum related! Most come from these three western provinces. Furthermore, our hypothetical federation shares a long border with the resource hungry US market.
In addition to the huge mining, petroleum and agricultural resources Manitoba has a viable saltwater port on Hudson’s Bay, the port of Churchill. This is accessible by rail and is probably Canada’s best port on the Arctic Ocean. It has been woefully neglected and was even sold to private American interests at one point. The port needs a substantial cash infusion and upgrading of the rail system but could be harnessed for much of the year to export petroleum and wheat. As the Arctic warms, open water conditions will become more frequent and Arctic Ocean ports will be of great consequence. Russia knows this and has dominated the Arctic region with well developed ports and a fleet of ice breakers. Canada has ignored this vital and resource rich territory.
The Prairie Federation would have to take on a proportionate amount of the federal debt (about one-fifth) but would take away a disproportionate amount of wealth. In fact each resident would likely see a healthy bonus as resource sales are divided among a much smaller population. Residents of Alaska receive a yearly Permanent Fund Dividend ranging up to two thousand US dollars per person and I suspect the PF would offer an even more substantial amount to residents.
I sincerely hope we never see this scenario materialize as the Atlantic Provinces would largely be on the losing end (except perhaps for Newfoundland, which has huge hydroelectric and substantial offshore oil and might want to join the PF!)
Canada take heed.