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Murray Mandryk: Moe’s grievances sound like what we heard from Quebec

There is no longer much political price to pay for being little more than an intransigent or a little irrational regionalist.

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It’s hard to say which is now easier for the people of Saskatchewan: rallying to Prime Minister Scott Moe’s last nation-within-the-nation sentiments that have emerged out of contempt for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government or simply view them as political convenience.

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Unfortunately, it probably depends on your policy.

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For those trying to live a somewhat reasoned and neutral existence in the age of ever-polarizing social media, this one can be particularly difficult to process.

But maybe we all need to take a step back and reflect on how we got here.

Whether you wildly applaud Scott Moe today or roll your eyes, these demands stem from this nation’s failure to have a meaningful debate about Quebec’s relentless demand for special considerations, much like the ones we’ve heard of Saskatchewan on Tuesday.

Really, does much of what we hear from Moe exceed what we have seen demanded by Quebec?

Moe on Tuesday unveiled his policy paper to “protect” Saskatchewan from “federal intrusion” into provincial jurisdictions. It included discussions on:

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  • “Provincial Legislation to Clarify and Protect the Constitutional Rights Belonging to the Province; »
  • “Greater autonomy over immigration policy to ensure Saskatchewan has the people it needs; »
  • Greater autonomy over tax collection;
  • “Better recognize the contributions of Saskatchewan industry to sustainable growth”, such as the development of a “carbon credit market to support our natural resource industries” and;
  • Calls to prepare “legal actions, legislative or otherwise, to maintain control of electricity, fertilizer emission/use targets and oil and gas emissions/production”.

While some may find this more lukewarm than some of the recent rhetoric, these are still rather aggressive moves.

Additionally, the white paper boldly asserts that federal climate change policies “will cost Saskatchewan’s economy $111 billion between 2023 and 2035.” This will clearly be challenged and debated in the coming days.

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It’s clear why Moe has now been encouraged to pursue his list of grievances more aggressively — not that he ever needed much encouragement.

After all, he began his leadership as prime minister in January 2018 by telling people “just look at me” confronting Trudeau and the federal government.

For too many politicians in this post-Donald Trump, post-COVID-19 era where harboring anger and validating grievances gets you elected, leadership has become a performance art form.

There was a time when even the most fervent Western leaders—Allan Blakeney or Grant Devine in Saskatchewan or Peter Lougheed or Don Getty in Alberta—approached things with the interests of the nation as a whole in mind.

But there is no longer much political price to pay for being little more than an intransigent regionalist or perhaps a little irrational in its claims.

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Consider the selection of Danielle Smith as leader of the United Conservative Party of Alberta in which she campaigned on an Alberta sovereignty law that would ignore federal court rulings.

“Alberta will no longer ask Ottawa for permission to be prosperous and free. We will not silence or censor our voices,” Smith said after winning the UCP leadership and becoming Alberta’s premier designate last week.

“We will not have our resources landlocked or our energy phased out by prime ministers who signal virtue.”

As for Moe’s answer? “I look forward to working alongside you as we advance western Canadian priorities,” said the Premier of Saskatchewan.

Smith recanted slightly on her worldview, saying she will not violate the Canadian constitution. But what we’re likely to see from her — and what we’re seeing now from Moe following his “economic sovereignty” meetings this summer — is an easing of that regional anger.

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We need to look at this approach for the nation. But as we debate, shouldn’t we ask ourselves if this is really much more outrageous than Quebec’s demands on language, the banning of religious freedoms (perhaps in violation of human rights) and , of course, immigration.

We get Western politics. But maybe we also need to take a step back and better understand how we got here.

Mandryk is the political columnist for the Regina Leader-Post and the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

  1. Tough choices should teach Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson and his federal government the desperate need for compromise.

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