For weeks, Canada’s political circles have been transfixed by the LavScam scandal engulfing the federal Liberals.
Such is the amplitude of the storm in Ottawa, those Canadians outside of Alberta could be forgiven for not noticing the potential winds of change rolling off the foothills.
The now week-old campaign ahead of the provincial election on April 16 has renewed the focus on Alberta’s — and Canada’s — economic fortunes.
The country’s third-largest economy in terms of GDP can punch well above its weight.
When the heart of Canada’s energy sector blossoms, the economic benefits spread across Canada by providing work to thousands of Canadians and by filling the federal government’s coffers and paying for programs and services.
But in the last few years, things have been less rosy. What was at first a cyclical downturn caused by a global crude slump has turned into a prolonged regional funk.
While the rest of the world’s energy sector has seen recovery Canada’s has not, due to low prices brought on by a lack of pipeline capacity.
The result has been thousands of lost jobs and persistently high unemployment in Alberta.
This damage has been inflicted by a federal government’s unhelpful energy policies; the Alberta NDP’s carbon tax and other business-unfriendly measures; a hostile, obstructionist neighbour (we’re looking at you, British Columbia); and foreign-funded special interest groups hell-bent on disrupting the oilsands.
This election is the first opportunity for Albertans to take action on some of those problems and, with hope, help put the province and country on a track of prosperity.
But it’s not only about creating jobs for Canadians.
Economic woes have led to political malaise in the West which, left unaddressed, could tug at the threads holding the country together.
Already, the front-running United Conservative Party is looking into using equalization as a tool to force Ottawa to jumpstart pipeline construction.
Smaller political parties are vying for votes by vowing to assert more provincial control in various sectors, with some going as far as proposing Alberta independence.
The frustration in Alberta is potent — and how Albertans choose to address it will have economic and political implications across Canada.