By Gillian Slade
Alta Newspaper Group – Medicine Hat
With the end goal of a “fair deal” or else independence, a group of unhappy Albertans held a meeting in Medicine Hat on July 27.
Paul Hinman, who was recently appointed interim leader of the new Wildrose Independence Party, was one of the speakers. WIP was established after the recent amalgamation of the Freedom Conservative Party and Wexit Alberta.
Hinman was elected MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner in 2004 and was a founding leader of the original Wildrose Party from 2005 to 2009.
In an interview before the event, Hinman told the Alta Newspaper Group that Alberta is not getting a fair shake from Ottawa.
“Alberta has to stand up for itself,” said Hinman, who says Premier Jason Kenney’s declaration that he is an “unqualified Canadian patriot” pulled the rug from under Alberta’s negotiating feet, giving up bargaining power with the federal government.
“We need a qualified patriot. We need more qualified patriots,” said speaker Danny Hozack, chair of the Economic Education Association of Alberta. Hozack was a UCP candidate in the Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright constituency in the 2019 election.
Todd Beasley, a Brooks businessman who ran for the Medicine Hat-Brooks UCP nomination last year, also spoke. He said he believes about a third of Albertans would vote in favour of independence, while about a third are against it. The remaining third, he says, are looking for more information, and he believes an economic and constitutional analysis could provide that.
“With that information we’d get the two-thirds (majority vote),” claimed Beasley.
Hozack says there is no reason for Kenney to delay a referendum on independence and that he should set a date – suggesting Jan. 25, 2021.
Hozack says he doesn’t believe the UCP-sanctioned Fair Deal Panel’s report is a true representation of what it heard from Albertans while travelling across the province earlier this year. He claims that at the meeting he attended, 19 out of 20 speakers said they wanted separation.
Hinman says there is a lot of dissatisfaction about policing, in rural areas in particular, and a need for Alberta to have more say about immigration. He says bilingualism is expensive and that an independent Alberta could decide not to participate in that.
Hinman suggests that enough support from Albertans could pressure Kenney to give Albertans a say.
Hozack says it would be easier to change the government’s mind on an issue than to change the government.
The men scoffed at concern regarding Alberta being landlocked should it separate.
Hinman claims it would actually provide more leverage, saying that B.C. has been shutting down pipelines and that the east depends on a supply route for the transportation of goods through Alberta. He says an independent Alberta would have the ability to shut down its doors to the east, if necessary.
Beasley suggests Alberta has already been duped since the last provincial election where Kenney ran on one platform to get elected and then jumped to another.
“We did not get the government that we were promised on the campaign trail,” said Beasley.
The group recently held a meeting in Brooks. About 30 people were expected to attend the invitation-only event in Medicine Hat in order to maintain social distancing, but the meeting was broadcast live on Facebook. The plan is to take the meetings across the province.