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Vive L'Alberta Libre! An interview with Bruce Hutton of the Separation Party of Alberta

By Pete Vere
web posted October 6, 2003

Over the past year, much has been written in the Canadian press concerning Western alienation. Nowhere is this sentiment more strongly felt than in Alberta – whose wealth and natural resources, many Albertans argue, has been plundered by central Canada since the time of confederation. As many Albertans have begun to discuss separation from Canada, the rest of Canada is finally taking notice. Recently, I had the opportunity to catch up with Bruce Hutton. Bruce is a proud Albertan who is currently organizing a founding convention of the Separation Party of Alberta for later this month.

Vere: To begin, why an Alberta separatist party?

Hutton: We cannot facilitate change under the current political system. For example, we've tried since 1874 to facilitate change with senate reform with no success. History dictates that there is just no chance for meaningful or successful change within the Canadian political system. The West has made nineteen attempts at senate reform in the last hundred years with not a single solitary change to show for it.

More importantly, confederation is an economic drain on Alberta. Ottawa continues to syphon off our excess revenues on oil and gas. What scares me as an Albertan is that these are non-renewable resources. If we don't use excess oil and gas revenue to diversify Alberta's economy today, then we will become a have-not province tomorrow.

Vere: How does Western alienation factor into this?

Hutton: Western alienation is a pretty large factor in all this. It brings a lot of separatists to the table. If we cannot facilitate change from within, then the only intelligent thing for us to do is get out. We've been trying to get into confederation for over a hundred years. It isn't working. Central Canada and Ottawa just don't want us.

Vere: So they want Alberta's resources, but not Alberta's citizens?

Hutton: Yes. This has been the history of the West – not just Alberta – since North America was discovered. We've been the hewers of wood and packers of water.

Vere: But given the presence of the Alberta Tories and the Alberta Alliance, isn't there a danger of splitting the conservative vote in Alberta?

Hutton: The right is always split. Yet none of these fractions offer a viable alternative. They are singing the same tune in that they all call for change, but there is no plan on how to actually bring about change when central Canada is so hostile to it.

Vere: How strong is separation sentiment among Albertans?

Hutton: There's been a few polls. One said 24 per cent of Albertans want to seriously consider it; another said 44 per cent want to discuss it. That's a huge voting bloc.

Vere: Does your party advocate a constitutional monarchy, a republic or some other form of replacement government?

Hutton: We haven't made any formal decisions yet. I imagine this will be decided at our upcoming founding convention. It may be a republic, a canton system or a constitutional democracy. These are alternatives being bandied about right now. However, I don't think it will be another monarchy.

Vere: Why not just hook up with the United States?

Hutton: Because it makes no difference whether we give our money to Ottawa or to Washington; we're just jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. We need to use our money to diversify Alberta's economy before we become a have-not province. We have no end use manufacturing in Alberta right now. When the oil and gas are gone, we immediately become a have-not province. And there's no question that oil and gas will either become obsolete or completely depleted in the future.

Alberta has carried the have-not provinces, of which there are currently eight, for some time now without any return on our investment. Last year we gave 9.98 billion dollars more than we took in. It cost Albertans nearly 10 billion dollars to remain Canadian last year. That's five hundred dollars for every foot of the Trans-Canada highway. It simply isn't worth it, especially when the West remains politically locked out of confederation.

Vere: Have you received much interest concerning your upcoming founding convention?

Hutton: There's interest. As one former Alberta premier said: "if Albertans haven't suffered enough, they have a God given right to suffer more." Personally, I feel that Albertans haven't suffered enough. In other words, life is good right now, but we don't truly understand the long-term negative consequences of remaining within confederation.

Vere: Were do you stand on social conservative issues?

Hutton: Our message is not left, right or center. There is room for diversity within the party, although we are right of center. Our message is economic. Quite frankly, there are currently no parties with any political conviction. They lead by looking over their shoulders to see what direction the public is going.

Vere: We certainly appreciate you taking the time to answer a few questions. On a concluding note, how does one find out more about the Separation Party of Alberta? How would an interested Albertan become more involved?

Hutton: The easiest way to get a basic understanding of the party is to visit our website at www.SeparationAlberta.com. Our founding convention is also coming up at the end of October and we're looking for concerned Albertans to attend and share their input as to what direction we need to take. Please visit our website for more information on the convention, or you can email us at info@separationalberta.com.

Vere: Thank-you very much for taking the time to answer our questions.

Hutton: You're welcome.

Pete Vere, JCL is a canon lawyer and a Catholic social and religious commentator from Sudbury, Ontario. He now writes from Florida, where he and his family enjoy no state income tax along with life within walking distance of the Gulf of Mexico. His work has been published in numerous Canadian and American Catholic publications.

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