We write to you as lonely patriots, isolated again on the left coast, smug and sanctimonious on the one hand, shivering with dark expectation on the other.
With four-fifths of our country’s population under conservative provincial leadership, and with the country itself under seemingly no national leadership for the time being, we find ourselves governed as peculiar outliers at a time our government sold us on the idea of being profound mainstreamers.
True, it is remarkable at times that we would have such self-esteem. We bear taxes none of you would deign to have. We bypass economic resource opportunities you would kill to have. We have mysterious, conspicuous wealth and maddening, ceaseless poverty. We force people from our big city with unaffordability, then charge them record prices to drive back in to work. We publicly oppose the pipeline expansion even though we privately tell pollsters we support it. We can’t win a Stanley Cup to save our lives (then again, neither can you). And we call where we live, without any trace of self-irony, beautiful.
We somehow consider ourselves leaders, and it has been true in our history that many Canadian innovations have started here and progressed eastward. The development in 1911 of the egg carton comes to mind, as does the 1937 innovation of the walkie-talkie. And in some seriousness, if we are lucky our glacial-paced Indigenous recognition will carry panoramic quality to parts of the country that seem locked in a time capsule; as they say at the end of most broadcast reports about anything complex, the jury is out and time will tell.
But we need to face the fact that some of our priorities are not those of the rest of the land, that the mountain range is both ideological and geographical, and that we will pay an even heavier price for our hubris now that our neighbouring government’s legislature has, in economic terms that we hope are not to be taken literally, reverted to mean.
For four years there, the Albertan political landscape was turned on its head, but our government turned its head on fellow NDPers in power. It will never be known if that change of power could have been sustained, given that conservative political parties healed themselves sufficiently to unify for the next fight they knew they were owed.
That our government did not see fit, though, to swallow a short-term squabble for a long-term opportunity – stop at some point its economically, politically expensive opposition to a pipeline expansion and work with fellow NDPers to lead the economy into a newer, greener era – will be judged as a mistake of ego, condescension and self-destructive strategic folly.
Once again, then, we have lost the plot and find ourselves incompetent in leading others and vulnerable in defying the national will. And if we are worried, we are justified.
Our neighbour will place the full-court press to bring our businesses its way, and any perusal of the economic indexes suggests it’s not a bad time to budge – purchasing power is 25% lower in Vancouver than in Calgary, rents are 63% higher. Their new premier promises the country’s lowest tax rates, and our premier promises the most intrusive government.
Our neighbour might also put the full-court cap on shipments of oil and gas our way. Many of us are old enough to remember shortages of something other than bandwidth for streaming and will know what might now hit us. And some of us – the ones who think iPhones grow on trees or that their veggie burgers are charbroiled with solar – will get a rude taste of mundane life when there is a shortage of fossil fuel.
We are despondent, dear Canada, not only because our gas prices might require a line of credit, but because we might pay the price of playing it alone, even if we know it will be nothing like the pummelling our neighbours took for years and only slightly like the foot we kept on their necks as they writhed. Such is the price of a place that thinks every successful business must pay.
Sincerely, in worry,
Kirk LaPointe is editor-in-chief of Business in Vancouver and vice-president, editorial, of Glacier Media