Benefits of Alberta autonomy, separatism weighed at Calgary conference
CALGARY -- Some of the nation's top leaders of past and present descended on Calgary Saturday to discuss the "value of Alberta."
The one-day conference was hosted by Alberta Proud, an advocacy group with more than 180,000 likes on Facebook.
Speakers and panelists discussed topics like Western alienation, equalization payments and the benefits of pursuing more autonomy from Ottawa.
"If Quebec were treated like Alberta is treated, they would've separated long ago," said Ted Morton, former Alberta finance minister and political science professor at the University of Calgary.
Jack Mintz, current president's fellow at the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy, echoed the sentiment.
"Here we're having a tough time, and Albertans are not feeling very appreciated at all."
Mintz also said Alberta has been overextending itself in terms of sharing revenue with poorer provinces.
"When you have $17 billion right now that is being transferred to the rest of the country through the federal budget, that's a lot of money that Albertans are contributing to the rest of Canada," said Mintz.
In his keynote address, former media mogul and author Conrad Black assured the audience that Alberta's economic situation is an urgent issue.
"You are the victims but we are all the losers, and it will change," Black said.
Although separation was frequently discussed, conference organizers say the event was not intended to push the movement forward.
"What I can say is that we're hoping to help Albertans and that's the whole point of this," said Alberta Proud spokesperson Becca Polak.
Without taking a position on Alberta seeking autonomy, attendee Liam McConnell said he hoped to learn more about strengthening the economy.
"One of the things that brought me here is to see what would be the most viable way forward in order to get people that I know, and Albertans generally, working again."
Some of the guest speakers mentioned they will continue to monitor the Alberta government's Fair Deal panels currently touring the province.