Don Martin: The Bloc leader stokes a Prairie fire
The jury's out on whether the charismatic new Bloc Quebecois leader is naïve, blindly principled or dangerous.
Yves-Francois Blanchet waded into his first scrum on Parliament Hill to shrug off any interest in helping create a happy united Canada.
Fair enough. Even though he gets a paycheque from Canadian taxpayers, his party's defining goal is to break up the country.
But then he ignited the fuse on a stick of political dynamite and heaved it at Alberta by saying its oil-based economy wasn't green enough to be worth helping.
This could be the musings of an inexperienced political mind who didn’t understand the national implications of his position. Or it could be a cagey first step by a national unity disrupter playing the long game to divide and conquer in the pursuit of eventual independence.
Having interviewed Blanchet Thursday, you get the feeling he doesn't care if Alberta is inflamed by his view. He thinks forcing it off its oil addiction is the only way to make the province go green.
But it's threatening to ruin a long and productive relationship – and Blanchet really should follow through on his plan to give the country an introductory tour.
Alberta and Quebec leaders have always had a symmetrical and positive relationship, rooted in their mutual distrust of Ottawa and belief the premiers know best. But Blanchet went beyond his province to incite Alberta anger at the precise moment its separation sentiments are moving from the fringes to the mainstream.
Now, some argue Alberta's being a noisy crybaby and that its current economic plight is analogous to Newfoundland's decimated cod fishery or Ontario's car plants heading to Mexico.
No, it isn't.
This is the case of a plentiful oilsands export cut off from markets by political and court obstructions.
It's preventable economic distress for a province trapped with its motherlode in a landlocked pressure cooker that's about to explode.
So when economically prospering Quebec leaders block east-bound pipelines and denigrate an oilpatch which provides motorists there with 40 per cent of its gasoline, it angers Alberta.
When the stinkbomb is thrown by a province which pockets more than a billion equalization dollars a month while Alberta gets nothing, it infuriates.
When the prime minister breaks the ethics code to protect SNC-Lavalin in Montreal and doesn't even release a statement of concern when Encana leaves Calgary, that accelerates alienation.
So if the prime minister and Quebec's new face in the Commons continue to shrug at western fury, Quebec may find out independence is indeed achievable. For Alberta.