Former Quebec premier Jean Charest spoke out in support of Alberta, saying the rest of Canada needs to acknowledge the province’s plight to work together as a nation.
Speaking to the Canadian Aerospace Summit on Wednesday, Charest urged Canadians to listen to the West’s concerns.
“Clearly in Western Canada, our citizens are saying ‘listen, we’re suffering and we need this to be acknowledged, and we need the help of the rest of the country to get through this period,’ which is right, they do,” he said.
Charest, a former premier and federal PC cabinet minister, also thought Jason Kenney’s idea to pull Alberta out of the Canada Pension Plan was ”interesting,” adding that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should respect any decision Alberta makes.
“We have much more in common than the differences we have. We’re a country of regions and there are normally differences but at the end of the day, we’re all Canadians.”
Charest’s statement is the near opposite of the current politicians governing Quebec, many of whom appear fundamentally opposed to anything Alberta does.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault has said, “there’s no social acceptability for an additional oil pipeline,” referring to projects like the cancelled Energy East which relieve Alberta’s energy sector.
On Wednesday, Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet said Alberta should not expect any help from Quebec in pursuing greater autonomy or independence if it continues to produce oil and gas.
“If they were attempting to create a green state in Western Canada, I might be tempted to help them,” Blanchet said.
“If they are trying to create an oil state in Western Canada, they cannot expect any help from us.”
In response, Jason Kenney called out the hypocrisy of attacking Alberta’s industries when his province contributes billions to Quebec through equalization.
“These statements [are] being made a week after Quebec tabled a budget with a $4-billion surplus thanks to a $13-billion equalization payment from Ottawa, which came from the workers that many of you [oil and gas companies] had to lay off,” said Kenney.
“You cannot have your cake and eat it too.”
At a time when Alberta’s economy remains in a slump, Quebec has consistently bought oil from foreign sources. In the past three years, Quebec oil imports from the United States increased from $1.6 billion in 2016 to $4.3 billion in 2019.
Across Canada imports of Saudi oil have increased by 66% to $3.5 billion, and imports of Russian oil increased from zero dollars five years ago to $555 million today.
Kenney believes that considering the $600 billion his province has contributed to the equalization program, Alberta should receive a fairer deal with the rest of Canada for its industries.
“And yet we are going through an economic crisis,” he said. “All we ask is a little bit of fairness — we’re not asking for a special deal, we’re asking for a fair deal.”