On Friday the Ottawa Citizen published a great column by editor Andrew Potter on what it was, exactly, that Stephen Harper was trying to do. Potter’s conclusion in a nutshell: the former prime minister wanted to permanently cripple the federal government, preventing it from attempting any Big Socialist Plans. Potter argues that Harper developed this plan after his 2001 “Hey you guys! Let’s build a firewall around Alberta” letter:
Harper also probably realized, even as he was drafting the letter, how little the province could do using its own powers to protect itself from the sorts of things that Liberal Ottawa was inclined to do. Because here’s the thing: To someone with Harper’s ideological convictions, what is truly offensive about Liberal-run Ottawa is not that it controls the Mounties or the CPP or collects Alberta’s income tax. It is that it is inclined to use its capacities to engage in large-scale, centralized social planning (or social engineering, to use the invidious terminology).
And so Stephen Harper probably realized that to properly protect Alberta from an “aggressive and hostile” – that is, socialist – federal government, he would have to go to Ottawa. There, pulling directly upon the levers of federal power, he could build a firewall from the other side. And it could be a far stronger and more effective firewall than you could ever build from Alberta, while having the virtue of being pitched as a principled and patriotic vision of Confederation.
Makes sense to me. Brew a coffee or tea, pull a chair up to the Internet and have a good Sunday read.