Canada

A different view of the country

April 7 1980
Canada

A different view of the country

April 7 1980

A different view of the country

While Canadians eased into the comfortable familiarity of another four years of Liberal majority reign, Alberta ’s prince of politics, Peter Lougheed, emerged from a cocoon of silence that marked his non-presence in the federal election campaign.

The eight-week reprieve from the glare ' of the national spotlight, which had for nine months probed the political and economic ambition of Joe Clark’s home province, produced a renewed Peter Lougheed ready to once again claim the role of official spokesman for Western Canadian concerns. With only two government members in the West, the road is clear for a new : call of western alienation.

In an interview for Maclean’s by Edmon: ton journalist Gail Gravelines, Peter Lougheed last week outlined his views on constitutional change and the role of the West.

Maclean’s: In the aftermath of your mid; March visit with Quebec Liberal leader \ Claude Ryan, have you had any requests to I return or to speak to interest groups in ] Quebec?

Lougheed: We’ve had some requests but : we felt that we should only participate if the federalist forces in Quebec want us to.

: They haven’t responded at this stage. We are, though, going to be making it a very major item on the agenda of the western premiers’ conference—the question on national unity and constitutional change. I discussed that with Mr. Ryan and I’ve discussed it with the other western premiers and it’ll be a major item in Lethbridge on \ April 22.

Maclean’s: Will you be focusing on any : one or two specific areas?

Lougheed: No, we will generally be talking about the fact that we need a third option between sovereignty-association on one extreme and Trudeau centralism on the other. I think the most important part of Mr. Ryan’s (“beige paper”] is that he didn’t seek special status for Quebec. He sought stronger jurisdictional rules for all the provinces and that’s why Alberta in particular and perhaps the other provinces responded positively to Mr. Ryan’s position. Maclean’s: During the nine months the Conservatives were in power, eastern atc tention appeared to focus on the Weston yourself, on Joe Clark. Do you see the re-election of the Trudeau government re: versing that trend?

Lougheed: I don’t think so because so many of the issues facing the nation are going to be affected by Western Canada.

And if anything there’s going to be the recognition there’s no federal government representation from the three furthest western provinces. So I think there’s going

to be a higher degree of interest in the views of the provincial government in Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. Perhaps not on issues like the auto pact— but on issues like interest rates, monetary policies, foreign trade, foreign investment, transportation, agriculture, energy. On most issues.

Maclean’s: You have described yourself as a Canadian first and an Albertan second. When you say Canadian, what does that mean to you?

Lougheed: Well, it means we feel here in Alberta just as much a part of Canada as Ottawa, we just have a different view of the country. We think the country is going to be stronger if the regions are stronger. We think a country this vast in size and small in population cannot have decision-making centralized. And the alienation, concern and frustration of the regions which are reflected in one way in Quebec but are reflected politically in the Atlantic regions and the West are due to just simply that. You can't centralize political decision-making in Ottawa in the reality of the '80s. It was the judgment of the people who framed the Confederation that the resource ownership is provincial. That resource ownership will make the Atlantic

provinces and the western provinces stronger to the benefit of all of Canada. If the regions are stronger the centre will be stronger, if the regions are have-not, are weak, are relying always on the centre, then it’s not a strong nation.

Maclean’s: Mr. Lalonde is hoping for an oil-pricing agreement within the next three months. Do you think it’s possible? Lougheed: It's possible; I wouldn’t want to elaborate. We're in negotiations. As I said on February 20th, to be fair, we have an outstanding agreement that we did make with Mr. Trudeau that does expire at the end of June.

Maclean’s: In the near decade that you’ve been premier of Alberta have you sensed { any change in attitude to Western Canada ; and its concerns?

Lougheed: That’s a hard question because there’s the media political atmosphere you run into and then there's the general citizen point of view. I’m not sure that I can read that properly. If you were responding only to media or to certain political people, you would think that there was a high degree of resentment to the prosperity of the West and Alberta in par: ticular. On the other hand there seems to : be a number of other signs indicating an ! awareness that if Alberta is doing well and the West is doing well, it’s beneficial to the rest of the country.