This is not a regional story. It is a story of Canada. And it is still playing out in real time whenever Canadians ponder the privileges and the challenges of the West’s resource wealth.
One of the first authoritative looks at the struggle over resources with the Rest of Canada that has plagued the West since the mid-nineteenth century. This is an important book that explains so much of today’s debates.The Honourable Peter Lougheed, former premier of Alberta
This book explores the past to explain the ferocity and the fervor of today’s debates over the Oil Sands, carbon taxes, inter-provincial pipelines, federal environmental rules and the right of state-owned foreign firms to buy Canadian energy assets. The struggle over resource control twines through the nation’s history as vividly as those wrenching debates over language and culture. The political actors who were once larger than life are now forgotten. But the legacy of their fights with the Rest of Canada, which played out in furious time across the decades, lingers in the language and the airy assumptions of today’s politicians. Those battles have created an edgy regional identity.
Thursday, April 9 2013
Winner, 2013 Dafoe Book Prize
Combining scholarly research with an accessible style, Janigan offers a fresh historical perspective on an enduring tension that is as significant to today’s Canada as it was to the Canada of John Dafoe.Dr, James Fergusson, Honorary Secretary
Wednesday, April 3 2013
Shortlisted for the John W. Dafoe Book Prize
Five books drawn from across Canada made the shortlist for the 2012 John W. Dafoe Book Prize from an excellent field of 47 entries.Dr. James Fergusson, Honorary Secretary
Monday, April 2 2013
2012 / 2013 Donner Prize Nominee
This year’s nominated titles are an impressive collection of thought-provoking books… these titles help to inform the current public policy debate in Canada, while also looking to the past to provide a unique perspective on how we got to where we are today, and where we go from here.Jury Chair A. Anne McLellan
Friday, December 14 2012
The Globe and Mail
Janigan’s book is a blueprint for how this last vestige of Canadian colonialism can be ended.Thomas Axworthy, Special to The Globe and Mail
Monday, December 24 2012
An entertaining history of Western alienation in Canada, more than ever an important and little-understood river of national politics.
Q & A with the Author
Q. You are not a writer based in the West, so what drove you to tackle this theme, which we hear about primarily in the West? OR How did you become interested in this subject?
A. I have always wanted to know why Westerners were so edgy and so suspicious during any resource discussions with Ottawa and the Rest of Canada. When former Liberal leader Stéphane Dion adopted a poorly designed carbon tax in 2008, the explosive reaction across the West was fascinating…. it seemed so over the top. Clearly those visceral reactions had deep roots in the past. They were entwined in the regional identity. I wanted to know why. It was a natural research topic when I went back to university. I learned that this is not a Western story. Nor is it simply a story of the West versus Ottawa. It is the story of Canada – if only because other regions staked claims to the West and its resources. This is a Canadian saga.
Q. Your book starts in 1867 and includes a sweeping and detailed historical vista of Canada’s political landmarks. What were the critical dates that were turning points in the resources struggle?
A. 1869-1870. When Canada secures title to Rupert’s Land from the Hudson’s Bay Company, the Métis in the Red River Colony around modern-day Winnipeg resist the transfer. In response, Sir John A. Macdonald carves out the tiny province of Manitoba, but he retains control of the lands and the resources to ensure that the Métis cannot block a railroad or the giveaway of free lands to new settlers. Manitoba eventually receives subsidies in lieu of those resources.
. Summer 1905. Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier carves the new provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta out of Rupert’s Land and the North-West Territories. Ottawa keeps resource control – but offers subsidies in lieu of resources.
. October 1913. The three Western Premiers meet privately with Prime Minister Robert Borden in Ottawa to demand resource control. When Borden sets conditions on any transfer, the Gang of Three is born: the Westerners demand resource control and the continuation of their subsidies in lieu of resources.
. November 1918. At a disastrous First Ministers’ Conference in Ottawa, the rifts between the West and the Rest of Canada deepen disastrously as other regions and Ottawa set conditions on any transfer of resource control.
. 1930. After carefully buying off the other regions, Mackenzie King transfers resource control to Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
. February 13, 1947. After 133 dry holes, Imperial Oil hits black gold at Leduc, twenty miles south of Edmonton. The promise of resource control finally comes true.
Q. Let the Eastern Bastards Freeze in the Dark vividly profiles some of the great personalities of Canadian politics, including Prime Ministers and Premiers. Do you have a favourite story about one of these men?
A. A historian once told me that he came to like Robert Borden, and I share his view. Borden could be quirky. In his memoirs, he usually chronicled his exhaustion and ailments when he was at home. Abroad, he was a far more energetic. He relished his discussions of great global issues with dignitaries, he visited wounded soldiers in hospitals and spent a night with British Prime Minister David Lloyd-George at the dangerous Front. At home, although he was dutiful, he was always worn out: he hated the pettiness and problems of domestic politics.
I also admired Frederick Haultain: you could actually chart how the frustrations and the casual federal dismissals over the years prompted this principled politician to lose control. When I realized that his family motto was “He who commands himself, commands enough”, I knew just how far he had been driven when he abandoned his political neutrality and campaigned against Wilfrid Laurier in the 1904 federal election.
Q. You make a strong case for the root of the current resource struggle being ingrained in the founding of the country in 1867. Do you see a resolution in sight today, after so many years?
A. No, actually. There remain hugely difficult areas of constitutional ambiguity in Canada. Both Ottawa and the provinces can set out environmental regulations. Both Ottawa and the provinces can slap taxes on carbon emissions. Constitutions are living documents – so we will never be able to put a complete end to these conflicts. But if we don’t know the past, if we don’t recognize that other provinces once claimed that they had bought the West and owned its resources, if we don’t understand that Western identity is partly rooted in provincial resource control, we are going to blunder badly. Although a federal carbon tax would be a sensible way to curb greenhouse gases, we would run the risk of too much conflict in the near future. Governments must tread with great sensitivity, ensuring that all Canadians are engaged and the burden does not fall too heavily on the producing provinces.
Q. How did the late Peter Lougheed assist you in your book?
A. On my first trip to Calgary for the book, he took me to lunch at Lougheed House – and talked about his amazing grandparents, Belle Hardisty Lougheed and Senator Sir James Lougheed who was in the Borden and Meighen cabinets during the Western fight for resource control. It was an inspiration. As I researched, the book sprawled beyond Sir James’ time, back to the mid-19th century and forward to the recent Alberta election. I came to regard the book as Peter Lougheed’s story: the reason why he fought so hard and, in retrospect, so rationally, over the last four decades. Throughout these last four years, he always had an encouraging word.
Q. What is your next project?
A. I have a theory that we are bumping up against the limits of sharing with each other through federal transfer programs such as equalization. How did Ottawa come to redistribute so much federal tax revenue to the Provinces? Why did the richer provinces let Ottawa divvy up so much of their taxpayers’ money among the poorer provinces? What happens when the gaps between the wealthier provinces and the poorer provinces grow so huge that the wealthier provinces draw a line in the sand? We used to talk about limits to growth. Now we are talking about limits to benevolence. And I would like to start with a wartime Conference that fell apart in 1941.