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Column: Saskatchewan First sounds like a good idea, but…

An opinion on the Saskatchewan First Act, its pros and cons.
moe paper Premier Scott Moe speaks
Premier Scott Moe speaks at the Chapel Gallery as he outlines the Sask. government's plans to Draw the Line with Ottawa over provincial resource authority.

The provincial government has passed the Saskatchewan First Act, the controversial document that aims to enhance the province’s economic autonomy and try to distance it from what it describes as federal overreach.

To be clear: I’m all for Saskatchewan having more freedom when dealing with the federal government. Especially this current government. We’ve seen the feds overreach on jurisdictional authority ever since Justin Trudeau become prime minister in 2015.

The most glaring example of this came when the feds ramrodded a carbon tax on Saskatchewan and other provinces. But the feds’ arrogance extends beyond the carbon tax.

I’m also a fiercely proud Canadian who would never vote in favour of western separation. And I know that Saskatchewan leaving Canada would never work.

At times, you have to wonder whether Trudeau actually realizes how much he has alienated the west, or if he has any clue about how people in rural Canada live. He seemingly doesn’t know, or doesn’t want to know, how much Canada needs those who live outside the big centres.

Western alienation has long been an issue in Canada, but the resentment towards the east has never been as strong as it is now, at least in my lifetime. The push for western independence has never been stronger, even if it’s completely unfeasible.

But the question that lingers is will Saskatchewan First work, and how long will it last.

Saskatchewan, Alberta and other provinces should have the same rights and perks within Confederation as Quebec. No double standards.

I get that Quebec has more than eight million people, which is more than Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba combined, and the threat of Quebec separation was a threat that hung over the heads of this country for a long time. Repealing Quebec’s perks would be a good way to reignite the sovereignty debate for that part of the country.

But what’s good for Quebec should also be good for us.

Do I think we should have more autonomy over our natural resources? Absolutely. We know the needs of our province. Ottawa seemingly doesn’t. Do I think we should be able to decide our own environmental policy? Definitely. Investment in innovation and technology is better than taxation.

Saskatchewan First had a rocky start, with claims from Indigenous communities about a lack of consultation. There has been a promise to launch a legal fight. The government says there have been discussions with Indigenous and Metis communities, but we’ll see if these measures are enough to soothe the criticism.

There are other problems with Saskatchewan First. You also have to wonder whether Saskatchewan First will resonate once we have a change in the federal government. (That day is destined to happen; people eventually vote for a change in government, at least at the federal level. It’s just a matter of when that will happen).

Would we still see the need for Saskatchewan First if we have Prime Minister Pierre Poilievre? Would that push Saskatchewan First into the backburner to gather dust, at least until the Liberals eventually regain power?

The name is a bit of a sticking point, too. It sounds like a reset of something Donald Trump would say. That’s not something that’s going to play well with a majority of Canadians, who want nothing to do with Trump or any of his verbiage.

Ultimately, Saskatchewan First, as long as it’s in effect, will play to the Sask. Party and its base, as well as those with more conservative ideals than most in the Sask. Party. There’s a lot of deep animosity in this province towards the federal government and its policies on everything from natural resources to firearms to agriculture to taxation. Going after the feds is going to be popular.

It’s something that Moe has been doing since before he became premier, and he’s going to keep doing it as long as he’s premier or Trudeau is no longer in power, whichever comes first.

If Saskatchewan First gets overturned by the courts, which I think it will, then Moe can say he tried and point the finger at the courts for this legislation’s defeat.

Those who are opposed to Saskatchewan First would celebrate its defeat, but they need to remember why it is being introduced in the first place and the popularity it will have with those who live outside of Regina and Saskatoon.