There was an interesting idea in the Globe this morning that I personally think has some real merit.
Ottawa nicely spans Quebec and Ontario. A similar western capial - not necessarily Calgary that spanned BC Alberta would be ideal.
Candidate cities ( Ottawa was artifically created for this purpose ) or sites?
Personally I like it. Give some energy and focus to the nation and breakup the "coziness" of the current Fed setup.
Does Canada Need a Second
National Capital in the West?
Friday, October 1, 2004 - Page A2
He calls it "thinking outside the box." Others will say it should be boxed up and buried in his backyard before some fool in government starts running with it.
Ray Argyle's idea is, to put it mildly, pretty wild.
A House of Commons on the banks of the Bow River.
A Senate sitting in a city where people expect senators to be fully accountable.
The governor-general in residence half the year, perhaps on Rideau Ranch.
A new National Capital Commission West that would promote the sort of parks and museums and galleries that Ottawa has so long enjoyed.
The wholesale transfer of key federal departments -- Agriculture, Energy, Indian Affairs, perhaps even Immigration -- to the West.
An end, forever, to the strains of western alienation, and a full stop to any future fears of western separation.
"Look," Argyle said from Vancouver, where he is touring his wild notion across the West, "all important ideas meet resistance when they are first proposed.
"My hope is simply to promote public debate." What Argyle, a political veteran and media adviser who was born in Winnipeg during the Depression, grew up in British Columbia and worked as a journalist on the Prairies before finding his career in Toronto, has done is write a book that he thinks can fix this largely ungovernable country.
Turning Points: The Campaigns that Changed Canada is 500 pages on the 15 key federal elections that profoundly changed Canada. One of those, Argyle says, is the election of June 28, 2004.
What makes 2004 rank with previous elections that involved such pivotal issues as war, free trade and sovereignty, Argyle says, are Prime Minister Paul Martin's repeated statements that he would consider his time in office a failure should he not deal effectively with western alienation.
The fact that Martin ended up with a minority government, Argyle claims, only makes western concerns more pressing. The Liberals need to reach out in that direction. And Opposition Leader Stephen Harper, a western member of Parliament, has long demanded that "the voice of the West" be heard.
Argyle argues in favour of this happening, saying that Alberta now stands with Ontario as a "have" province, and that five of the six fastest-growing metropolitan areas, according to the Conference Board, are found west of the Ontario-Manitoba border.
The West, Argyle writes, "has matured economically, socially and culturally, but has never secured the political means that would allow it to equalize the role of the old Canada in shaping our destiny in the 21st century. . . .
"The next great step in Canadian nation-building now awaits us: the shifting of power out of Ottawa and into the West by designating a western city as a co-capital of Canada, equal to the old capital in responsibility and authority." Argyle -- acting somewhat as a modern-day Queen Victoria -- has scanned the map and selected Calgary as his chosen co-capital of Canada. He eliminated the four provincial capitals on the basis that they already have a great deal of government, and while he could have selected Vancouver or Saskatoon, he chose Calgary for its growing economic clout and its strategic geographical position in the West.
Holland, he argues, shares its capital between Amsterdam and The Hague.
South Africa has three capitals. Numerous U.S. presidents have had what they call a "western White House." And, he adds, even this old piece of North America once had twin capitals when Montreal and Kingston were seats of government for Lower and Upper Canada.
"The West has said it wants in," Argyle writes near the end of his book.
"That aspiration will be met when a western city becomes a co-capital of Canada along with Ottawa, equal but not separate, sharing the mechanisms of national government in the legislative, executive and judicial spheres." Making such a move, he is convinced, would trigger "a historic transformation" that would do everything from strengthen unity to bringing a new spirit of optimism to the country.
For several days now, Argyle has been taking his argument across the West, being welcomed on talk shows and talking to anyone he meets about the reality of western alienation, which many in the East believe is no reality at all.
"It's absolutely visceral," counters the new author. "And it's widespread. You hear it from a busboy in Vancouver. You hear it from your cab driver in Edmonton. You hear it everywhere you go." What is needed, he says, is an entirely new way of thinking about not only how this country is governed, but where it is governed.
"Something like this," he says, "would bring bureaucrats and politicians out of their Ottawa shell.
"And it would counteract the north-south pull we all feel with the United States. Let federal bureaucrats see what the West is all about, and let Westerners see that there actually are dedicated people working for Canada.
"It would change the political culture of this country."
I agree......and for the good.
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A most unique idea. Would Ralph Klein be co-PM? Seriously, it might be a way of easing the western alienation that is present west of the Ontario border.
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Nope, no, never in a million years.
Canadian society is not mature enough to accept a second capital. More division means more alienation.
I think the federals should strengthen themselves and take back education and health from provincial control. The system as it stands is not equal.
I love the idea, but would agree with Ernest that I'm not quite sure that we have the level of maturity required to handle the execution. If not handled properly, it could just as easily be used to foster seperation rather than solve the issue. The answer may lie in fixing the location of the "seat of government" in Ottawa but leaving the administrative arms to locations other than Ottawa. Certainly some would have to have remain in Ottawa, National Defence and Foreign Affairs come to minid, but other than that move some out west and some out east.
I agree that one of our political problems at the moment is dealing with a Federal beaurocracy which is, by nature of location, heavily weighted towards the Ontario/Quebec viewpoint. PET did a fine job relocating some of the departments outside Ottawa, he just didn't move most of them far enough. They still contain to much of an eastern flavour for our western countrymen.
The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom. <br />–Isaac Asimov (1920-1992)