Two rectangles are better than one

Admit it: We're going to miss all that constitutional wrangling. Here's something to take up the slack after the Quebec election

Well, that’s that. Turns out even the Québecois had had enough of the Parti Québecois’s talk of turning that province into the Albania of North America. No disrespect to Albania meant (though, really, how could Albania take that phrase any way but disrespectfully?).

The dream of an insular nation, with backs turned to the rest of North America (the world, even), with fascistic language laws, with Catholicism as a state religion and other religions put down — well, that was just too much for the majority of even the French Canadians, who tend to be a cosmopolitan, worldly people for the most part.

As long as I’ve been politically aware, there has been that presence of a dream of an independent Quebec as part of the Canadian national consciousness. I agree with the new Quebec premier, the Liberal Philippe Couillard, that “ideas never die,” and that there will always be an independence-minded element in Quebec. But the ugly face the PQ recent put on that dream was massively rejected in Monday’s election.

And what do you know! The polls were right, for a change.

Now let us never speak of that again.

Still, it’s like something is missing. It’s like when I got those vestigial goat horns surgically removed from my head: There was a sense of relief, both physically and mentally, and a feeling that things were normal again in my life. But there was also a sense of loss.

How peculiar. Could it be that after more than 40 years of Quebec separatists grumbling about us, and us grumbling about them, we will need something to replace it now that it’s gone? Could it be that we Canadians have become habituated — nay, addicted! — to constitutional wrangling? I think so. It’s what we’ve become good at.

So let me offer this solution, a methadone treatment to the heroin addiction of our constitutional preoccupation. Let us revive that old chestnut debate about the East Kootenay separating from British Columbia and becoming part of the province of Alberta.

Our list of grievances is long. It is not dissimilar to Quebec’s grievances against the rest of Canada, or B.C.’s grievances against the far-off government in Ottawa, for that matter. For starters, there’s the fact that nearby Alberta pays no sales tax and we in B.C. do. There’s the fact that no one is quite sure in Victoria or Vancouver what time zone we’re in, our how long it takes to get from there to here (our time zones are separated by many, many hours. It takes days and days to get from there to here). The fact that much of our “proximity to sources of livelihood” is mostly in an easterly or northeasterly direction (mines and oilpatch).

Geographically, even though we’re separated from Alberta by a major mountain range (the Rockies), we’re also separated from B.C. by a major mountain range (the Purcells). In fact, the East Kootenay is separated from the rest of the world by major mountain ranges. So what difference does it make?

And compared with the trip to Victoria, a trip to Edmonton seems like a short hop.

Now I personally am not advocating a union with Alberta, really. It’s just that we need to keep our haggling over constitutional matters going, for our own sense of Canadian self. And to change the borders of provinces requires a change to the constitution. And we do have all those lawyers …

One more item on this matter, which one could argue for or against: By adding a large chunk of southeastern B.C. to Alberta, the shape of Alberta becomes suspiciously similar to Saskatchewan, Canada’s rectangle. My Canada includes both Quebec and Williams Lake. But I’ve always felt Canada needed more geometric simplicity in its map. After all, two rectangles are better than one.

Barry Coulter is the Editor

of the Cranbrook Daily Townsman