In Hay River, sometimes it seems that we’re a part of Alberta.

Of course, we’re not, but it just feels like that.

Hay River residents often look south to Alberta – and (sorry Yellowknife) not North to our territorial capital city – for a whole host of things.

To name only a few, we often head to Alberta for health services, educational opportunities, shopping, sports and just a place to get away for a long weekend.

That should not be surprising. Hay River is just a 120-kilometre drive from the Alberta-NWT border, even though it takes another couple of hours to get to High Level and many more hours to make Grande Prairie or Edmonton.

And more than that, there are family ties and many friendships between Hay River and Alberta.

So being that Alberta is our best bud, we feel we have the right to have our say about the latest separatism talk coming out of the province.

That talk has emanated from Jason Kenney, the leader of the United Conservative Party.

Apparently, Kenney thinks the recent setbacks to plans to build the Trans-Mountain pipeline to the B.C. coast will sow feelings of separatism in Alberta.

Of course, Albertans have every right to be frustrated and perhaps even angry over the roadblocks being placed in the way of getting more of their most important natural resource to markets.

However, we find it difficult to see how an independent Alberta would make the situation better in any possible way. It’s not like a separate Alberta would be able to change geography and create a coastline for a new country. A pipeline would still have to go through Canada – if Canada survives Alberta leaving – or through the United States.

So while talk of separation might be a good way to let off some steam, it is illogical to think it would be a solution to the pipeline problem. In fact, separation would just make that problem considerably worse.

Any rising separatist anger in Alberta – unlike in times past – cannot even be directed to the federal government. Ottawa has consistently said it supports the Trans Mountain pipeline, and has even purchased the project. Once the government owns it, it would seem likely that it will eventually be built.

Instead, Alberta’s biggest opponents are the B.C. provincial government, environmentalists and some First Nations (although others support the project).

This is a complicated problem with many players, and the solution will take a lot of work and patience.

There is no silver bullet answer – certainly not separation.

It might be self-serving for people in Hay River to oppose Alberta separation, but so be it. We think it’s an awful idea which should be rejected out of hand. To us, Alberta is an integral part of Canada and we can’t even imagine the country without it.

The very idea of Alberta separating from Canada will cause dismay across the country. And in Hay River, it is virtually unthinkable. Hay River and Alberta are close friends and partners – not separate at all in any way you look at it.

We hope that never changes.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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