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Please Advise! Now Saskatchewan Wants to Split?

Yet another Prairie province with a secession obsession. Doc Steve assesses the risk.

Steve Burgess 11 Nov 2021 |

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Find his previous articles here.

[Editor’s note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a PhD in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Dr. Steve,

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says his province will seek greater autonomy, aiming to become “a nation within a nation.” How do you think this will play out?


Moose Javian

Dear MJ,

Well, it had to happen eventually. You just know Prince Albert has been impatient to become King Albert. And any town called Battleford is going to be spoiling for a fight — apparently the terrible civil war with North Battleford taught them nothing.

Dr. Steve can confirm that Saskatchewan is indeed a distinct society. He spent some formative years under the flag of the tiger lily, toddling along with his family to Regina, then returning for a couple of stretches as a young man. Dr. Steve once lived in Estevan. He supports the Roughriders. He still refers to chocolate milk as “Vi-Co.” Now that “President Jefferson” Moe has commenced the fight for greater provincial independence, it will be important to consult with experts — like Dr. Steve — who know these mysterious Prairie people and understand their ways.

First, some basic facts: Saskatchewan’s official motto is “Ha! You call this cold?” The Saskatchewan provincial crest features a lion, but that’s really just a bit of bragging. Just as St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland, Roughriders quarterback Ron Lancaster routed the Lions from Saskatchewan, sending them right back to B.C. where they came from. Saskatchewan is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest natural pool table. Geologists have long studied the provincial landscape to discover how it managed to overcome the natural curvature of the Earth.

So now that giant whole-wheat biscuit wants to separate. Why is General Robert E. Moe so upset, anyway? It’s mostly because of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recently announced plan to cap emissions on oil and gas. “Stonewall” Moe wants to break away not just from Canada, but from the global climate. Having declared independence, Moe may then deal with greenhouse gases by enclosing Saskatchewan in an actual greenhouse, a popular move in a region where the downside of global warming can be difficult to explain.

Moe cited other irritants between the province and Ottawa, among them a desire for increased control over international relations. This could mean Saskatchewan sending its own diplomats to Wyoming and South Dakota. You need someone who understands when you’re talking with a stalk of grass sticking out of your mouth. When a farmer takes off a hat, surveys a field, scratches, squints and says, “Yep... it’s just like I told those fellers...” you have to have people on the ground who can respond appropriately. A sage nod? A rueful headshake? A ruminative spit? Your standard pointy-headed, McGill-educated diplomat wouldn’t know.

Ultimately, however, Saskatchewan’s real trouble will not be with Ottawa. Their real trouble will be with Alberta. They’ve been making noise about going solo much longer than Saskatchewan, and you just know that if their neighbour goes rogue, Alberta will declare independence too. And that will mean war. The battleground: Lloydminster.

Once Saskatchewan and Alberta each declare sovereignty, Lloydminster will become the Kashmir of the Canadian Prairies. The provincial border runs right through the middle of town. Brother against brother, sister against sister, farmer against rancher, Boston Pizza against KFC. Which side has the greater resources? The Lloydminster Tim Hortons is in Alberta, but the A&W is in Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan has the hospital, but Alberta has the Shoppers Drug Mart. Alberta has the Starbucks, which could prove crucial, but the Saskatchewan-side 7-Eleven will have plenty of Red Bull. It could come down to a fight between the Roughriders and the Stampeders and a question of who has the best defensive line.

We in British Columbia should be well positioned to cash in on the interprovincial strife. Saskatchewan will have to continue to send grain to B.C. in exchange for the rights to use Loverboy’s “Turn Me Loose” as their national anthem. (They will want something everyone can sing, and Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” will be too expensive.)

All the same, we should remain firmly opposed to Saskatchewan’s attempt to split this country like a stack of empty beer cases in a college dorm.

An independent Saskatchewan would be like the sleeping dude in the middle seat on a cross-country flight. Pretty awkward when Manitoba has to go the bathroom. And remember, Saskatchewan, if there is going to be a breakup, it could get pretty ugly. We will definitely want custody of Joni Mitchell.  [Tyee]

Read more: Politics

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