Former media baron Conrad Black called for the “persecution” of Alberta’s energy sector to end during a keynote speech at a conference hosted by Alberta Proud, a third-party election advertiser.
“While Alberta accepts that it isn’t the ambition or the intention of the federal government to persecute Alberta and lower its living standard, that is the effect of their policies,” Black said in an interview with CBC News following his speech Saturday. “They’re doing it out of a fear of a fate whose likelihood is based on very flimsy suppositions and dubious advocacy by a lot of zealots.”
Black also railed against Canada’s climate policy during his speech, arguing that all of Canada suffers when Alberta’s natural resources are targeted.
He received standing ovations from the crowd at the Telus Convention Centre on a number of occasions, including when he said “the current level of alarm” surrounding climate change was unjustified, and when he predicted U.S. President Donald Trump would win reelection against the “gang of clucks in the Democrats.”
Black is the author of Donald J. Trump: A president like no other and was pardoned in May 2019 by Trump after being convicted in 2007 of fraud and obstruction of justice.
The conference, which runs until 6 p.m., is being hosted by Alberta Proud, a third-party advertiser registered with Elections Alberta.
Though the event featured a number of speakers who argued in favour of initiatives that would give Alberta more autonomy over Ottawa, organizers stressed the event was not intended to stake out a position on separatism.
“I think [separatism] has to be considered an absolute last extremity option,” Black said. “It would be a disaster for everybody in Canada.”
Watch Conrad Black discuss the possibility of Alberta separating from Canada here:
Other speakers included:
- Ted Morton, former Progressive Conservative finance minister.
- Danielle Smith, radio host and former leader of the Wildrose Party.
- W. Brett Wilson, Calgary businessman.
- Joe Oliver, former Conservative Party finance minister.
Oliver spoke Saturday morning about the value of natural resources to Canada.
In November, 11,000 scientists signed a declaration of a climate emergency, warning that countries did not appear to be meeting their stated goals and milestones for reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
Big theme from the <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/ValueofAB?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#ValueofAB</a> conference is the frustration. With the treatment of the energy sector, the federal Liberal government, current climate policy, with Quebec for equalization payments. Lots of nods to what the Fair Deal Panel has been studying. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/cdnpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#cdnpoli</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/abpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#abpoli</a>
“I wouldn’t necessary say [Alberta Proud] a political movement, so much as a movement of grassroots people who are concerned about what is going to happen next for Alberta,” said William McBeath, one of the organizers of the event, in an interview with the Calgary Eyeopener. “Are we going to start kickstarting our economy, are we going to get people back to work?
“What’s being done at the provincial and federal level to address what I think most people agree are the very real issues facing our province?”
McBeath is a former staff member of Alberta’s Wildrose Party and is a spokesperson for Save Calgary.
The Facebook page for Alberta Proud currently has more than 180,000 likes.
The Calgary-based Manning Centre has given more than $200,000 to Canada Strong and Proud, a network of related third-party advertising groups that operate on Facebook and Instagram.
That page is affiliated with a series of provincial pages, including Alberta Proud and other groups like BC Strong and Ontario Strong.
But those groups have no affiliation with Ontario Proud, Canada Proud or B.C. Proud.
‘Fair deal’ panels continue
The conference arrives as the province continues to tour its “fair deal” panel across Alberta, a series of town halls announced in November with a stated goal to study measures that would give the province more autonomy.
The conference also lands shortly after the western separatist Wexit Canada party was granted eligibility to run in the next federal election.
Wexit Canada says it plans to nominate 104 candidates to federal ridings in four provinces: Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
“We don’t like to use the word ‘separation’ — but people use the word separation,” said Becca Polak, another spokesperson for the event, in an interview with the Calgary Eyeopener. “What we are doing is providing a panel of experts coming to talk about more autonomy in Alberta, so we’re not leaning to the separatist side or the non-separatist side.”
Polak previously ran for the United Conservative Party nomination in the riding of Calgary-Mountain View.