The term used by future-prime minister Stephen Harper and his co-authors in a letter to then-Alberta Premier Ralph Klein in 2001, calling for Alberta’s withdrawal from a host of federal institutions and federal-provincial agreements.
Harper et al. were writing in the aftermath of the 2000 federal election, which saw the election of the third straight Jean Chrétien-led Liberal majority government. They urged Premier Klein to “build firewalls around Alberta” by withdrawing from the Canada Pension Plan and the Canada Health Act, and by replacing the provincial mandate of the RCMP with a full-fledged Alberta provincial police force.
The letter was written during Harper’s hiatus from elected politics. It asserted what he believed was a left-wing and anti-Alberta nature to both the Chretien government and the electorate outside of Alberta in general (as confirmed, in his reasoning, by yet another Chretien majority).
Written in the white heat of anger and haste, the “firewall” letter caused Harper more than a little discomfort upon his return to electoral politics. It was likely one of the factors that prevented his victory in the 2004 election, and it required a deliberate and determined campaign to reposition the image of Harper from an Alberta-centric ideologue (or, in the eyes of his harshest critics, an Alberta Separatist) to a more national leader.
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