A new Alberta separatist movement spawned from the federal election is stirring emotions across central Canada
Tom Balog, Contributor
Wexit—We exit—West Exit? Who wants to leave Canada? Wait, is it just Alberta or BC too? What About Saskatchewan? Would Manitoba want to go also? Because Manitoba isn’t really part of the West. What would the country be named? Does that mean that a new currency would have to be created? What about a military?
This is starting to sound like a half-baked idea. It’s almost like kids on the playground trying to divvy up the monkey bars, slide and rickety bridge because when the sides were picked to play house, Stew became upset that Susan called dibs on the swing set. Wexit may sound like a tantrum, but with livelihoods on the line, many people are upset and emotional. We are living in unsettling times with environmental uncertainty, and a changing Canadian economy. Industries are continually cutting jobs. People are agitated and grasping for new ways to deal with an uncertain future.
Peter Downing is leading this newest charge of an Albertan separation movement known as Wexit. In February 2019, Downing paid for billboards in Calgary and Edmonton that read, “Should Alberta Ditch Canada?” A Wexit Facebook page was created in June 2019 and started gaining members fast. When the Liberals won a minority government in October, more billboards went up in Edmonton. Soon after, #Wexit started trending on social media with help from twitter bots and content aggregators. The Facebook group now has over 265,000 members, and subgroups have been created that run under the name Wexit BC, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
Albertan separation sentiments are nothing new with origins in the 1930s and a flare-up in the 1970s under Justin Trudeau’s father. In a recent poll by ThinkHQ — 70 percent of Albertans questioned said they understood the reaction to separatist sentiments. IPSOS conducted a survey for Global News of 1,516 voting-age Canadians in October and 33 percent of Albertans said that separation would be in their best interest. Alberta separatists’ frustrations stem from equalization payments the province makes to Ottawa, job losses, carbon tax and pipelines. Albertans are feeling increasingly alienated and underrepresented by the federal government.
Saskatchewan shares a similar separatist attitude with Alberta. The poll says 27 percent of Saskatchewan’s constituents support separation, a nine percent rise from last year and BC is at 13 percent. The poll did not include Manitoba—the premiere was recently quoted as saying “I came in peace,” when meeting with Trudeau regarding division in the West.
One has to only briefly look at the 2019 election results map to see that there is a growing division in Canadian politics. Alberta and Saskatchewan were painted conservative blue as well as half of BC. The environment is ripe for Wexit to continue to grow. Although if Alberta were to separate and bring along portions of Saskatchewan, BC and Manitoba, the amount of money and time it would take would be substantial. Do citizens have the stomach to create civil conflict in Canada? Separation would not be an easy task. The new territory would be a landlocked country. They would need a new currency, likely backed by the tar sands and would have to develop a military.
Wexit is an emotional response from Alberta. Jobs are being lost, the economy is changing, and they are not feeling supported by Ottawa. Downing is registering Wexit as a party with elections Canada and is trying to do for Alberta what the Bloc Quebecois does for Quebec. More representation for Alberta would benefit the province. New industries need to be created to move away from oil and gas, but this isn’t a talking point for Wexit. Alberta is releasing 62.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent compared to Australia’s 15.83 and 15.53 in the United States. Downing supports more research to be done capturing the carbon emissions rather than transitioning from the tar sands.
All the buzz around Wexit seems silly because it is. Breaking up Canada isn’t going to be suitable for Canadians in the long. Look at how smooth Brexit is going. Alberta is facing economic turbulence but division isn’t the answer, it’s a cop-out.