Premier Jason Kenney speaks to the media in Edmonton, Alberta, on Tuesday Oct. 22, 2019. Kenney says if the prime minister doesn’t keep his word on supporting the West, there will be lasting damage to national unity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Amber Bracken

‘Havoc and chaos:’ Alberta separatist group gains support as Liberals re-elected

The idea is getting interest from people in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and parts of British Columbia

There’s been a surge of support for an Alberta separatist group since the Liberals secured a minority government Monday night, and while political scientists say a split from Canada may not be a real possibility, the anger underlying the movement is serious.

“The idea of Canada has died in the hearts of many, many western Canadians,” said “Wexit” Alberta founder Peter Downing, a former soldier and RCMP officer.

The Liberals managed to hang onto seats in Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia, but Alberta and Saskatchewan ended up Conservative blue except for one NDP riding in Edmonton.

The VoteWexit Facebook page with its motto “The West Wants Out” went from 2,000 or so members on Monday to nearly 160,000 and counting by Tuesday afternoon. Downing said his group received more than $20,000 in donations and membership fees overnight.

A separate online petition calling for a western alliance and for Alberta to separate was backed by more than 40,000 people.

Downing got the idea for “Wexit” — an apparent play on Brexit in the United Kingdom — late last year when he heard United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney warn of rising separatist sentiment if the Liberal government didn’t back off from policies he said were hostile to the energy sector. Those include the overhaul of environmental reviews and an oil tanker ban off B.C.’s north coast.

“Justin Trudeau is obviously the fuel for it, but Jason Kenney was the spark,” said Downing.

He said his group is pushing for Kenney, who describes himself as a staunch federalist, to call a referendum on whether Alberta should separate. If successful, that would result in the province replacing the RCMP with its own police force and having control over immigration, taxation, firearms and pensions, Downing said.

The idea is getting interest from people in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and parts of British Columbia, too, he added.

In the meantime, Downing wants to get “Wexit” representatives elected to Parliament.

“We’re going to push into Canada and cause havoc and chaos until the grounds are right and the conditions are set to have that referendum on separation and become an independent nation.”

Grant Fagerheim, CEO of oil company Whitecap Resources Inc., said Alberta and Saskatchewan’s contributions to the Canadian economy have not been respected and he’s not surprised there has been talk of the region splitting off.

“I don’t believe at this particular time, whether you live in Saskatchewan or Alberta, that people would say they’re Canadian first.”

Whether that amounts to anything is another matter.

David Taras, a political scientist at Calgary’s Mount Royal University, said he doubts people in Alberta would back separation if they understood the practicalities. Would they need a visa to take a ski trip or wine tour in B.C., for instance?

“The vast majority of Albertans love being in Canada and have a deep emotional attachment to Canada, so I don’t think that will be severed easily,” he said.

“But the anger and frustration is real.”

Taras said he’ll be curious whether Kenney chooses an “endless war” with Trudeau over energy policy, or decides on a more conciliatory tack.

Ted Morton, a former Alberta Progressive Conservative cabinet minister, said the angst may not lead to separation, but it could propel Kenney’s efforts to exert pressure on Ottawa.

The premier has already said Alberta will hold a referendum on equalization — a federal program meant to even out fiscal disparities between ”have” and “have not” provinces — along with municipal elections next October if there’s no substantive progress on building a market-opening pipeline.

Morton, now an executive fellow at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, has said he’s heard calls to do it sooner.

He suggested increasing “Wexit” talk is a barometer of the anger and fear western Canadians feel. People in the energy sector are losing their jobs and, in many cases, that leads to domestic strife and addiction, he said.

“Pipelines aren’t just an infrastructure and finance issue in Alberta and Saskatchewan,” Morton said. “They’re a people issue.”

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

House burns in Harewood, three people displaced

Dog unaccounted for after house fire Sunday evening

Man dies in ATV accident south of Nanaimo

Incident happened on backroad Friday night in Nanaimo Lakes area

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: No need to wait to enforce new speed limit in the north end

If safety is the goal, why is there a ‘grace period’ for motorists to adjust, asks letter writer

COVID-19: Uptick in calls to Haven Society crisis line as restrictions ease

Organization reminds people of their range of services

Nanaimo RCMP detachment resumes limited front counter service

Detachment front counter staff now processing police information checks

VIDEO: Injured bald eagle rescued in B.C. First Nations community

Bird suspected injured in fight, whisked off to Coquitlam rehab

Toronto Raptors’ Ujiri says conversations about racism can no longer be avoided

Thousands have protested Floyd’s death and repeated police killings of black men across the United States

‘I’m afraid’: Witnesses of wolf attack on senior near Prince Rupert worried about safety

Frank Russ shows where the unprovoked wolf attacked his father

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Protesters prepare to rally against racism in front of Vancouver Art Gallery

Rally is in response to the deaths of black Americans and a Toronto woman

Protesters rally against anti-black, Indigenous racism in Toronto

Police estimated the crowd to be between 3,500 and 4,000 and said there was no violence

Feds earmark $1.5M to support recovery of B.C., Indigenous tourism

B.C. money will be split between Vancouver Island and Indigenous tourism

‘We’re sick of it’: Anger over police killings shatters U.S.

Tens of thousands marched to protest the death of George Floyd

Most Read