So, two things caught my eye:
- First, a several-month-old article in ‘American Thinker‘ ~ which I regard as a pretty ‘hard-right‘ news source ~ which deals, I think, reasonably fairly with the underlying issues behind the Wester/Alberta separatist movement; and
- Second, a very recent article on the BBC News website headlined: “Wexit: Why some Albertans want to separate from Canada.”
The BBC piece quotes Professor Barry Cooper, a fourth-generation Albertan and a political scientist who is “linked to the “Calgary school”, a group of academics at the University of Calgary whose work focused on western interests, and in some cases conservative politics.” Dr Cooper says that ““Albertans and Saskatchewanians are pissed off because they haven’t found a voice in Ottawa … [and, he adds] … It’s a failure of trying to understand the other – we don’t share the same myths about what the country looks like, and we never have.”“
“Today,” the BBC article says, “Albertans’ common concerns can be summarised with three words: representation, equalisation and oil.” This is old news to Canadians, but the BBC explains that “With 34 seats, Alberta takes up only about 10% of Canada’s parliament, the House of Commons. But economically, the oil-producing province contributes 17% to the country’s GDP … [and] … Then there are the equalisation payments, the money that “have not” provinces receive from the federal government. Alberta contributes billions a year to the federal tax pool because of its strong economy, but has not received a payment since 1965 … [and, surprisingly to many] … That remained true even when Alberta was hit with its worst financial crisis in decades … [when] … Between 2014-16, an overabundance of supply caused the worldwide price of oil to plummet, which led to the loss of more than 100,000 jobs in the province and a full-on recession … [further] … Since then, the economic recovery has been fragile, especially as several pipeline projects hang in limbo … [and] … That has left many Albertans feeling anxious and ignored, says Peter Downing, a right-wing political muckraker … [who says that] … “We’ve always been okay to help other parts of the country when they’ve been in need … [but] … when we’ve been in need, we’ve been nothing but kicked all the way around.”“
The problems, the deep sense of unfairness are not new. What is newer is how many people are commenting on them:
There’s a lot more like that and what this all says to me is that Western separatism is on the rise again, as it was when Pierre Trudeau rather infamously gave the West the “one-finger salute” (in Salmon Arm, BC in 1982) and it is rising, again, for the same reason: the perception that the national government, in Ottawa, governs FOR the Laurential Elites in Southern Ontario and in Québec while ignoring or not even considering the problems and aspirations of the West.
I think that we had too much Québec in Ottawa since about 1940. During World War II Prime Minister Mackenzie King seemed, to many, including to people at sea and on the front lines, to pay more attention to “understanding” Québec’s anti-war feelings than he did on actually defeating the Nazis. In the remaining period Prime Ministers St Laurent (1948-57), Trudeau (1968-84), Mulroney (1984-1993), Chrétien (1993-2003), Martin (2005-2005) and Trudeau (2015-19) have all represented Québec constituencies. I hasten to add that I think M. St Laurent was one of Canada’s best-ever prime ministers, maybe the best ever. But, in 60+ years (1948-2019) non-Québecers have led the government for only 13 years. In those six decades ~ especially for 50 years after Jean Lasage launched the “révolution tranquille” (the quiet revolution) in 1960 ~ Québec’s internal debate about the fate of the Franch language in North America (grim, in the long term) and Québec’s place in the world (insignificant) dominated Canadian politics until after 2010, when former BQ founder and leader and later Québec premier Lucien Bouchard effectively declared that sovereignty did not offer real solutions to Québec’s really serious socio-economic problems. This is not to say that Quêbec doesn’t matter; it is Canada’s second-largest province, occupying 15% of Canada’s landmass and having nearly ¼ of Canada’s population while accounting for just under 20% of Canada’s GDP. It matters, but so does the West (BC, AB, SK, MB ~ population 11.5 million vs. Québec’s 8.2 million) accounts for 35% of Canada’s GDP while Ontario (population 14+ million) accounts for almost 40%. In socio-economic terms, the cart has been leading the horse for nearly ⅓ of Canada’s history as an independent state. That message is not lost on the West … it hurts, too.
I have no sympathy ~ zero, nada, zilch ~ for separatists in Alberta or Québec. They are all, every single one of them, crybabies who want to blame others for deficiencies in their own societies. In the historical long-term, I guess that Canada will disintegrate; Québec will become English speaking; the USA will disintegrate, too; three or four new states, perhaps federations will grow up in North America, eventually uniting into one … perhaps two.
But, for now, the separatist fires have once again been stoked: this time in Alberta, and this time the fire was set and the flames were fanned by Prime Minister Trudeau who seems to be campaigning against Ontario and Alberta, rather than against the Conservatives. The flames are also being fanned by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney who is trying to paint Trudeau’s national government (rather than e.g. the left-wing governments in BC and Québec and an economically ignorant environmental movement) as Alberta’s enemy. Neither is serving Canada well.
My guess is that the Wexit will wither and die ~ much as Québec separatism withered and died. Albertans and Westerners, in general, are still far, far more “attached” to Canada than are Québecers and they are, also, far more conscious of the benefits of being part of Canada. But the fact that the issue is alive again is because of Justin Trudeau. He set this fire and he is making it hotter and brighter. He, like his father, has failed Canada because he, like his father, cannot imagine a united country beyond the Toronto-Ottawa_Montréal Québec City corridor when the Laurentian Elites live.