Talk of Alberta separation is nothing new. I remember hearing it 40 years ago when I was a kid.
This past spring at least one political party in the provincial election used Alberta separation as their primary platform.
The Alberta Independence Party, led by Dave Bjorkman, fielded an impressive 63 candidates across the province, not bad for a new party. They earned 13,531 votes in total, which is less than one per cent of the popular vote. In comparison, another new party, the Alberta Party led by former Edmonton mayor Stephan Mandel, garnered 171,996 votes, just over nine per cent of the popular vote. That’s not bad for a brand new party.
More talk of separation came up recently as a new group, Wexit Alberta (a play on the U.K.’s Brexit flap), led by founder Peter Downing, toured several parts of this great province discussing separation. They mentioned at least one opinion poll recently conducted that quoted a number as 30 per cent of Albertans support separation. I’m not sure where this outfit will go, but they do make some very good points. As noted, the Toronto area currently has 25 MPs representing it while the Province of Alberta has 34; we just barely squeak out past one city in eastern Canada.
Other pundits mused that, if Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is re-elected this fall, that number could “easily double.” I’m not convinced that’s true, but another term of Prime Minister Trudeau certainly isn’t going to eliminate separation talk.
Experts say one of the biggest factors contributing to talk of separation is the way in which our federal government is or has been handling pipelines. While the Tran mountain pipeline project suffered from serious delays in British Columbia which resulted in the original applicant, Kinder Morgan, walking away.
Some critics claimed the federal government should have prevented bickering between Alberta and British Columbia over the pipeline project. Trudeau must have known Kinder Morgan bailing out was a serious gaff that harmed Canada’s international reputation as a positive place to do business; the federal government, under the Canadian Development Investment Corporation, paid Kinder Morgan $4.5 billion for the project.
Even more, Alberta has usually been the headquarters of what has been called “western alienation,” a broad term to describe a lack of respect or even interest in the affairs of Western Canada by the east, including the federal government.
I remember discussing this in college with a number of my friends who were from Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes. One of my friends said something to the effect, “Why don’t you crybabies shut up? All parts of Canada have problems, not just Alberta.”
My opinion is that western alienation stems from the fact the western provinces, including Alberta, have contributed much to this country, including vast financial support for other parts of it but are not shown equal respect with other, more populous provinces due to the fact politicians like Justin Trudeau know he doesn’t need Alberta to get elected.
We are as much an equal partner as any province, including Ontario, and we have earned respect, certainly much more than Trudeau has been showing us lately.
Talk of separation echoes our provincial motto, “Fortis et liber,” which means “Strong and free.”
Stu Salkeld is editor of The Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the paper.