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The Truth about Western Separatism

The Wexit crew are noisy. But are they in step with voters?

David Climenhaga 9 Apr 2024Alberta Politics

David J. Climenhaga is an award-winning journalist, author, post-secondary teacher, poet and trade union communicator. He blogs at AlbertaPolitics.ca. Follow him on X @djclimenhaga.

Let’s imagine a scenario that even a year ago would have seemed all but impossible but is now within the realm of possibility.

First, let’s assume that British Columbia’s NDP government is re-elected in the provincial general election that is scheduled to take place on Oct. 19.

Recent polling suggests that Premier David Eby’s New Democrats will be re-elected with a comfortable majority.

This is not a sure thing, of course. The BC NDP has shown before that it is capable of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Moreover, the undeniably competent John Horgan is no longer at the party’s helm while he enjoys a new life of embassy parties and chauffeured limousines as Canada’s ambassador to Germany.

Still, with B.C.’s conservative opposition divided into two parties — the still-untested Conservative Party of BC and the faltering and inaccurately named BC United party (formerly the BC Liberals, who were really conservatives) — the balance of probabilities suggests that the NDP will win handily.

Then, let’s imagine that the NDP led by Carla Beck manages to win in Saskatchewan in the provincial election that must be held in that province on or before Oct. 28.

For a long time, the conservative Saskatchewan Party seemed to own the keys to the legislature building in Regina. Given the vagaries of the first-past-the-post electoral system, gerrymandering that favours rural ridings and the MAGAfication of much of rural Western Canada, that lock has been widely assumed to be unbreakable.

It may still be. The polls still favour the Saskatchewan Party. But Premier Scott Moe is so ridiculously inept that it almost seems possible he could find a way to lose the election.

So, just for fun, let’s imagine that Moe manages that feat and the NDP forms government in Regina this fall.

Meanwhile, there’s no need to imagine that the New Democrats might win enough seats to form a majority government in Manitoba. They already have.

On Oct. 3 last year, NDP Leader Wab Kinew led Manitoba’s New Democrats to a majority victory, becoming the first Canadian premier of First Nations descent in the process.

Finally, let’s assume that the Alberta NDP chooses a popular and capable new leader and begins to climb steadily in the polls.

Alas, no election is scheduled or likely to happen here in Wild Rose Country until 2027, giving the United Conservative Party gong show led by Premier Danielle Smith, her office manager and Svengali Rob Anderson and Take Back Alberta founder and titular chief financial officer David Parker plenty of time to spin out more unpopular and destructive policies.

Still, my question is this: What happens to Wexit, Wexitry and the Wexiteers in the event that, leading up to Alberta’s 2027 election, it starts to look as if there could be a clean sweep across the western provinces of... New Democrats?

Wexit, of course, is the rather embarrassing coinage, after Brexit (remember that, and what a success it was?), for western Canadian separatism from Canada.

The idea has enjoyed surprising support in geographically constrained MAGA circles in parts of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, especially along the southern border with the United States. It is a non-starter in any community with a population higher than about 100,000.

Wexitry is how we will describe western separatism generally, whether the Alberta-only variety or the damp kind of Wexit dream that also involves coastal British Columbia.

So how will the Wexiteers and would-be sovereign citizens surrounding and advising Smith react to the emergence of circumstances that undermine one of the central tenets of their conspiracy-theorizing northern MAGA faith?

That is, that western Canadians are, without exception — but for a few woke snowflakes living in the vicinity of big-city universities — horny-handed yeomen firm in their gender roles and Q-adjacent convictions.

This is, of course, utter pish-posh, but its devout believers are unlikely to react maturely in the face of evidence they are deluded.

So it is safe to say that many of them will likely respond with hysterical and hateful rhetoric, blockades and more blockades, tall tales about stolen elections and threats of violence at some indeterminate near-future date as we have already seen on many occasions from the UCP’s Take Back Alberta faction.

The effect of this kind of undisciplined behaviour by the western Canadian right, of course, would not likely increase its popularity in any region or province, even on the Prairies, even in Alberta.

This has implications for the next federal election as well, since polling suggests that the Conservative Party of Canada led by Pierre Poilievre is likely to dominate Parliament after the federal election that must take place before Oct. 20, 2025.

Depending on the timing of the federal vote, though, violent separatist rhetoric in Alberta and Saskatchewan has the potential to create serious problems for Poilievre. Certainly he will be asked what he proposes to do about it.

Will he be able to keep his MAGA-infested Prairie caucus under control before the election? Will he face their wrath after the election if he doesn’t knuckle under to their extremism in a pan-Canadian repeat of Smith’s subservience to the Take Back Alberta crowd?

Chances are good, if Poilievre wins but takes that route, that within a year he’ll be the most hated man in Canada — a path that should be familiar to anyone who observed the short, unhappy provincial political career of former UCP premier Jason Kenney.

Meanwhile, back in Alberta, in the face of a popular and effective Opposition leader, would the Wexit enthusiasts in the premier’s office continue pushing their wildly unpopular schemes to grab the Canada Pension Plan and hand the dough over to the unreliable investors at the Alberta Investment Management Corp. and thence to the oil industry, run the RCMP out of the province and set up their own politically blinkered enforcement force and foment a MAGA takeover of Alberta’s city councils by encouraging urban political parties with loosey-goosey financing rules?

Or would they feel the need to moderate their policies, setting their own MAGA base aflame?

These are interesting questions that cannot be answered right now, but that would doubtless have to be in the face of an Orange Wave, as we say in Alberta, swamping Western Canada’s legislatures.

Plus, looking a bit ahead, would Wexit suddenly look a lot more appealing to the residents of four social democratic provinces in Western Canada, facing a MAGA government in Ottawa determined to dismantle Confederation as if it were Alberta Health Services?

Beats me. But brace yourselves. Whatever happens, it’s going to get weird!  [Tyee]

Read more: Politics, Alberta

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