By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on November 20, 2019.
Peter Downing, the man pushing Wexit Canada, the federal branch of the Western Canada Sovereignty Movement, may be becoming an important figure in Alberta politics.
Never heard of him? According to an Aug. 25 National Post story he was a former RCMP officer and soldier who has been in politics on a provincial level.
Seemingly not afraid to hold back, a Nov. 1 press release was labelled: “Wexit Goes Thermonuclear, Alberta Separation Imminent.”
Downing has been the closest thing to an organizer for an Alberta separation movement.
Back in the 1970s and ’80s, the only other time in recent memory western separation was even more than a punch line to coffee shop discussions, there were many angry westerners who felt the National Energy Policy was nothing short of robbery.
In fact, the feeling was so strong that in 1982 Gordon Kesler was elected in a byelection in Olds-Didsbury under the Western Canada Concept flag. In 2004, then-premier Ralph Klein was quoted in a magazine saying that 25 per cent of Albertans wanted to separate.
There has been a string of parties/political movements which amounted to people with either too much time or too much money who wanted to be heard but couldn’t quite get traction: West-Fed; Independent Alberta Association, Alberta Independence Party, Alberta First Party, Freedom Conservative Party, etc.
The recent movement in Alberta has come a long ways since the days of Social Credit where supporters of SoCred premier William Aberhart wanted to leave Canada in the midst of the 1930s Depression. Aberhart didn’t want to go and neither does current premier Jason Kenney, who looks like he has eyes on being prime minister one day. This presents an interesting dilemma if Wexit gains more traction.
There has to be a lot to happen for Downing to garner major support, financial, public and otherwise.
Organizational wise, it is difficult to tell from the outside. There seems to be a big push with social media. You would expect them to have Facebook and Twitter with #WEXIT, but a younger generation seems to be getting involved in this movement. Stereotypically, the under-40 crowd has higher personal expectations and right now they don’t like what is the current political and economic landscape is looking like.
Take for example the pushing-the-envelope actions of Jason Wilson, a youngish county councillor for Wheatland County which is based in Strathmore. A Nov. 5 report out of the Western Standard, operated by Derek Fildebrandt, founder and former leader of the Freedom Conservative Party of Alberta, states Wilson created a county resolution that a had a must-change list to Confederation. If those changes aren’t satisfied, then Wheatland County would organize a referendum for county residents asking about their desire for provincial independence. This is scheduled on Oct. 18, 2021.
A Nov. 4 Wexit rally in Edmonton attracted 700 people and has 500 signatures, twice the amount needed to formally register as a federal party.
A Wexit event took place in Medicine Hat recently.
Would and could separation ever happen? It depends on who gets on board.
The anger is real. The feelings of alienation and feeling cheated both on a financial standpoint and taken for granted perspective are real.
This Wexit organization needs to provide proof this is a good idea to everyone, not just those immediately and personally affected by the actions of an oblivious federal Liberal party. A solid actual business and political plan needs a solid foundation with real goals, real plans to deal with the mountain of details required to actually separate. Not the bravado of a jilted child who is running away from home.
Builders, not critics, are needed for this separatist movement to work. After all, Canada has a 152-year head start on this fledgling movement. We will all find out a lot about the moxy of Downing and his closest supporters.
The only difference between western separatism from 30 years ago to today is that coffee shops, water coolers and quonsets have been replaced by Facebook, YouTube and emails. A lot of (well thought out) anger but after the anger has faded, everyone goes back to status quo – no matter how begrudging that is for many.
An editorial from the Medicine Hat News