Seven days have now passed since an explosion of discontent towards Canada’s confederation was unleashed by Justin Trudeau’s reelection. In Quebec, a once buried Bloc Quebecois shattered their meagre expectations, winning the third most seats in the House of Commons; a testament to our electoral system, as well as the NDP’s incompetency.
A robust Bloc Quebecois evidently poses a direct risk to the health of Canadian unity. This, however, will cause little panic in Ottawa’s bureaucracies. Canada has survived far more intimidating threats from Quebec City— and we currently have a Bloc Quebecois who could not be less confident in their founding principle of sovereignty at all cost.
Despite Quebec’s independence being as distant as it may have ever been, the Prime Minister’s Office may be trembling at the idea of Wexit. It is, of course, difficult to ascertain whether Alberta, Saskatchewan, and northern British Columbia are sober with their threats, or whether it is just empty browbeating for a better deal within Canada’s economic union, taking a page out of Quebec’s playbook.
Whatever the case, despite there being no serious politician who has yet taken up the separatist mantle, they are ready to do so, particularly the seasoned politician Jason Kenney. The Alberta Premier looks ready to capitalize on the visceral frustration that western Canada now has for Laurentian Canada; seen through the proposed equalization referendum.
Unlike the conception of other separatist movements, the Wexit movement was founded after the advent of social media. It has been worrying to see the frustration of western Canadians grow, without any signs of dissipation. Although the Wexit movement has become synonymous with Alberta’s exit, even the traditionally moderate British Columbians have expressed their irritation: As one B.C.Conservative put it, “people in Northern British Columbia are pissed, and they’re ready to leave too.”
Like most mobilizing political discontent, the sheer scale of this unrest derives largely from a stagnating economy that has shadowed the prairies. The Conservative Party, for instance, performed overwhelmingly in Cariboo-Prince George (winning 53% of the votes) and Peace River (where they won 70% of the popular vote). In these ridings lie towns and cities devastated by the atrophy of the lumber industry.
Likewise in Alberta, an artificial, and entirely avoidable recession was triggered through the uncertainty over the TMX pipeline’s construction, created directly by an unapologetic Ottawa. It must seem additionally offensive, then, that Alberta has sent $476 billion to Quebec in the past 58 years. Due to this, it is hardly surprising that Alberta voted with such force for Scheer’s Conservatives. As Jason Kenney noted in his post-election press conference, “Many Albertans feel betrayed… we are tired.”
It is difficult to gauge where all this is going. The 2019 election made clear that only a calamitous error from the Liberal’s will allow the Conservatives to govern again. The coalition Scheer formed between westerners and middle-class Canadians will continue to strain so long as the Conservatives continue to neglect environmentalism.
It is starkly obvious that the Tories are due a full reinvention in order to win, similar to what Harper achieved in 2006. If this occurs it will almost certainly require a move away from the support of pro-oil legislation, rather than towards it, which would further alienate the western provinces.
Perhaps we are indeed on the verge of a sovereign western Canada. Capitulation is not in their blood: especially if this forfeit would invoke poverty for their natural resource-rich economy. If this is to be diverted, Ottawa must pay serious attention to the province otherwise the very unity of Canada is at stake.