Wexit Explained: Why the Desire to Separate from Canada?

Taylor Johnson, Queens University.

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Prior to the events of Octobers Federal election, resentment toward Ottawa continued to grow in Western Canada, particularly in Alberta. That being said, this resentment is nothing new. Separatist candidates have run in Alberta since the 1930s, but have never managed to control power within the province.

This time around, Albertans are primarily upset with Ottawa about their representation, resource management, and equalisation. As such, it is no surprise that the Liberals failed to win a single seat in Alberta, with the Conservative Party winning 33 of the provinces 34 seats. Moreover, Wexit Canada, a new separatist movement, was recently formed after a hashtag with the same name trended on social media on election night. The group is currently applying with Elections Canada in hopes to be on the Alberta ballot for the next Federal election.

In regard to representation, Albertas 34 seats equate to just over 10% of Canadas Federal parliament while maintaining 11% of Canadas provincial population. One could argue that Alberta has fair representation based on this population, but many speculate whether this representation is fair once Canadas GDP is called into play. Alberta contributes 17% of Canadas GDP, so Albertans question whether or not they receive fair treatment in Parliament given the fact that they produce at a surplus for Canada as a whole.

Similarly, the Federal government takes money from Alberta in the form of equalisation payments. These payments are then made from the Government of Canada to provincial governments with weak economies. Granted, Alberta has not received a payment in over 50 years, but has been asked to contribute billions every year due to their strong economy. They have even been asked to contribute during financial crises, like the period between 2014-16 where an oversupply of oil caused more than 100,000 jobs to be lost in the province. 

Perhaps Albertans desire to separate from Canada due to the uncertainty of the provinces main export, oil. In 2018, the Federal government bought the Trans Mountain Pipeline from a private corporation and spent billions to triple its capacity. Although Justin Trudeau made the decision to expand its capacity, Albertans were angry with the projects timing and mismanagement. In their view, Justin Trudeau and the Liberals werent doing enough to push the pipelines development through parliament amid protest from the coalition government in British Columbia.

On June 18th, the federal government announced the green light for the Trans Mountain Pipeline, however it appears to be too little too late. The results from the election speak for themselves, and Alberta remains upset with their role in Canada. The growing resentment out West and the rise of a separatist group in the House of Parliament, the Bloq Quebecois, should make all Canadians wonder; is our system broken, and can we fix it? 

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Sources

Bartko, K. (2019, November 6). The West Wants Out: Alberta separatist group Wexit Canada seeking federal political party status. Retrieved from https://globalnews.ca/news/6129640/wexit-canada-separatist-group-elections-canada/.

CBC. Federal election 2019 live results. (2019, October 21). Retrieved from https://newsinteractives.cbc.ca/elections/federal/2019/results/.

Connolly, A. (2019, June 19). Trans Mountain pipeline expansion gets green light to proceed. Retrieved from https://globalnews.ca/news/5403711/trans-mountain-pipeline-approved/.

Elections Canada. House of Commons Seat Allocation by Province. (2018, August 27). Retrieved from https://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=res&dir=cir/red/allo&document=index&lang=e.

Levinson-King, R. (2019, October 11). Wexit: Why some Albertans want to separate from Canada. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-49899113.

Murphy, J. (2018, November 26). Trans Mountain: The billion-dollar oil pipeline Canadians own and can’t build. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-45972346.