What started as a social media trend shortly after the federal election in October seems to be well alive a month later. And for once, Quebec is not the misunderstood child behind this separation movement.
#Wexit is the result of Alberta and Saskatchewan standing strongly for Tories in a mixed sea of orange NDP and red Liberals.
According to change.org, a petition in favour of Alberta’s separation from the rest of Canada was created the very same night as the election’s results were unfolding. Now, it has more than 115,000 signatures. The VoteWexit Facebook group also reported as many as 40,000 new members only a few hours after the re-election of Trudeau’s government.
While the move comes as a Western alliance between Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, the latter is mostly the front leader. On Nov. 5, Wexit founder Peter Downing officially began the registration of becoming a federal political party with Election Canada. In a five-page, open letter to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, Downing wrote that “we cannot remain passive spectators in the filming of our own economic and political destruction.[…] by separating from Canada, we will keep our $50 billion in taxes right here at home, making life better for the people who live here.”
“This is not about anger Mr. Kenney. It is about survival,” argued Downing.
But how much weight does this movement actually have? Historically, this is not the first time that Canada has been faced with western alienation. It is an ongoing pattern throughout the past decades. Both the Social Credit Party and the Reform Party were partly a result of western provinces feeling that Ottawa was not supporting their interests.
Yet, we have to be careful. The copious social media platforms that didn’t exist back then now allow for a quicker spread of social movements. In an interview with the CBC, political scientist Jared Wesley warned about the danger of taking this issue lightly.
“This is a different kind of movement,” Wesley said. “We’ve seen it generate success south of the border and in Europe. I think political elites ignore it at their peril but they have to be very careful when they provide legitimacy to what, right now, is a pretty fringe movement.”
Graphic by Victoria Blair