Peter Downing, the man pushing Wexit Canada, the federal branch of the Western Canada Sovereignty Movement, maybe 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.
Downing has been the closest thing to an organizer for an Alberta separation movement.
Back in the 1970 and 80’s, 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 by-election 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 Assoc., 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 he has eyes 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 the Facebook and the 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. They are also one generation removed of Canadian tradition, heritage and pride. Instead of world war-induced patriotism, distinct memories of the creation of the national anthem and the patriation of the Constitution, to the younger crowd, nationalism is a maple leaf on the front of a sports jersey or a fun party-like demonstration of empty patriotism on July 1.
Wexit seem to be a bit more organized and calculating. 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 publication 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 of provincial independence. This is scheduled on Oct. 18, 2021.
The Western Standard is operated by Wildrose Media Corp. which lists its president and CEO as Derek Fildebrandt, founder and former leader of the Freedom Conservative Party of Alberta. He was also with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and of course had a memorable stint as MLA from 2015-2019.
In addition, 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 release discusses the impending federal registration of Wexit Canada as an official political party with Elections Canada. Seemingly not afraid to hold back, a Nov. 1 press release was labelled: “Wexit Goes Thermonuclear, Alberta Separation Imminent.”
Will 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 is 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 152 years of a head start on this fledgling movement. We will all find out a lot about the moxy of Downing and his closest supporters.
Without this the only difference between western separatism from thirty 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 this negativity has faded, everyone goes back to status quo… no matter how begrudging that is for many.
Ryan Dahlman is the managing editor of Prairie Post East and Prairie Post West