With Brian Jean’s recent announcement of an interest to merge the Wildrose Party with the Progressive Conservatives, I still believe Alberta Separatism is inevitable. However, at present, I do not believe Wildrose (or whatever is left, should a PC-merger become a reality) will be the agent of change that brings it about.
Wildrose started out as a populist revolt against the crooked PC establishment. It remains to be seen if a Wildrose-PC merger remains as such. Given that Brian Jean and Jason Kenney are both federalist, former CPC members, I am not so optimistic. While I believe Jean to be an honorable man who genuinely loves Alberta, Kenney is absolutely an “Alberta in Canada” Tory.
I believe Kenney’s charisma and personality will set the narrative if there is a merger between the two parties. That narrative will be that Alberta must remain in Canada.
In 1982, at the height of the NEP, a man named Gordon Kesler made a stunning victory in an Alberta by-election in the Olds-Didsbury riding, becoming the first non-Quebec separatist to win in a provincial election, running for the Western Canada Concept (WCC) Party. In Michael H. Wagner’s book, Alberta Separatism: Then and Now (a highly recommended read), Wagner attributes Kesler’s success both to populist sentiment in opposition to the NEP but also to in fighting among conservatives leading to vote splitting.
Addressing those two issues, there are two lessons from Kesler and the WCC Western Separatists today can learn. First, the importance of populism. Second, the unsustainable nature of victory through vote splitting.
In a future article I will address the issue of vote splitting but for this article, I will focus solely on the issue of populism.
To populism, it is important to note that today populism is increasing as a global phenomenon. Donald Trump and BREXIT are two of the most prevalent examples of our time but it is important to understand why. The institutions that surround us – the “establishment” – is a construct of eras long gone following a trajectory that is no longer reflective of the current trajectory of society.
Post World War II Euphoria gave way to the paranoia of the Cold War, which gave way to the nihilism and cynicism of the Post-Modern culture wars, which then gave way to the cognitive dissonance of the Internet age we are presently midway through.
Starting in the Post World War II era the tendency arose for things to be “bigger and better.” That bigness lent itself to a nastiness in the Cold War era, as everyone became convinced the world would end in a nuclear apocalypse. That nastiness become an irreconcilable schism in the Postmodern era, as an entire generation literally fell into two camps: Lisa Simpson academics and Bart Simpson rebels without a cause with society itself being as irreconcilable as the two iconic children who could not be more different, but could never separate from one another.
Today, we have now progressed well into the age of social media, cat memes, and gig-economics. The integration of technology has fundamentally transformed the way we exchange the most valuable commodity of all – information. However, “the establishment” is trapped with the mindset of either apocalyptic struggles with villains that no longer exist, solving problems that no longer exist and are no longer relevant, using tactics that were rendered obsolete decades ago.
That disconnect between the people in charge and the common people is the source of populism. That disconnect is not a new thing. Most certainly in Western Canada, Pierre Elliot Trudea’s middle finger giving, Montreal fighter jet contract awarding, Alberta oil revenue stealing hi-jinks in the 1980’s sowed the seeds of a disconnect that to this day are felt and remembered among the older generations.
To everyone alive and aware in that time (excluding myself, born in 1983), every time they see the face of his son and the words “Prime Minister,” they are reminded of that disconnect created decades earlier.
However, individuals my age are generally not actually educated on the Trudeau era and such discontent is hard to empathize with and understand. When we see our Moms and Dads get worked up over Trudeau, it is hard for us to relate. What we relate to, whether intentionally or not, are to the day to day struggles we have to deal with.
While for most Millennials the “struggle” languished over when “the struggle is real” is being able to cook, clean, and otherwise be a self-sufficient, well adjusted adult. To those of us looking on the horizon, it is evident that the REAL struggle will be perpetual economic stagnation as a result of theft from Ottawa making us pay the interest on debts we never agreed to pay through transfers, equalization, taxation (both progressive and on carbon), and other wealth transfer schemes.
When “the struggle” Millennials in Western Canada have to deal with are clearly and obviously a consequence of being Canadian, populist sentiment for the West to separate from Canada will explode. When the Millennials in the West “grow up” (in loosest possible way) they will join the ranks of their elders in calling for their provinces to leave Canada.
In the meantime, there is one things those of us who are awake need to do to bring about this eventual awakening.
Speak boldly about the issue of Western Separatism. To “speak boldly” means to speak persuasively, without fear or anger. Often criticisms that come up among supporters of separatism is that “we are all talk, no action.”
This is only partly true, in that much of the talk surrounding the issue is emotional rhetoric by legitimately angry individuals.
While such talk is beneficial to show the sentiment of the common people, it’s effect is like gasoline, poured onto a fire. It flares up and in an instant, it dies down.
The talk we need is the talk that will spread and resonate. Talk that is like gasoline stored in a Jerry-can waiting to be poured into the tank of an F350. With talk like that, we can load the truck up and drive the idea of Western Separatism all the way to Ottawa.
“I am angry and I want the world to know about…” attracts hucksters and charlatans.
“There are rational arguments and compelling reasons for why the Western Canadian provinces to legally secede from Canada, these are them…” informs, educates, and most importantly persuades those who know nothing about or are on the fence with separatism.
We need that kind of talk at hockey arenas, bars, mess halls, water coolers, buses, restaurants and dining room tables. That kind of talk is what will grow populist sentiment that will make Western Separatism grow like wildfire and make our independence a reality.