by Dan Driedgert, Kemptville resident
The election of 2019 is now history. We are now left with a deeply divided country. So much so, that the Western separatist movement grew by 170,000 members in less than 24 hours after the closing of the polls. Few people in central Canada have any comprehension of Western discontent. Westerners see themselves in an impossible scenario since the election.
Historically they have repeatedly been the sacrificial lamb as Ontario and Quebec have determined major policy issues. They legitimately feel that most issues are decided by Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto while Alberta has carried the weight of a financial formula of equalization payments that remains in place even though the days of a prosperous oil patch are long gone.
This is not the first time that separation has seriously been debated as the only viable option. I remember all too well as a young person growing up in Western Canada that the West was represented by only three members on the ruling side of the government. It means that for the next four years (if the government stays in power and maybe longer) that the West has no representation on major issues. This frustration will naturally grow during this government’s mandate. I commend Justin Trudeau in that he did not follow his father in referring to the West as “Dirty Dogs,” for not voting for him, as his father did. In that one act Pierre Trudeau engraved his name in the folklore of the West.
This time Western separation has to be taken seriously. We have an adult generation whose predominant political lifelong view is one of frustration with the political process of dominance from Central Canada. The presence of the Bloc in parliament, speaking for the issues of Quebec, will only exacerbate the voice of the West. The repeated demise of the oil patch by first Pierre Trudeau, with his national energy program, and the repetitious demise under Justin with his value on jobs in Quebec, but no regard for the thousands of people put out of work in Alberta, has made this the time to act. The rhetoric on saving jobs during the SNC scandal had a very hollow ring in Western Canada. They could only conclude that a job in Quebec was somehow worth more than a job in Alberta. The reality is that we have a Prime Minister who is incapable of thinking for the West. Knowing his past track record and not having representation in government will only fast track separation. A recent poll stated that 71% of Albertans believe that the policies of the federal government have hurt Alberta.
Westerners will never comprehend why Central Canada prefers to purchase its petroleum from offshore sources such as Saudi Arabia, and pride ourselves in the export of coal to the far East. We have the technology for cleaner development of these resources than the countries we support. For instance, when the petroleum sector was developed in the North Sea, they sent personnel to Alberta to learn how it could be done in the most environmentally friendly manner possible. They recognized Alberta as having world leading technology. We not only hire personnel in other countries to produce our products at a higher rate of contamination, but we add the cost and contamination of shipping in both directions.
The present political scenario in Canada is quickly reverting to tribalism. I use that term having some personal experience of working with people who had a tribal background. Tribalism is fashioned by a sense of belonging (or not belonging), like being part of a gang. Tribalism instills fear. It also initiates sudden and unchangeable actions. This is a time for elder statesmen (male and female) to have a moderating voice. We have too much at stake in Canada as we know it to simply allow it to be carved up into five or six tribal states. This is a time to extend grace. A time to listen as never before. A time to hear the frustration of Western Canada.