Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party was re-elected Monday night and that has some Alberta residents calling for separation.
The Liberals were elected as a minority government but did not win a single seat in Alberta or Saskatchewan and lost the popular vote 34 to 33 per cent to the Conservative Party.
Alberta proved once again to be a Conservative stronghold with all but one of the province’s ridings going blue — NDP candidate Heather McPherson won in Edmonton-Strathcona — and the party capturing 70 per cent of the vote.
The Liberals lost their three Alberta seats with former cabinet minister Amarjeet Sohi being defeating in Edmonton-Mill Woods to Conservative Tim Uppal, Kent Hehr losing his seat in Calgary-Centre and Randy Boissonnault being ousted in Edmonton-Centre by Conservative James Cumming.
“It really was Justin Trudeau’s policies; people have been hurting because of them, and we have to make sure we push back on Justin Trudeau so Mill Woods needs a strong voice,” Uppal said.
“Now we have a whole suite of opposition in Edmonton, no representatives in the Justin Trudeau government and I think that’s going to be a challenge for not just Edmontonians but Albertans,” Boissonnault said.
As it became evident on Monday evening the Liberals would be re-elected, #Wexit and “separation” began trending on Twitter.
Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt said he expects Alberta’s separation movement to heat up.
“You have this large cohort of Conservative MPs. How does the government function? How does the Trudeau government function? What is (Alberta Premier Jason) Kenney’s response?” Bratt said. “I think this is a real danger to national unity.”
Bratt said how much the movement grows will depend on Kenney.
“Does he try to dampen that down? He didn’t during the campaign. He put out a video in August saying, ‘We don’t want to separate from Canada, we want to separate Trudeau from office,'” Bratt said.
“Kenney then campaigns against Trudeau not just in Alberta but in Ontario and in Manitoba and he’s unsuccessful, so where do they go next?”
Mount Royal University political analyst David Taras shared similar sentiments.
“Let’s face it, the anger and alienation in western Canada is real and this government will have to deal with it,” Taras said.
“There’s a sense of just awful alienation, of really feeling deeply offended and I think the (Trudeau) government has to really take a look at what it has to do in terms of energy policy and pipelines in order to get any kind of hearing here.”
On Oct. 20, the Facebook group VoteWexit.com had just over 2,000 members. By Tuesday evening, the group’s membership had skyrocketed to more than 165,000 members. According to Storyful, the group’s membership grew over 8,000 per cent in a 36-hour period.
The group is calling for the separation of western Canada from the rest of the country.
“We’re going to be free from the blood-sucking, parasitic relationship we have with eastern Canada right now,” Wexit Alberta founder Peter Downing said.
“It’s huge. We’ve been saying all along, if Justin Trudeau gets elected again, the separatist movement is going to explode and it did. And we’re seeing it right now. People are tired.”
Downing said the group is calling for a referendum on separation.
“All of our followers are emailing Jason Kenney and their respective MLAs saying we want a referendum on separation,” he said Tuesday.
“Don’t be scared. If it’s your identity, it’s super easy to add west or western to Canadian. You’re not losing your identity, you’re not becoming an America. We’re not going to join the States, that’s not what we’re about.”
However, other social media users believe any discussion of separation is unrealistic and ridiculous.
In his victory speech, Trudeau addressed Alberta and Saskatchewan.
“Know that you are an essential part of our great country. I’ve heard your frustration and I want to be there to support you. Let us all work hard to bring our country together.”
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said “the results speak for themselves.”
“Two entire provinces rejected the Liberal government,” he said Tuesday morning. “We’re going to do everything we can to fight for a united Canada.”
Bratt said he believes the Trudeau government will work to complete the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, but added that Albertans should expect the Liberals to continue pursuing policies many in Alberta oppose.
“If you’re looking for (Trudeau) to roll back the federal carbon tax, it ain’t going to happen. You think he’s going to roll back Bill C-69? Bill C-48? No, it’s not going to happen. Basically, all the issues Alberta wanted — those aren’t going to happen,” Bratt said.
The mayors of Alberta’s two major cities both congratulated Trudeau on Twitter and added their hope that the federal government will work with Edmonton and Calgary on issues that are important to the cities.
Speaking from city hall Tuesday, Iveson said he will continue to be a voice for Edmonton and is confident the city’s interests will be represented in Ottawa.
“Edmontonians have spoken and Albertans have spoken. There’s clearly a lot of anger and I think what’s needed now more than ever is solutions and a commitment to work together,” he said.
“It may mean I’m on a plane a little bit more than I had intended to but I’m happy to play that role of connectivity for our city notwithstanding the electoral map.”