‘We need to unify Canada’: MPs explain lack of ‘appetite’ for Wexit in B.C.

A map showing the results from the 2019 federal election. Elections Canada

The waves of Wexit are loudly rolling across Alberta and Saskatchewan, but when it comes to B.C., the separation surge appears to be silently crashing into the Rocky Mountains.

A recent poll by Ipsos says 33 per cent of Albertans said yes when asked if their province would be better off if it separated from Canada – eight points higher than a year ago.

In Saskatchewan, the number of respondents who said yes to the same question was 27 per cent, up nine points.

In B.C., though, separation support was just 13 per cent.

READ MORE: Separatist sentiment in Alberta, Saskatchewan at ‘historic’ highs: Ipsos poll

With that in mind, two MPs from B.C.’s Southern Interior said while they understand the ire aimed at Ottawa, separation is not in the nation’s best interest.

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Notably, the eastern half of B.C. is heavily represented by Conservative blue, with just one pocket of NDP orange.

The Conservative MP for Kelowna-Lake Country, Tracy Gray, said “when you look at entire provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan making it clear to the Trudeau Liberals that they reject their policies … people feel, in large geographic areas, unheard. And as we’ve seen in this recent election, the separatist Bloc Quebecois is back on the rise as well.”

Gray said she heard frustrations while door-knocking and meeting with constituents during the campaign.

“A lot of our constituents here have strong ties to Alberta and Saskatchewan, and have similar issues that are important to them – things like supporting our energy sectors, ensuring that there’s stability in regulation.

“I think what’s happening is you see this pent-up frustration of not being heard and not taking job losses and issues seriously.”

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Gray said “look at the over-arching general policies in the way of taxation and carbon tax and pipelines and job losses. Those are sort of the root of what we’re seeing rise up. That’s where this is coming from and we need to take it seriously.”

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Asked if she was for Wexit or against it, Gray said “this is an uprising of people. We need to unify Canada. That’s what we need to focus on and that’s where our focus needs to be.”

READ MORE: The West Wants Out: Alberta separatist group Wexit Canada seeking federal political party status

Meanwhile, the NDP MP for South Okanagan-West Kootenay, Richard Cannings, said “I haven’t heard any rumblings (of separation) in B.C., at least not in my circles or people who contacted me.

“I don’t think there’s any local appetite for it, here in the B.C. Interior, at least not in the Okanagan.”

“I’m not hearing anything.”

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Cannings said he thinks the flames of Wexit have been fanned by a political narrative of Canada against Alberta, “and, really, could be nothing farther from the truth.”

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He said “we just finished a hard-fought campaign. We had 13 or 14 all-candidates forums in my riding and I’m always surprised at these events how much we have in common. When you have a question, you have the Conservative agreeing with the Liberal, and the NDP agreeing with the People’s Party.”

Cannings said that what matters most to Canadians is a healthy economy, affordable housing and a clean environment.

“We may have some differences about how we want to achieve those goals, but we really have all that in common. And to take some minor differences around, say a pipeline, and to fan that into ‘we can’t possibly stay in Canada,’ that’s irresponsible,” he said.

“That’s dangerous on the part of Conservative politicians who are using this for political gain.”

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Cannings added “I’m not trying to downplay the difficulties Alberta is in. A lot of people in Alberta are hurting; they’ve lost their jobs or they feel they’re going to lose their jobs and we certainly have to do something to help those people,” he said. “But it doesn’t mean start fanning the flames of separatism for your own political ends. That’s beyond the pale and something we should watch out for.”

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Global News also contacted B.C. Conservative MPs Mel Arnold (North Okanagan-Shuswap) and Dan Albas (Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola) earlier in the week but has yet to hear back from them.

READ MORE: Landlocked oil problem would not be solved by Wexit: expert

Meanwhile, it appears the separatist movement in B.C. is heating up, at least on social media.

New Westminster small business owner Lee Smith operates the Wexit BC Facebook page, which has grown to more than 13,000 members since its inception two weeks ago.

He said the response “has been incredible” and those behind the movement are in the process of registering as a political party in B.C.

“I think it boils down to an issue of taxation without representation; so we pay a lot here in B.C. our cost of living is extremely high and we look at the funding that goes to Ontario and Quebec from our province and it’s wrong, our own people suffer all the time,” he said on Sunday.

Smith added that he doesn’t expect to receive public support for separation from current political representatives.

“Our separation is not in their best interests. It is not in the interest of professional politicians,” he said.