This story is part of a special on western alienation. Click here for more coverage.
The group pushing for western independence from Canada says people are flocking to the separatist movement, and support is coming from all across the Prairie provinces.
Interest in Wexit, or “western exit,” has exploded since the October federal election. The group now has more than 272,000 members on its Facebook page, and hundreds of people have shown up to support recent Wexit rallies in Edmonton and Calgary.
Years of recession and frustration with federal government policies are fuelling western separatist sentiments.
Wexit founder Peter Downing blames Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for crushing economic growth in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
“We’ve never before seen a government in Ottawa so hostile to one area of the country,” Downing said.
“We want people here to have a high quality of life and it’s only through self-determination — which can only come through separation — that we’re going to achieve it. And we will achieve it,” Downing added.
Any talk of of western separation would need the support of First Nations, which have treaties with the Crown and traditional territory.
Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron says no one from Wexit has consulted him.
“To have this conversation, saying, ‘We’re going to separate’ — and have First Nations not support it? It’s not going to happen,'” Cameron said.
Political analyst Duane Bratt doesn’t put much stock in Wexit’s chances of separation success either.
“I don’t think it’s a serious threat, but I think it’s a voice that needs to be heard,” Bratt said.
Bratt adds that Premier Jason Kenney’s Fair Deal plan presents an additional challenge for Wexit.
“I will say to Kenney’s credit, his proposal on the Fair Deal panel – essentially ‘Firewall 2.0’ – I think is going to cut the Wexit movement off at its knees. That instead of discussing how Alberta should leave Canada, it’s about what powers Alberta can have within Canada.”