Provincial politics in Alberta can be hard to stomach sometimes. The kind of overwrought partisanship that comes with competitive electoral politics is new for many people in Alberta, and it can sometime be distasteful and feel alienating.
But this weekend we saw a bit of hope on a local level.
Waking up Saturday morning, Janis Irwin, the MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood, found out that someone had spray-painted “ANTIFA LIAR” in big red letters on the front window of her 112th Avenue constituency office.
Only less than two-years into her first-term as MLA, Janis is probably is one of the hardest working constituency MLAs I know.
She’s my MLA, so it is hard not to notice that she shows up to almost every community event.
If there is something happening in the area, she’s there. If there is a neighbourhood clean up event, she’s probably there. She really exemplifies public service and community spirit.
She is also no slouch when it comes to speaking out against injustice and discrimination in Alberta, especially to her huge social media following.
So it was perhaps no surprise that without being prompted, the community stepped up to help Janis on that cold Saturday morning.
And within hours, along with hundreds of messages of support on social media, cut-out paper hearts and messages of support covered the office door and the window where the graffiti had been.
On a weekend where tiki torch-carrying racists openly marched on the streets of Alberta’s largest city, it is easy to be dismayed and grossed out by politics. But the community response in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood gives a glimmer of hope that ordinary people are standing up and supporting good people in politics who speak out against hate and discrimination.
Keep up the good work, Janis. We’ve got your back.
It’s a silly name and a bad idea, but that isn’t stopping the latest version of Alberta’s separatist movement: Wexit.
Apparently inspired by Brexit, Grexit, Albexit, and a long list of other “-exit” suffix terms that have entered our daily conversations over the past few years, Wexit (Western-exit, I assume) has been holding meetings across the province promoting an agenda for an independent Alberta to “Enhance economic, military, and geo-political cooperation with the United States of America” and for a “Head of state to be an elected President of Alberta with an appointed cabinet.”
One of the largest donors to Alberta Fights Back during Alberta’s 2019 election was Sharon Maclise, a former Wildrose Party candidate and interim leader of the Alberta Freedom Alliance, an unregistered political party promoting Alberta’s separation from Canada.
The Wexit group’s main grievances appear to revolve mainly around Justin Trudeau being Prime Minister, the carbon tax, unemployment levels, and the delay in construction of the Trans-Mountain Pipeline expansion (which is now owned by the Government of Canada). But the grievances are broader among some of the group’s supporters, including one guest speaker at a recent Wexit meeting in Red Deer who named American billionaire George Soros and Antifa as enemies of Alberta.
It is not clear how many people have actually attended the Wexit meetings, but it is not difficult to understand why separatists in western Canada feel emboldened these days.
Heated political rhetoric coming from Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and his cabinet ministers about the threat posed to Alberta by Trudeau, socialists, Quebec, equalization, and nefarious foreign-funded environmental groups adds fuel to the flames of those who feel Alberta has no place in Canada or would actively campaign for separation. Kenney quickly tried to rebuke any criticism that he is anything but a dedicated federalist, but it is clear that he is stoking regional grievances in order to achieve his short-term political goal of defeating Trudeau’s Liberals in October’s federal election.
The Wexit groups also have the support of some of Kenney’s former Ottawa colleagues, including former British Columbia Member of Parliament and former Jim Prentice confidant Jay Hill, who appears to have relaunched his political career as an advocate of Alberta separatism, and former Saskatchewan MP and MLA Allan Kerpan. Hill and Kerpan are the keynote speakers at a pro-separatist event scheduled to be held in Lloydminster on August 24, 2019.
With the exception of a single by-election win for the Western Canada Concept in February 1982, separatist groups like the Independent Alberta Association, West-Fed, Western Canada Party, Western Independence Party, Alberta First Party, Separation Party of Alberta, Alberta Advantage Party, Alberta Independence Party and the Freedom Conservative Party have firmly occupied the right-wing fringes of Alberta politics.
At this point, the total lack of a viable political party, legitimate plan for separation, and any real electoral support from Albertans for the separatist agenda is a big challenge for those who dream of one-day creating a landlocked prairie petro-republic.