A Guide to Western SeparatismSave this online in Del.icio.us. [?] Vote For this Post
This is one of a series of information resources here at Centrerion (and my first post!). Enjoy!
The movement to separate Canada's western provinces from the rest of the country has, unlike the Quebec separatist movement, no one unified front or even a particular point in history that is thought to have started it. Separatist feelings were present in the West leading up to the Trudeau government's implementation of the National Energy Plan in the 1980s. It was at this point that support for the idea reached all-time highs (that have never been matched since), but Trudeau (and his successor John Turner) was eventually defeated by Brian Mulroney, which led to a decrease in support for separation in the West.
Mulroney's tenure, however, was not known for being particularly "West-friendly," and led to the creation of the Reform Party. Under the leadership of Preston Manning, Reform advocated a stronger voice for Western Canada within Confederation. Once it had secured seats and nearly earned the rank of Official Opposition in 1993 (the party won three fewer seats than the separatist from Quebec, the Bloc Quebecois), it appeared as though the regionally-based parliamentary representation was enough to quell popular support for separation or secession.
Support for Western separatism rose once again under the Liberal majority government of 1993 to 2006, especially after it was discovered that the party had been accused of corruption and fraud. When the party narrowly defeated the newly unified Conservative Party of Canada in the 2004 general election, popular support for separation was estimated to be as high as 40 per cent.
During the 2006 Canadian federal election campaign, a Conservative campaign manager was forced to resign after stating that he and his colleagues would be working on Alberta separation campaigns if the Liberals won the election.
The Conservatives' 2006 electoral victory is unlikely to increase support for separation in Canada's western provinces, though those in the province who are sympathetic towards the separatist cause are said to be paying close attention to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's actions and analyzing them accordingly. It is expected that any alleged mishandling of Western Canadian issues by the Harper government will be seen as a major betrayal of the Conservatives' Western electoral base, as Harper himself is an MP from Western Canada (though he was born and raised in Toronto).
As mentioned, there is no one united Western separatist front. Several parties have represented the cause in several provinces over the past few decades, but only one individual has been elected to a legislative assembly. Gordon Kesler was elected to the Alberta legislature in 1980 as a member of the Western Canadian Concept Party, which supported the union of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Territories as a nation sovereign from Canada.
Several other provincial and federal parties are Western separatist in nature, including: the Western Block Party, the Separation Party of Alberta and the Western Independence Party of Saskatchewan. A new party, to be called the Western Canada Party, is reported to be in the works.
The lack of a united front has undoubtedly led to vote-splitting among Western Canadians who are interested in either leaving Canada or negotiating new terms of association. The number of parties that exist are indicative of the number of factions within the Western separatist movement.
The numerous ideas surrounding Western separation include:
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Here are some related articles:
Heritage Alberta's site about the election of the first Albertan separatist to the provincial legislature
Separatism and Western Canadian Culture
Western provinces consider separation: poll (from August 2005)
Related articles are archived in the topical categories Western Canada, separatism, political parties.