Alberta Politics
Welcome to Alberta? (Photo: Magalie L’Abbe, Creative Commons).

Alberta separation: Are Russian bots messing with our province, or just homegrown right-wing agitators?

Posted on December 14, 2018, 12:19 am
9 mins

Are Russian bots behind the recent busy social media campaign to persuade Albertans they want to separate from Canada, a la Brexit?

Or is this just the work of right-wing Canadian agitators using well-tested digital agitprop techniques to undermine the Liberal Government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

You can’t rule out Russian bots entirely, or Chinese ones either. For good or ill, the Government of Canada has managed of late to seriously annoy the leaders of those two powerful states.

But the suggestion, made by some writers in the National Post, the foundering right-wing piffle sheet established by Conrad Black 20 years ago, that alienation felt by Western Canadians in general and Albertans in particular is vastly on the rise simply defies credulity, especially if you happen to live in this place and talk to your neighbours.

One-quarter of Albertans now believe the province ‘would be better off if it separated from Canada,’ a number that may well rise if the provincial economy founders, and would certainly rise if Albertans realized that they need Canada a lot less than Canada needs them,” Lawrence Solomon bloviated breathlessly in the Post last week about a recent public opinion poll.

On Wednesday, the Postmedia-owned Calgary Herald’s Don Braid jumped on the bandwagon, almost hyperventilating as he described Alberta separatism as “boiling to the surface.”

Calgary Herald political columnist Don Braid (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Mr. Braid devoted a significant percentage of his virtual ink to the social media activities of W. Brett Wilson, the oilpatch billionaire and reality TV personality whom the columnist nonchalantly passed off as “the poster boy of Alberta alienation.”

Mr. Wilson is nowadays a popular guest on right-wing talk shows like the one hosted by Danielle Smith, late of the Wildrose leadership. This is true despite the fact that, as Mr. Braid put it, he has “Tweeted that environmental ‘traitors’ should be hanged … a repeated theme over several Tweets.”

As an aside, can you imagine the brouhaha that would erupt in conservative circles in this province if some environmentalist started openly Tweeting about hanging oil company executives?

Mr. Wilson’s musings, by contrast, appear to be perceived as perfectly respectable by mainstream media in Alberta – including the CBC.

Also Wednesday, Edmonton Postmedia columnist David Staples weighed in with an overwrought screed making many of the same points. Funny the way that so frequently happens at Postmedia.

Ipsos Public Affairs Vice-President Kyle Braid (Photo: Twitter).

Getting back to the poll Mr. Solomon cited, done by Ipsos Public Affairs in October, it really did include the hard-to-believe statement 25 per cent of respondents thought Alberta would be better off single. But its actual findings were nevertheless considerably less alarming.

Western Canadians are every bit as committed to Canada as they were 20 years ago,” wrote Ipsos Vice-President Kyle Braid in the explanatory commentary accompanying the results. “Albertans are a little angrier at the moment, but across the west there is little interest in separation and most measures of connection to Canada are consistent with prior polls taken conducted as long ago as 1997.” (Emphasis added.)

I can’t speak for the good people of places like Manyberries, Sundre, Cardston or the headquarters of foreign-owned oil corporations in Calgary, but I’d say even mild interest in separation in Alberta’s big cities is under 1 per cent, so how Ipsos came up with that number is a topic for interesting speculation.

My guess is the self-selecting nature of the panel used by the pollster tells us plenty. A much larger percentage than among the general population is bound to be made up of ideological conservatives who would like to sink Mr. Trudeau, whatever the cost to the country.

Moreover, such panels are notorious for being joined in disproportionate numbers by people who get their news from social media. This gets us back to our neighbours over the Pole or some of the other bad actors closer to home who are familiar with the same techniques.

Frequent Tweeter W. Brett Wilson (Photo: Twitter).

As someone who lives in Alberta, I can tell you there is essentially zero talk about Alberta separation among ordinary folk. Other than streams of pro-separation comments on social media that originate from Facebook and Twitter accounts owned by people with names but no faces or identities, that is, and in the last two weeks their media echo chamber.

Whether the authors turn out to reside at 55 Savushkina Street in St. Petersburg, the Pudong District of Shanghai, or a University of Calgary dorm room doesn’t really change much. Alberta separation is about the dumbest idea anyone could come up with, ever.

Seriously? You’d be willing to put your pension in the hands of the clowns that ran Alberta through two oil booms and couldn’t save a dime?

Are you prepared to trust people who apparently think it’s reasonable to chatter about hanging environmentalists to come up with a new version of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that would satisfy the moral bugbears and ideological superstitions of the folks who now dominate the political right in Canada?

Then there’s the oft-repeated observation that we have no coastline. And if you’re one of those naïve idealists who wants to bring up the Convention on Transit Trade of Land-Locked States, don’t forget that Canada hasn’t signed it and the guy who runs the United States ignores things like laws and treaties.

And remember that Alberta may soon be saddled with $260 billion in oilpatch cleanup costs. You can be confident the public-spirited foreign oil giants that control our industry will sashay away from that liability at the first opportunity with what’s left of our jingle in their jeans. So we just might want to share some of that risk with those taxpayers we’ve been disparaging for accepting “our” equalization payments, don’t you think?

And speaking of Brexit, as we just were, remind us all how that worked out!

On the bright side, of course, there is the inconvenient reality for the people ginning up this nonsense that essentially no one thinks it’s a good idea – even most of the people who are saying they do.

That’s because, whoever is behind it, this is mainly an effort to attack the Trudeau Liberals and effect a political shift even farther to the right in Ottawa.

Still, whoever they are, there are people involved who do intend real harm to Canada and Canadians, not just a single political party.

If this Internet deluge keeps up, I’d seriously suggest the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service and the Communications Security Establishment do what we pay them well over a billion dollars a year to do and start looking into who’s behind this campaign, and who is paying their bills.

32 Comments to: Alberta separation: Are Russian bots messing with our province, or just homegrown right-wing agitators?

  1. CovKid

    December 14th, 2018

    Typo warning!

    That would be Sundre rather than Sundrie (although the latter (in the plural) would adequately describe the place).

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      December 14th, 2018

      Mia culpa. That’s an honest-to-gosh type by me, too. No blaming auto-correct. I’ll fix it. DJC

      Reply
  2. Jerrymacgp

    December 14th, 2018

    One is forced to wonder, if Alberta can’t get its oilsands product to tidewater across the territory of another province of the same country, how much better would it work trying to get it to tidewater across the territory of another country? That is, essentially, what would happen if Alberta seceded from Canada: BC would then be part of a foreign country, and we would have even less leverage than we do now.

    All in all, it’s a silly idea … so there will be lots of support for it in some quarters, because no idea is too silly for them.

    Reply
    • Jerrymacgp

      December 16th, 2018

      OTOH … because I always try to see both sides of an argument, even if only to develop approaches to refuting it …

      It will be interesting to see how much Alberta separatist rhetoric there will be this afternoon in Grande Praire: https://everythinggp.com/article/546745/huge-rally-today-support-energy-sector

      Conservative MP Chris Warkentin, Deputy Opposition House Leader, and UCP MLAs Wayne Drysdale & Todd Loewen are all widely expected to be in attendance. I don’t know if NDP MLA & Energy Minister Margaret McQuaig-Boyd, who represents a nearby rural constituency (Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley) plans to attend. Whether the Federal Court of Appeal, or the people of Burnaby BC or anywhere else in Canada, will be paying attention, is unknown.

      Reply
  3. Death and Gravity

    December 14th, 2018

    “I’d seriously suggest the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service and the Communications Security Establishment do what we pay them well over a billion dollars a year to do and start looking into who’s behind this campaign, and who is paying their bills.”

    ABSOLUTELY. There is an organised campaign of sedition, and the Conservative Parties are in it up to their eye teeth.

    Reply
  4. Sara-Anne Peterson

    December 14th, 2018

    As somebody whose family has been in Alberta since 1882, and that’s pretty early for a non-indigenous family, if Alberta separates I’m emigrating to BC. If any province should separate it’s them. CBC didn’t even cover the BC fires on the national tv network last summer. It was too busy covering California fires. If a person tended toward conspiracy theories, they might call that censorship by omission. Can’t have those west coasters being sympathised with too much when you want to sacrifice their coastline to keep Alberta looked after.

    Reply
    • Phil Sigmund

      December 15th, 2018

      There would be a lot of migration to and from AB for sure. Likely BC would end up joined with Washington, Oregon once again.
      “Cascadia”

      Reply
  5. Bloozguy

    December 14th, 2018

    “I’d seriously suggest the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service and the Communications Security Establishment do what we pay them well over a billion dollars a year to do and start looking into who’s behind this campaign, and who is paying their bills.” …. I believe they are too busy investigating environmental activist “terrorists”

    Reply
  6. Bob Raynard

    December 14th, 2018

    David, as a former media guy, you would be able to confirm or deny this, but I strongly expect there is a mantra in the media, either spoken or unspoken, that says something like ‘If there is no news, make some’. This whole thing really sounds like that.

    I wonder if the original survey was of a financial nature throughout, so even if the question was not ‘Would Alberta be better off financially on its own?’, the word ‘financial’ was implied by the context. Yeah, I can see how the financial case for separation could be made, but that doesn’t necessarily mean people want to separate. Financially people would be better off without their children too, but I don’t foresee a run to adoption agencies.

    Lawrence Solomon really did seem to be forcing a square peg into a round hole. To suggest Alberta could enforce its borders because we are able to maintain a rat-free status is a ridiculous comparison. (FYI, Norway rats are unable to survive in Alberta’s climate without latching onto human infrastructure, like granaries etc. Thus Alberta’s northern and western borders do not need patrolling since they are so sparsely populated, and even the Montana and a large part of the Saskatchewan border are isolated enough they don’t need much watching.)

    Reply
  7. Sam Gunsch

    December 14th, 2018

    Excerpts below on the rhetoric and methods in the USA that have parallels in AB/Canada from the right wing political leadership such as Wilson, some UCP leadership, some MSM pundits…

    EXCERPT: ‘Anger is encouraged. Fear is amplified and people are whipped into a panic.’

    EXCERPT: ‘supporters are made to feel resentful and angry at the fear, and what and who they believe is causing it.’

    EXCERPT: ‘There are the conspiracy theories. The destruction of truth.’

    EXCERPT: ‘…attacks on labor unions. You have moral panics by conservatives and sexual anxiety. There is also the constant fear-mongering and right-wing panics about foreigners and immigrant groups…’

    EXCERPT: ‘Social democracy is the enemy. You paint it as “communism.”
    This is why XXXXX try to smear ordinary YYYYYY as frightening “socialists” and “communists.” It is a standard tactic.’

    Reply
  8. Adrian Frey

    December 14th, 2018

    I thought that figure of $260b was just entirely made up?

    Reply
  9. David

    December 14th, 2018

    One really never knows these days where those bots come from, although I don’t think Alberta would be high on the list of mischievious foreign actors. I also wonder if they have learned anything from the Trump debacle as there have been unforeseen negative consequences for them. It might be great fun to poke a stick in a hornets nest, but don’t be surprised if you get stung in the process.

    Anyways, all this sudden talk about separatism while perhaps not well grounded does come from a place of real anger and frustration in Alberta. I am not sure it is much of a solution as we would still be landlocked and the problems with pipeline would still be in other jurisdictions (provinces and states) who we can not control. At this point, I sort of chalk it up to the anger talking, a feeling that the rest of Canada does not appreciate Alberta and a feeling that nothing else has worked so perhaps it is time to try threats.

    Unfortunately most of the rest of Canada seems blithely unaware how much equalization Alberta taxpayers contribute to the country. I suspect the Federal government does have an idea, but politically Alberta is not important to them so all we seem to be currently getting from Ottawa now is platitudes which is just increasing the frustration, anger and resentment.

    I suspect leaving Canada might be cutting off our nose to spite our face, but many divorces have happened because one party feels frustrated, neglected and taken for granted and sees no other resolution to things.

    I think if Mr. Trudeau wants separatist sentiment in Alberta to grow, all he needs to do is keep doing what he’s doing because it sure seems to be fanning these flames. I suspect this idea would horrify him, if he heard it. Ottawa are you listening?

    Reply
    • Geoffrey Pounder

      December 15th, 2018

      “Unfortunately most of the rest of Canada seems blithely unaware how much equalization Alberta taxpayers contribute to the country. ”

      AB taxpayers contribute 16 cents on the equalization dollar.
      ON and QB taxpayers contribute 58 cents on the dollar.

      Reply
      • Farmer Brian

        December 15th, 2018

        So Geoffrey Alberta contributes 16 cents of the equalization dollar with 11.7% of the population. Quebec and Ontario contribute 58% of the equalization dollar with 61.5% of the population. Quebec receives 66% of equalization payments, Alberta and for 2018 Ontario recieve no equalization payments. Numbers are pretty well self explanatory! According to Sam though I believe in flat earth politics, I simply see western Canada doing its best to contribute to confederation and getting very little thanks in return. Enjoy your day.

        Reply
      • David

        December 16th, 2018

        The problem is Alberta gets $NIL of the 16 cents back, but Quebec gets to keep its portion being the biggest recipient of equalization. Ontario has been both a contributor and a recipient in recent years, so any ambivalence there is understandable.

        If equalization from Alberta disappeared and Quebec had to cut spending by 16%, I am sure there would be a great deal of upset there.

        Reply
        • Bob Raynard

          December 19th, 2018

          David, if equalization from Alberta disappeared, Quebec would lose 16% of their equalization payment, not their total budget. The revenue they generate from income tax, sales tax etc would remain intact. Thus Quebec would not need to cut their spending by 16%.

          Reply
          • Farmer Brian

            December 20th, 2018

            Bob National post article by Tristin Hopper April 11,2018:”Of course Alberta is getting fleeced by Ottawa, just not in the way you think”. A couple of highlights, according to Statscan numbers in 2016 Alberta sent $49 billion worth of taxes to Ottawa but only received $27.2 billion back in the form of federal spending. Now let’s look at Quebec, in 2016 Quebec paid $50.3 billion in federal taxes but Quebec received $66.4 billion in federal expenditures. Does that sound equitable to you?

            One other thought in Quebec’s 2017-2018 budget they projected total spending of $103.7 billion dollars. I believe they recieved just over $12 billion dollars in equalization payments in that period from the federal government or over 11% of their provincial budget. Certainly a significant portion of their budget. Enjoy your day.

  10. ronmac

    December 14th, 2018

    “Are Russian bots behind the recent busy social media campaign to persuade Albertans they want to separate from Canada, a la Brexit?”

    Huh? Why on earth would the Russians want to see Alberta separate from the rest of Canada? This is akin to those charges the Russians were behind the Ferguson riots in the US. Racial tensions existed in the US long before Putin came along. Alberta seperation has been simmering on the back burner for a long time, usually rearing its ugly head when somebody named Trudeau is in 24 Sussex.

    You’d have to think an independent Alberta would quickly gravitate into the American orbit with an eye to becoming the 53rd state. With all that sexy bitumen we’re carrying, the Americans would welcome us with open arms.

    Reply
    • Brad

      December 17th, 2018

      I totally agree with you.

      Reply
  11. Lars

    December 14th, 2018

    Anyone in favour of a sovereign Alberta should try visualizing how it would have done against Trump’s America in the recent renegotiation of NAFTA (or whatever it’s being called these days – MUCUS? Something like that). For that matter, TROC would have been snapping off every bit that it could at the negotiating table. Why not?

    Reply
  12. Sam Gunsch

    December 14th, 2018

    In related coverage, this published today at National Observer… a strong reminder of the threat posed to a reality-based society/democracy by the methods of the cesspool scum in Canada’s RW media ecosystem, including some Sun columnists, which some of the RW media publishers/editors are willing to tolerate for the ‘clicks’.

    ================

    Oh, Canada, don’t be smug. Fake news is a real and present threat
    By Linda Solomon Wood in Opinion | December 14th 2018

    EXCERPT: ‘The very next day, a far-right website put up a video insinuating that another mosque might be linked to the shooting, when in fact the shooter was a lone white supremacist who had been bullied in school.’

    https://www.nationalobserver.com/2018/12/14/opinion/oh-canada-dont-be-smug-fake-news-real-and-present-threat?fbclid=IwAR1TbA_VkSt2f5hHo95vuaB02vc-33JqQm92q4Y4Ms2HmFnnRtO3hxpTaq0

    Reply
  13. Farmer Brian

    December 14th, 2018

    Russian bots, really? I don’t think they existed in 1980 when the Western Canada Concept party was formed and then in the general election in 1982 recieved 11.8% of the vote. I think they had a good idea with B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba plus the N.W.T. And Yukon forming a country. I am somewhat baffled by those who can’t see the contempt those in the east have for the western provinces. I remember a cartoon penned I believe in the 1920’s of a milk cow. Western Canada was feeding the cow, Ontario and Quebec was getting the milk and the Atlantic provinces, take a guess lol. Now I can assure you David I haven’t been influenced by social media but I certainly do listen to talk radio. I think as much as I would like it, Alberta could not separate on its own but I would vote in a minute for a vision that included all 4 western provinces. Federal politicians know they really only have to focus on Ontario and Quebec to retain power, the election is quite often decided before results from Manitoba west are counted. I don’t consider myself a right wing radical, my family has lived in Alberta for 112 years, I am just tired of east centric politicians like Justin Trudeau, funny that name Trudeau always manages to fan the fires of western alienation. Enjoy your day.

    Reply
    • Sam Gunsch

      December 15th, 2018

      re: ‘Now I can assure you David I haven’t been influenced by social media but I certainly do listen to talk radio.

      ‘talk radio’ … you mean like Dave Rutherford?, the dominant RW AB InfoWars equivalent!?, and Danielle Smith, and Charles Adler? good lord man… Rutherford was the original propaganda/FAKE NEWS… if these are the talk radio you’re getting your reality from… oh boy… that explains a lot about your view… no bloody wonder you can write the extreme stuff that you do, but still think: ‘I don’t consider myself a right wing radical’… when your world view is based on ‘talk radio’, of which 90% is out at the extreme right, of course you’re going to think the rest of us are out of step with reality… Read these posts to get a sense of why I’m guessing that you’ve been indoctrinated to the worldview that you’re attempting to evangelize to the rest of us, which is the modern version of flat-earth politics..: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/11/2/16588964/america-epistemic-crisis and this: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/3/22/14762030/donald-trump-tribal-epistemology

      Reply
    • Scotty on Denman

      December 18th, 2018

      The feds have a history of sparing no inducement to get BC to confederate with Canada instead of the USA, for obvious strategic reasons—indeed, BC was noncontiguous with Canada by a long, trackless way for a time.

      BC is Canada’s only Pacific jurisdiction whereas the USA has four continental ones. For the same reason Canada would hate to lose its Pacific federate, the USA would never allow its Lower-Forty-Eight, West Coast states to separate all together, nor ever Washington state (no matter with which others) because of its strategically critical submarine base in Puget Sound.

      “Cascadia” might be viable with BC and Alaska (probably the most separatist American state) but, without Washington, Oregon and California would be noncontiguous —which doesn’t mean the pair wouldn’t be a viable sovereign country—even just California could do that—or that a bifurcated Cascadia couldn’t exist.

      Maybe a sovereign country made from the Prairie Provinces might work: it would have tidewater in Hudson Bay (Churchill, Manitoba). The Feds sure wouldn’t like losing the continuous land route around to BC, though. Ferry ride, I guess.

      The Territories may not separate—they’re federal jurisdiction—leaving that route to Arctic tidewater out.

      Whichever way Alberta could go (without joining the USA), Pacific or Hudson Bay, either BC or Manitoba wouldn’t play if they didn’t get a piece of the bitumen pie.

      Reply
  14. Chris Kozak

    December 15th, 2018

    If you really want to see hatred, death threats against the PM, lots of Trudumb noose memes, fear of economic collapse due to Canada allowing 250 million dangerous terrorists rush our borders, semi-literate conspiracy theories and racism, the FB group Yellow Vests Canada might be a good place to start looking for bots.

    Reply
  15. Farmer Brian

    December 16th, 2018

    David Russian bot alert, they have taken over the CBC. 2 of the 5 most popular stories on this Sunday morning are related to western alienation. The first is by Monte Solberg:”Western alienation: Let’s be clear, the west didn’t pull away until it was pushed away.” Then you have “Trudeau’s neglect of the nation has led us to this place”, I believe it was written on Dec. 8 and it is still on the CBC’s most popular top 5 of the moment. It was written Donna Kennedy-Glans and Don Hill. Both are excellent articles imo, hope you read them and enjoy your day!

    Reply
  16. Keith McClary

    December 16th, 2018

    Never heard of W. Brett Wilson. I guess I’m out of touch with reality (shows).

    Reply
  17. December 16th, 2018

    I regularly am called a bot by people who find my analysis of the situation outside the overton window… it’s distressing but unsurprising to see Mr. Climenhaga repeat the tactic.

    I am a federalist, but I am running into people with different resentments from the ones you have, and it’s worth noting that our long-term fiscal position is affected not just by official equalization programs, but back-door equalization programs.

    EI premiums are a regressive tax and EI qualification thresholds do not adequately reflect employment prospects… not to mention that paying people to be poor is a good way to ensure more people are poor, compared to paying them to have a pulse. If saying we need to follow Lougheed’s advice and jaw-bone the feds on these issues makes me a bot for either East Asia or Eurasia, then I for one, hail our new Russo-Conservative overlords.

    Reply
  18. Scotty on Denman

    December 18th, 2018

    Tidewater’s the thing, as much as equalization-payment whiners otherwise whine, so a sovereign Alberta is basically out. If the tidewater-equals-premium-price-for-dilbit argument is real, then its predicating American bogey-man dilbit buyer would seem to preclude Alberta ceding to the USA—which would double the length on Canada-US border west of the Great Lakes. Montana, the closest state to Alberta, is one of the only American regions that’s losing population, Alberta presumably further removed beyond that remoteness. Dilbit, though, dilbit…

    Alberta Separatism really appeals to people who don’t know much about it. The biggest hurdle: a Constitutional Amendment ratified by all ten provinces is required—after, that is, the Feds agree that the popular will of Albertans has been measured to their satisfaction. Another idea bandied without much understanding is that of annexing Federal Territories as part of a separation negotiation, but, Territories being Federal jurisdiction, the Clarity Act governing secession applies only to provinces.

    Ironically, the province with which Alberta is having its current constitutional dust-up with figures very heavily. If BC remains within Canada after Alberta secedes, say, considerable constitutional and statutory (the Clarity Act) wrangling would complicate negotiations with the Feds and, of course, with the other provinces on Constitutional Amendment. So what about BC?

    First, ceding, secession and separatism have been political episodes in BC since before and during confederation—when Canada bent over backwards to secure BC’s strategic bulwark against the USA and Canada’s future export trade through Pacific ports—and colonial hucksters and speculators milked it for all it was worth, continually holding out the threat of confederation with the US, instead—a kind of premature separation. Perhaps because so many Albertans retire in BC the idea of secession has to some extent been imported: the idea of a sovereign Western Canada composed of the four Western provinces comes and goes without much electoral success (maybe proportional representation would have elected more separatist parties); but never have I heard of a BC-Alberta— just the two alone— joint-secession from Canada. In fact, secessionist talk in BC almost always revolves around the fantastic, proposed state of “Cascadia” which would include, minimally, BC, Washington and Oregon, often with Yukon, maybe just as often with California and Alaska—but very, very seldomly including Alberta. It’s a West Coast thing: environmentalists unite!

    (Recall BC had more American miners in it that British subjects when it began to consider confederation; a steady stream of stowaways, remittance men, draft dodgers and sub-culturalists have made the province their home, not so much Canada; BC-Ottawa conflicts have been legend without much love lost. Yet BC separatism isn’t as strong as all that would seem to make it.)
    It might be reminded that BC itself has its own separatist movement: Vancouver Island, some citizens claim, should be its own province. Since Van Isle isn’t a province now, it would seem its chances of seceding are about as good as it is for the Territories—about nil.

    There’s no doubt Cascadia would be economically viable—indeed, it could be in the top ten in the world if all suggested jurisdictions were to join together. But it’ll never happen—at least not including Washington’s nuclear sub base in Puget Sound—that is, both the state’s and DC’s. Canada’s strategic interest in BC is similar but only parochially so: Canada isn’t the world’s only superpower, its chief interest now being more economic. But, since Alaska has a healthy separatist movement, the BC-Yukon-Alaska model is often dreamt about. The reality is: the Americans have some harsh experience with secessionist sentiment and, as far as I know, don’t have a mechanism like like Canada’s Clarity Act.

    So what about a BC-Alberta secession? Odd couple, for sure. But there’s one giant obstacle against that idea that plays into the current controversy over TMX pipeline: Aboriginal sovereign claims which cover almost the entire province west of the Rockies. As difficult as an Albertan secession would be, despite the fact that treaties with First Nations there have been complete for over a century, the secession of BC would indeed involve not just negotiations with the Feds (on Clarity) AND with the provinces (on Constitutional Amendment), but also dozens of FN land claims. As we recall, the last Quebec referendum sparked heated debate about Aboriginal Rights in Quebec—about which the wily Jean Chrétien remarked, “if Canada is divisible, Quebec is divisible…” And much talk of treaty FNs (the few which exist in Quebec are huge in area) honouring their relationship with the Crown by separating from Quebec (!) ensued—although, if Quebec were to remain a Crown sovereignty (it was called: “sovereignty association”), then I don’t know that the Crown’s relationship with FNs would be disturbed by Quebec’s “separation” under those terms. Bunch of interesting rhetoric, I think. In any case, separating BC would be extremely complex due to governments’ 150-year-plus negligence in treating with indigenous nations there. Recent SCoC decisions have dealt most BC FNs some very good cards—cards which happen to exert significant impediments to TMX, or any other kind of resource development, and thus related to this supposed Alberta Separatist movement.

    Let’s suppose BC stays in Canada and Alberta doesn’t; Canada would have to strategically circumvent Alberta, more than doubling the distance to Fort Nelson, BC from Saskatoon, tripling it to the port of Prince Rupert, and quadrupling it to the port of Vancouver, all through some very tough road-(or railway-) building terrain, much of it way up north—a boon to the region—a good thing, I guess—but very expensive, though (maybe make some of the cost back by levying tolls on Alberta-Canada cross border traffic). But at least there’d be a continuous land route, long and lonely as it might be.

    If Manitoba and Saskatchewan were to join with Alberta, the oft suggested “Prairie [Province] State,” replete with its port of Churchill, then Canada’s continuous land route to the Pacific would be cut, requiring a Hudson Bay coasting cruise from Ontario to Nunavut, thence by road to the West Coast (we’re getting up to Russia-like distances, here—maybe a good thing the climate is warming).

    So, eliminating BC, the Northwest Territories and the USA (for the moment), the only real, sovereign tidewater option is this Prairie Province model. Again, Constitutional Amendment appears the tough nut. Yes, the proposal would already have three provinces in the bag, but Canada would lose it’s continuous land route to the West Coast. I guess it would depend on how much Eastern provinces figure their prosperity is tied to Asia-Pacific trade. Quebec might be on board, for separatism’s sake—that’s four provinces, now—but it might also wonder about its own, sovereign prosperity if too many jurisdictions pop up between it and the West Coast. Newfoundland might be game, too, the fact that Newfoundlanders didn’t really want to confederate is still remembered and talked about. But I can’t imagine the Martimes being that thrilled with risking, even for a while, Canada’s prosperity, no matter which way it comes from.

    I don’t know what Ontarians think about Alberta secession—if they do much, at all—but I bet they’d be against it, anyways. How they are.

    In sum: no secedeable Territorial tidewater route for Alberta; no BC secession likely (and not for Greater Cascadia, either); no Alberta-alone secession; Prairie Province secession best possible option—although not that great; and, then, joining America (it occurred to me that if Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota were to secede from the USA and Alberta join them, it’d have a route to tidewater via the Great Lakes; I can see the Americans not much missing the first two, but Minnesota? Not likely! —Just a thought…).

    Conclusion: good thing only one percent of Albertans are into secession —otherwise there’d be a buch of unhappy people there.

    Reply
  19. Bob Raynard

    December 19th, 2018

    I feel nervous when I hear Alberta public figures bad mouth the federal equalization program and bang on the separation drum. Inevitably both equalization complaints and separation talk are related to Alberta’s oil industry.

    It is becoming increasingly clear that, with the advent of electric vehicles, and the realization that we have to act on climate change, our oil industry has a shelf life. Through the use of various incentives, more than half the new vehicles sold in Norway last year were either hybrid or fully electric, with the majority of them being full electric.

    Obviously the Alberta economy minus the energy industry will look very different, and probably not in a good way. The rest of Canada will surely get a great laugh if we agitate enough to get the equalization program dismantled just as we are ready to qualify for it, or if we separate just in time to become an impoverished nation.

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  20. Scotty on Denman

    December 20th, 2018

    I was kinda wondering if this piece was partly tongue-in-cheek—until I heard some proponent (a poly-sci prof, I think) boosting Alberta separation on CBC’s As It Happens radio show last night.

    Host Carol Off was incredulous and pretty tongue-in-cheek herself but, otherwise, the proposition was hopelessly flawed, the cross examination completely undoing any semblance of logic, and the proponent displaying the epitome of chauvinism (I mean, couldn’t really call him a charlatan: he gave himself away round about statement number two).

    What up?

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