Rob Anderson addresses trade unionists (I’m not making that up) on the steps of the Alberta Legislature during the period between his floor crossings to and from the Wildrose Party (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

It looks as if Rob Anderson has found a new gig — Alberta separation if necessary, but not necessarily Alberta separation.

For those of you scratching your heads and asking the most obvious question — Rob Who? — Mr. Anderson is one of the few Alberta politicians to have crossed the floor of the Legislature … twice.

Danielle Smith, former leader of the Wildrose Party, at the start of her political career. (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Elected in 2008 in Airdrie-Chestermere, the indecisive but ambitious young conservative switched teams from the Progressive Conservatives in 2010 to join the fledgling Wildrose Alliance — the little party that eventually disappeared.

As Wildrose Party House leader in December 2014, Mr. Anderson and party leader Danielle Smith led seven other MLAs back across the floor to the PC benches where they briefly joined then-just-selected premier Jim Prentice.

If Mr. Prentice had used his head, he would have sent the lot of them packing. He’d probably still be premier today. Instead, he paid the political price on May 5, 2015, when disgusted Alberta voters surprised everyone, including themselves and the New Democrats, by electing an NDP majority. He died in a small plane crash on Oct. 13, 2016, returning from a golf game in British Columbia.

Jim Prentice, former Progressive Conservative premier of Alberta (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

For his part, Mr. Anderson wisely chose to take a breather from politics in 2015 rather than face the wrath of voters in Airdrie for his serial refusal to dance with the partner that brought him.

I can’t vouch for the accuracy of this story, but it’s been said someone who ran a flooring company in Airdrie had a billboard that said: “Even Rob Anderson can’t wear out our floors!”

So what’s a washed up politician supposed to do when he’s only 42 years old and not likely to be welcome in the governing United Conservative Party led by Jason Kenney?

Find another bandwagon, of course!

So the day before Halloween, Mr. Anderson sent all his friends and relations a 2,000-word screed saying that since Alberta didn’t get its way in the Oct. 21 federal election, what the hell, maybe it’s time to separate from Canada!

But maybe not, too. As we already know about Mr. Anderson, he’s a guy who likes to keep his options open.

Entitled “Separation … if necessary,” Mr. Anderson trots out all the hyperbole we heard from the Conservative side during the election campaign about how if the Liberals under Justin Trudeau were reelected, Alberta might as well separate, and concluded that, seeing as Mr. Trudeau was reelected, ummm, we might as well separate.

As an aside, it’s surprising they’re sticking with this nonsense now that they’ve been outvoted in an election. You’d think they’d understand by now that’s one of the things that happens to someone every time there’s an election in a democracy. A strategy with more potential might be to find an electable leader, and a palatable platform.

“We must demand a new and equitable deal within the Canadian confederation under an updated constitution,” Mr. Anderson proclaimed. “Or failing that, we must separate and form a new country with those of our neighbours who wish to join with us.”

It just goes on and on and on like this. I’m not going to bore you with a lot of excerpts from this drivel. If you’re feeling masochistic, I’ve copied the whole letter so you can read it yourself.

Among other things, Mr. Anderson calls for Ottawa — presumably cowed by the idea the rest of us might want to join an authoritarian petro-state with one washed-up industry, no port, no savings and $250 billion in cleanup bills as our only legacy from the years we pissed all those oil booms away — to declare all legislation, provincial and federal, that attempts to tax or regulate Alberta’s resources unconstitutional.

Mr. Anderson is a lawyer. I’m not making this up.

Another one of his big ideas: Altering representation in the House of Commons “to be entirely proportional to the population of each province” — presumably an idea he wouldn’t recommend in the new Grand Duchy of Alberta. I suppose it’s possible he’s confusing the House of Commons with the Senate.

Plus, even if we stick around, he wants Alberta to withdraw from the Canada Pension Plan, transferring the hopes of oldsters like your blogger for a secure retirement to the same bunch of grifters who managed the fate of the Alberta Heritage Trust Fund all these years while Alberta’s oil billions went … somewhere.

Mr. Anderson even got a “nicely done” attaboy from Ms. Smith, who seems to have forwarded his screed around to some of her friends.

One wonders who else is dreaming of becoming the Jefferson Davis of Wexitopia.

Well, maybe sovereignty-association as a good a way as any to resurrect a dead political career. It’s one place to look for a political miracle when you just can’t win the traditional way — you know, with votes, on election day.

Stand by for Mr. Anderson to be respectfully welcomed to Ms. Smith’s right-wing Calgary talk radio program any day now, and to the pages of your local Postmedia rag soon after that.

Join the Conversation


  1. Wexit seems to be attracting more than washed up frustrated wabbit hunters. It seems to now be attracting passing interest from several washed up politicians on the far right.

    The quality of politicians attracted like a bug to a light, tells me something about the quality or viability of the idea. Now that Mr. Kenney seems to have most of the broader Conservative movement locked up tight, those frusrtated right wingers, who for what ever reasons are not allowed on the Kenney bus have to try find a way around the UCP.

    Mr. Anderson and Ms. Smith are exactly the type of overly ambitious and flexible Conservatives that Mr. Kenney tries to keep far away from power who might see this as perhaps their chance for a political comeback.

    However, I think the Wexit crowd might correctly be rather suspicious of their motives if not also their judgement, so I don’t see Anderson or Smith going very far with this bunch.

  2. Where does the $250 billion cleanup number come from? I know I saw a number as high as $70 billion for abandoned wells. Clarification would be appreciated, thanks.

    1. The $70 billion estimate was used to cover up the Alberta PCs mismanagement on this issue, starting with Ralph Klein. Don’t be fooled. The cost for cleaning up abandoned oil wells in Alberta is $260 billion, and will not get better under the UCP.

  3. I love the word Wexitopia…I see much of your writing as both insightful and (blackly) humorous at the same time. Thanks for this blog!

  4. To get going, Mr. Anderson could start his own version of the Bloc Quebecois. Elect MPs to Ottawa with the expressed intent of pulling Alberta out of Canada and forming an independent country. Campaign only within Alberta, no need to ride big airplanes to Toronto or make a fool of yourself on national newscasts, TV ads or debates in French. Hire Gilles Duceppe to explain the finer points of leading a separatist party. Postmedia will love ya, Rob!

  5. It is surely proof of the theory of eternal recurrence, as it is also the same old song and dance of squandering prosperity and then embracing a perpetual victim mentality afterwards, all the while; seeking political saviors selling the same old snake oil, over and over again, when the boom goes bust in a hapless and hopeless Alberta.

    fate comes a-knockin’, doors start lockin’
    your old time connection, change your direction
    ain’t gonna change it, can’t rearrange it
    it’s the same old story, same old song and dance, my friend

    1. It’s the thing I hate about Alberta, a province that I still love: When things are good, it’s because we’re pull-ourselves-up by the bootstraps, hard-working entrepreneurs who don’t need government telling us what to do. When things are bad, it’s someone else’s fault.

      Not all Albertans, for certain, but a vocal minority.

  6. O! For tidewater, me boys!
    Haul ‘way, boys! Haul ‘way,
    Pissing our oil booms away, boys!
    Pissing our oil booms away!

    Well, not bad for landlocked lubbers.

    Captain Anderson’s proclamation, “a new country with those of our neighbours who wish to join with us,” can only mean, as I’m sure he meant, a Prairie Schooner ride across across the homelands of two of Canada’s constitutionally fitted-out Aboriginal peoples (one historical, the other prehistorical), eastward towards the rising sun, past Whoop-up and, very nearly, amber waves of grain, wisely navigating around the Palliser Triangle where many a schooner was lost in maelstroms of dust, across the straits of Lesser Butumia which shared the negligence of that eastern country not so long ago (1867–1905 and then again 1905–1931), on to the history-soaked, internationally (Red) riverine and largest urbanism on the North American Great Plains, the continental hub of Winnipeg which would demand to be christened capitol city of the good skipper’s new nation, a ‘riel’ sovereignty replete with that supreme prize tidewater—tidewater, me boys!

    As the good Captain knows, the alternative route to Arctic tidewater passes through federal Territories which may not separate from the Canadian federation (to join with Anderson’s compatriots) unless it be confederated with Canada first; another route through kindred American commonwealths, either to the Pacific or the Great Lakes seaway to the Atlantic, presents similar impediments to separation from their own federation (the remedy being effective annexation of the Albertan applicant to the USA’s unified corpus—perhaps not what the good Captain had imagined); that leaves the Prairie Provincial route to Hudson’s Bay where there’s a railhead and port facilities begging to be used for something: might as well be diluted bitumen if not grain recently released from marketing-board imprisonment. In fact, a century of combusting petroleum into the atmosphere has handily lengthened the ice-free season for the Port of Churchill. The railway has even been privatized —which the free-booting Captain Anderson will doubtlessly approve of.

    Still, this most feasible route (call it Canadian Prairie, for now, to distinguish from the American) does, however, present numerous impediments to separation itself, too many to list here, but including the most obvious: will Saskatchewan and Manitoba agree to join with separatist Alberta’s quest for tidewater? If Winnipeg weren’t induced by capitolization, the only province confederated by Aboriginal initiative might consider the Captain’s proposal rather a demotion in status. I might be wrong, of course, but Manitobans’ economic wellbeing would naturally be a big consideration, too, for prospective independence from the mother country. At least Manitoba’s got hydro-electric power which would hold it in good stead should the dilbit market remain depressed or dilbit become completely obsolete—either that or use it to replace the federal subsidies the Bitumen Mines would lose upon separation from the federal teat.

    Equally, Saskatchewan might be reticent to remain a sort of spare-cloth province (or whatever subjurisdictions, if any in the new state, be might called), an intermediary of little influence through which commerce would travel between the two economic engines at the cardinal terminii of, for now, the Canadian Prairie provinces. It hasn’t been that long since Saskatchewan was one of only three North American sovereignties that annually lost population (Montana and North Dakota being the other two)—and the only one in Canada. Economic exertion required of the new state would likely require Saskatchewanians remove to either of its separatist partners’ jurisdictions to find employment —and the middle-of-nowhere jurisdiction return to its lonely, windswept aboriginality (which, come to think of it, might be appreciated by certain factions of Saskatchewan society—the ones which have suffered so many race-based injustices since losing their lands and ways of life…)

    I only mention British Columbia’s potential partnership with Albertan separatists for the sake of thoroughness: it does already allow dilbit from the Bitumen Mines of Albetaria to access tidewater in a megapolis that already and evermore considers itself supremely capitoline. Historically aloof, heavily induced, in fact, to join with Canada in 1871 when Granville (now Vancouver) was as far away from Ottawa as St John’s is from the UK—bribed, that is, by a connecting ribbon of steel rail which the sparse denizens of a fur company Charter used to see chugging through their prairie fastness, railcars freighted with manufactures of Eastern Seaboard American and Europe or, going the other way, China and the Far East—BC rather regards Alberta as joining the West Coast, not the other way around—half of them, it seems, having already migrated over the Continental divide to BC’s montane Interior, Sunshine Coast and the Big Island’s fair eastern shores across the bountiful Salish Sea where the iconic Orca frolics. BC is to Alberta’s neo-right as California is to tRump’s. Raise gasoline prices, “shut off the taps”—West Coasters hardly seem to care, almost as if already in a separate world of their own. To entertain joining with Alberta, or for that matter, allowing dilbit to flow to tidewater from an independent Alberta would require the kind of extortive inducements BC is accustomed to from whomever—which, as we know, Alberta has vehemently rejected already.

    Which brings us to some bookended facts: for the sake of territorial contiguity Manitoba will be most certainly be subject of federal largess to induce it to remain in the federation—and not only from Ottawa: BC would enjoy the economic boom of constructing a transcontinental transportation corridor around an independent Alberta (especially if paid for by the ROC-minus-Alberta-et-al). The contingent elevation of BC’s Port of Prince Rupert to a status of national importance would naturally be something to entertain petulant West Coasters. Of course the same would be true for Manitoba and Saskatchewan through which the corridor would also pass, stimulating local economies along the way, long backwaters of remoteness. Furthermore, the corridor’s swing to the north would finally access Canada’s long neglected, underdeveloped resources and opportunities of its boreal and sub-arctic vastness, the nation’s region of fastest natural population increase (about seven times the national average) and most rapid climate warming (several times faster than the high-population south) which is relentlessly opening Arctic Ocean shipping potential in the increasingly ice-free Northwest Passage. The scenario is actually the realization of a very old Anglo-Saxmaniacal dream for which so many ships and people have been sacrificed—the True North Strong and Free, the real one. Perhaps its time has come.

    One can’t help but wonder which dream is more fantastic, the one just described or that of an separate Alberta, one that faces every imaginable impediment to independence.

    Thank you, Captain Anderson! The court of national opinion will now mull your whine.

    O! For tidewater, me boys!
    Haul ‘way, boys, haul ‘way…

  7. The sudden occurrence of this whole thing leads one to the conclusion that Anderson, failed politician and plain crazy to boot, is a “kamikaze candidate”.

    Think about it …

    Kenney doesn’t want his aspirations for the PMO to be smeared by tying himself to the looney Wexit crusade, so hand the whole thing off to someone who needs his image restored. Anderson causes a stir, makes a lot of noise, scares up the attention of Ottawa, while Kenney presents himself as the cool and sober voice of reason and Canadian unity.

    It’s not like it hasn’t been done before.

  8. RE: ” If Mr. Prentice had used his head, he would have sent the lot of them packing. He’d probably still be premier today. Instead, he paid the political price on May 5, 2015, when disgusted Alberta voters surprised everyone, including themselves and the New Democrats, by electing an NDP majority. ”

    I am not sure about the cause and effect implied above. Certainly hard core Wildrosers resented this floor-crossing, and PC supporters did their best not to get too many of them nominated to represent their part in the next election.

    However, the PCs remained very high in the polls for a long time after this floor crossing – well above 40% in three polls after the defection.

    Last poll before Prentice’s budget on March 26th 2015: PCs 46, WR 16, Liberals 18, NDP 17. Next poll, after the budget (and Brian Jean’s election as Wildrose leader) : 30, 30, 17, 18.

    So I am not sure what led to Prentice’s demise – there were a lot of things like the “Albertans need to look in the mirror” statement (which was and is, in fact, perfectly true), the budget itself (my hunch is that the reversion to a progressive tax system alienated the wildrose types and sympathizers, the lack of an increase to corporate taxes irritated the NDP, Libs and Redford tories, and the health levy irritated everyone), the fact that he called an early election that was completely unnecessary, the condescending “math is hard” statement in the debate (though again Prentice was mathematically correct, the NDP was going to raise corporate taxes by 20 % (2 % being 20 % of 10 %), and the last ditch attempt by CEOs to tell us all not to vote NDP.

    Ascribing a major role to the floor crossing might be a bit of a stretch.

    1. I got more of an impression that it was Prentice’s wanting to implement more taxes on us working folk while at the same time giving a free pass to his corporate masters. Everyone I talked to at the time were disgusted by the sheer arrogance of it.

  9. Bandwagons don’t come cheap – the Wexit rally today held at a 750 person venue, the merchandise for sale, the billboards. Who is paying the bills?

  10. After reading Rob Anderson’s letter and your critique of it I have a few thoughts. You go after his believe in more equal representation stating he must have confused it with the senate. Atlantic Canada has a combined population of 2.426 million people(2019) and 32 federal MP’s. Alberta has a population of 4.371 million(2019) and 34 federal MP’s. So in Atlantic Canada that is one MP per 75812 people. In Alberta that is one MP per 128558 people. Rob appears to be right.

    As for the rest of his letter. There is some good ideas and certainly some dumb ideas. I agree with you his request that Canada remove all taxes and legislative impediments to Alberta’s energy industry is a pipe dream. I don’t object to Alberta having it’s own police force. My biggest concern is that at present we don’t have enough revenue to fund the services that exist today, until Albertan’s can wrap their head around this issue creating new services to fund would be problematic.

    The recent rebranding of Encana and subsequent move to the USA of its head office and the sale of Pengrowth Energy to Conan Resources for 5 cents a share shows that the problems in Alberta’s energy sector continue. I think many companies were waiting to see the results of the federal election before making investment decisions. But what does Encana’s decision say about Canada and our government when you would choose a jurisdiction run by what appears to us as a dysfunctional leader in Donald Trump over where they are now in Canada?!

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