Some of the Wexit supporters at yesterday’s “S.O.S.” rally in Edmonton (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Judging from the underwhelming turnout at its “S.O.S.” rally in Edmonton yesterday, Alberta’s minuscule Wexit faction might want to reconsider its demand for a separation referendum right now.

Leastways, Wexit supporters should probably rethink the idea if the “S.O.S.” was supposed to stand for “Separation, the Only Solution,” as the group led by former Mountie Peter Downing has been insisting for weeks in social media memes urging a big turnout for the event.

The crowd at its peak (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

At its peak, about 150 souls clustered at the base of the Legislature’s stairs, which a veteran protester from the other side of the political spectrum can assure readers is the coldest spot in Alberta’s capital, winter or summer.

Well, at least there were enough folks there for Mr. Downing’s new Wexit Canada Party — which was granted eligibility on Friday to run candidates and issue tax receipts in the next federal election — to field a full slate of candidates in Alberta.

Wexit Canada Party founder Peter Downing addresses the crowd (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

When the affair kicked off at 11 a.m., it was a brisk minus-21 Celsius in the valley of the North Saskatchewan River — although to give the Wexiters their due, most of them seemed to have their own snowmobile suits.

And if they didn’t bring a hat, they could buy a toque from a stand selling low-class merchandise — mostly hats crudely insulting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. One of the many Legislature security officers on hand for this strange celebration of Sir John A. Macdonald Day made the proprietors pack up and move along, grumbling as they went.

If this was supposed to shake the Liberal-leaning Rest of Canada to its cordovan loafers — as Alberta Premier Jason Kenney may have been hoping when he ginned up his Fair Deal Panel and other gambits to exploit a couple of dubious polls’ suggestions there’s a burgeoning separatist threat here — it was a flop.

Some of the offensive merchandise on sale at the rally (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Well, mighty oaks from little nuts may grow, but one has the feeling this angry collection of acorns isn’t about to turn into a forest any time soon. It probably doesn’t help that the small gathering’s standard response to any mention of the prime minister was a chorus of hoarse shouts of “F#&k Trudeau!”

Yesterday’s rally made a dramatic contrast with the turnout for Swedish environmentalist Greta Thunberg’s climate strike in Edmonton on Oct. 18 — a difference by your blogger’s estimation of about 11,850 demonstrators, and not in the Wexiters’ favour. *

Indeed, the founder of one of Alberta’s other microscopic secessionist parties made this complaint on social media, but while he might have picked a better day for the effort, I doubt he could have attracted a bigger crowd than Mr. Downing, who despite a penchant for wild conspiracy theories about the PM and the troubling circumstances of his personal separation from his ex-wife has been given an awful lot of ink by mainstream media and supposedly serious pundits these past few weeks.

Some participants went full MAGA (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Mr. Downing’s remarks yesterday included a suggestion Mr. Kenney is too close to the federal Liberals, insistence that “the West wants out,” and a promise “to build our pipeline and we’ll make Quebec pay for it.” I wonder where he got that idea?

In addition to Mr. Downing, armed forces veteran Shaun Arnsten and First Nations advocate Virginia Bruneau also briefly addressed the group.

* A note a crowd size

Estimating crowds can be difficult and is often controversial. Global News estimated the number of people at yesterday’s Wexit rally at 100. The Edmonton Journal called it a “reported crowd” of 260 — presumably having gotten the number from the organizers.

I counted 77 people when the rally began and about 150 at its peak — few enough to do a reasonably accurate count. The latter number included media of various degrees of legitimacy, a cohort of Legislature security staff, a few hardy walkers passing by, several groups of observers who did not appear to share the Wexiters’ views, and one determined counter-protester.

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  1. It’s interesting that political rallies that promote unwinnable causes have some pretty catchy swag. I can’t say if theirs has be resonance of #MAGA but we’ll see.

    Writing off lost causes, as recent history has shown, tends to make them stronger. Best to treat #wexit as a clear and present danger that must be hunted down and destroyed by any and all means available. And if it gets up, hit them again and again. Downing is a pest and he’s not going to go away, because this pest has a very good chance of turning into a severe vermin problem.

  2. A rally like this usually provides a measure of how much support an issue has. The cold, however, provided the opportunity to take a second measurement of Wexit support: how badly do the supporters want it? Citizens of the 13 colonies wanted to get away from British oppression badly enough that they were willing to go to war to get it. Other than 150 people, Wexit supporters can’t even be bothered to stand in the cold for an hour. I spent a couple of hours outside yesterday afternoon getting some exercise – dressed appropriately it wasn’t that cold.

    Separation will be expensive, especially initially, as the Western Republic incurs multiple expenses setting up its own border controls, post office, military, revenue agency, foreign trade relations, embassies etc. The list goes on and on. To pay for these set up costs, the Republic’s government will either have to charge much higher taxes, with the promise to reduce them once the set-up costs are paid, or borrow a significant amount of money.

    Finally, Mr. Downing might want to consider the effect leading his followers in chants of ‘F&#k Trudeau’ will have on the general population he hopes to influence. I am trying to bring up a mental image of President Peter Downing representing our population at international events; it is not a pretty picture.

  3. There they were, out in the cold. Kindly contrast this to the size of the crowd protesting outside the UCP AGM in Calgary on an equally cold day in late 2019.

    Good to know that the oil workers have snowmobile suits to go along with all their snowmobiles, and trailers for the snowmobiles, and huge trucks to pull them. Because they’re suffering, and snowmobiles are a basic human right (overheard such a discussion in a coffee shop).

    Looks like MAGA really does mean Make America Great Again, if that flag is any indication. No wonder they took no issue with having a potential American Prime Minister of Canada. Makes the transition to statehood after separation easier. Guess I was wrong in thinking MAGA meant Make Alberta Give us ATVs.

    1. “…I don’t think he will, he’s married.”
      Maybe if they don the hat they could get excited enough to, as they say in hockey, “pull the goalie.”

  4. I guess the fed-Wexit opening ad campaign isn’t going so well. Seems their only platform is Trudeau-bashing, and now community standards about inciting hatred are making the billboard company review its policies.

    Has anyone figured out yet if War Room money for advertising is being diverted to this cause? Anything is possible, and with no transparency, this seems like a reasonable question.

    1. But if you dare ask it, ABS, you run the risk of being picked up by Jason’s UnAlbertan Activities Investigators.

  5. As much I think the leader isn’t fit for the role, and aside from some glaring issues with all the varied exit Parties, the message is the same. Alberta needs to be at least arms length from the controls of the Laurentian elite. Autonomy is our best reality and it is sorely needed.

    1. There is no such thing as “the Laurentian elite” or its “controls”. Alberta, like every province, has enough autonomy to plan a successful future if Jason Kenney would get off his lazy ass and do some real work. What this province really needs is educated voters.

    2. Magda is right, Rob. There is no “Laurentian Elite,” although there s certainly an English Canadian establishment, descended from the Upper Canadian establishment, that contains plenty of well-heeled oilmen from Alberta, their children and their toadies. The term was made up by Darrel Bricker and John Ibbitson in the Big Shift, the book that explained why the Harper Conservatives were going to run Canada forever. Oh! Woopsie! Unlike the thesis of that lousy doorstopper, the dumb idea lingers like a bad penny. Anyone who uses the term seriously is immediately identified to the real Canadian Establishment as what the old Commies used to call a “useful idiot.” Not all that useful, actually.

  6. Greta got possibly a 100 times more people. Of course, she made it here before winter set in, but still not a good sign for those wacky separatists. Hey, could we call start to call them wac-seps, instead of wexiters?

    I suppose we shouldn’t be too quick to completely dismiss them just yet. It is true that some small fringe elements, no one takes seriously initially, do sometimes manage to grow and take power based on things like grievances and guile. We only need to look south of the border for the most recent example of that and there have been other terrible examples of that in history too.

    I think the most recent separatist movement here was largely spurred on by the Federal election result. I think some conservative leaning voters here were genuinely surprised the rest of the country did not despise or share their intense irrational hatred of anything Trudeau. I suspect they actually believed Scheer’s prediction the Conservatives were going to posibly win a majority. Once the initial shock and disappointment wears off, I suspect most of them will give up flirting with wac-sep or whatever they prefer to be called, leaving say a few hundred hard core supporters to come out on a cold Alberta day.

    For a lot of reasons, polls are not always as accurate as they used to be. However nothing indicates where people’s heads or hearts are really at like how many people will come out to a rally or a protest. Greta had a very good turn out this fall and the protest at the UCP convention in Calgary earlier this winter had a good turn out too, the wac-sep’s more recently, well not so much.

    1. Dave: Polls are never accurate. That’s a start. With election polls in Alberta, and in Canada, they clearly have a Conservative slant to them. This has been the situation for many years. It was very interesting to see the staff at the Sun, (a Postmedia newspaper, with an ultra strong Conservative bias), have to eat crow, because their plan to have Andrew Scheer as PM, backfired.

  7. Comparatively, our premier has started to realize that separation would be a the problem not the answer.

    What’s wrong with being open to change and to realize that Canadians don’t want more right wing governments especially those that suck up to the oil industry. Canadians don’t need to change but the right leaning Albertans need to realize that they need to at least think about changing like they did In 2015 and not necessarily to the NDP but a government that works for people.

    1. Actually Notley’s NDP was working very well for AB but albertans vote blue even if these governments have historically plunder and steal from the public purse.

    2. SASK HERE: In Alberta, just like in Saskatchewan, there were Conservative (PC) governments. How did those work out? Other than one PC premier, (in Alberta), Peter Lougheed, the rest were dismal failures, leaving both provinces broke. In Saskatchewan, big jail terms came about for members of Grant Devine’s PC government. In Alberta, there was one former member of Grant Devine’s PC disaster government, in the Alberta PC fold. Gordon Dirks. The Saskatchewan Party has a magnified debt, and substantial tax increases, and cutbacks can’t reduce it. In Alberta, there is the UCP, led by a former CPC MP, who was as corrupt and useless as they come, while in Ottawa, also wasting vast sums of money, who clearly cheated to become Alberta’s premier, and who is continuing the path of blowing billions and billions of dollars needlessly. The last thing Alberta needed was another reckless and fiscally irresponsible Conservative government in power, but most Albertans don’t care. The NDP had to try and clean up a very big mess, made by the Alberta PCs, in just 4 years, at a time when oil prices tumbled the year before the NDP got into power.

  8. Lord a mighty! Interesting country you got there in Alberta —makes the Canadian federation all the more. They used to call BC (where I live) politics crazy (often not far wrong), but the mantle of Mickey mental maudlinism seems to have definitely been passed along. And, jeez, I’d like one a them toques, crude as they are, just for a me souvenir —or maybe to test the market in, say, BC or Ontario or any other part of the ROC+Q. Unless, of course, it infringes upon the trade and tariff agreement between Canduh n the new Albetarian Nation—like, when one gets negotiated, some point, I guess.

    “From little acorns mighty oaks grow,” yes, but sometimes mighty in their persistence, not majesty. On the rocky headlands and islands of Canada’s southern Pacific coast, the species Quercus garryanna may get stately in size—maybe even a size to cut stout church roof-rafters out of— but under extremes of site stress may form extensive stands of Garry oak boles shorter than blueberry bushes and the diminutive but tough wild Nootka rose, short enough for a grouse to pop its head up and have a look around.

    I know, like most observers, this protest was as much about virtue signalling amongst attendees and close relatives who couldn’t make it out as about anything else. But I’m proud nonetheless that our compatriots can exercise our Canadian rights, even as separatists.

    How else can one be a Canadian?

  9. Wexit is nothing more than a big farce, led by someone with a dubious history. It will have as much traction as the very earliest automobiles did, while trying to get through muddy terrain. What a bunch of crybabies. This always rears its ugly head, when the Conservatives get defeated in the federal election. Very few will take this movement seriously, just like in previous times. Alberta’s population is around 4.5 million people. How many are a part of this wacky movement? Less than 1000, I’d say. It is not Justin Trudeau’s fault that oil prices took a very sharp drop down, 6 years ago. It’s also not Justin Trudeau’s fault that Alberta has had a 44 year Conservative government that could not save even 2 nickels to rub together, after they repeatedly did scandals that are unmatched in Canada. Peter Lougheed was the first Alberta PC premier in Alberta. He was really good. After that, why did the Alberta PCs move away from the good things he was doing for Alberta? Oil booms are never, ever coming back. How is this Justin Trudeau’s fault? Where did that ‘National Energy Program’ go? Brian Mulroney dissolved it. What are the UCP doing? Nothing that even has the slightest resemblance of being good fiscal stewards. They have already thrown vast sums of money down the drain, totalling billions and billions of dollars. Again, how is this Justin Trudeau’s fault for this? B.C really has no support for separation. In Manitoba, where they have a Conservative government in power, their premier thinks that separation is not a logical move. This leaves Alberta and Saskatchewan. Many here don’t support separation. What are 2 landlocked provinces going to accomplish? Nobody favours oil out of Fort McMurray anymore. Not if things like American shale oil are dominating the world market. There are just too many factors to make separation a reality. In closing, vending toques, apparel, and other items with vulgarity on them, makes Peter Downing and the Wexit group look even more foolish than they already are.

    1. Having personally observed the Wexit demonstration myself for a few minutes before I got cold and bored and went back inside, I was struck by what losers most of the people there were. Sorry to be unkind, but I’m not just talking poor and uneducated, but proudly ignorant and and willfully stupid as well. These are the kind of people who amount to nothing in our cruel neoliberal society and imagine that in a new Alberta republic they will be winners and heroes. Unfortunately for them, they would be the same nobodies they are now, as well as being significantly worse off.

      1. I definitely don’t think they’ll be helped by an Alberta Republic… they’d be almost as likely to be helped by classist & credentialist bigots who think they have compassion. I had some fantastic intellectual discussions that ran for hours after that rally. I talked to nurses, veterans, closeted trans women who were victimized by what the Notley Government did to Hormone Replacement Access. You peered at the lumpenproletariat and demonstrated exactly how Neoliberal the Social Neoliberals have become.

    2. I use vulgarity to respond to obscenity, as do many working-class Albertans. The Wexit group are putting the cart before the horse, but this is one thing they do right.

  10. Ok! I returned this time because Christmas and old age. I’ve stayed because everyone else had to work. One of the cursed luxuries of not being employable at this moment? If you can pass the “I’m not an insane nihilist test” you’re draft card gets punched! Mine did anyway and it gifted me with an up close and personal peek into what they euphemistically term primary care in AB. I’d tell the whole story (and might still one day if I ever master this insane language) but why p you off! The thing about my experiences over that short introduction to “the long run” is that even a house cat could write them with the subtle purring, of “thank-you” that they have! It took effort but every healthcare worker including all but one Dr, closed ranks around; “we want you at home and healthy”. That was from the cornerstone of care: And now for a musical innerlude!

  11. There are more not only more people who attended the climate change rallies but also the anti-austerity rallies held by AUPE and others. In the rallies I attended, I noticed far more people in almost everyone one of them. The rally that was held during the UCP AGM near the Calgary airport had thousands of people-and the weather was as cold as it was when this Wexit rally was held. They don’t have the numbers but they have lots of powerful voices with money and media access to give the impression that they are bigger than they actually are.

  12. That’s more than made it out to the Edmonton version of The “March for a TERF Who Lost an Election, Keynoted in Washington by a TERF who Fought to Erect Barriers to Transition Medicine” (I like my more-accurate name), which in 2018 included a TERF Health Minister and Deputy Premier who spent millions entrenching barriers to equal access to hormone replacement on the basis of cis/trans status, and tens of millions entrenching barriers to hormone replacement generally.

    They had about 100 at their peak last year in the same weather. They had 0 this year.

    Also, you booked before listening to the First Nations Speaker, calling the whole thing “bullshit” 10 minutes in, sir (I presume we weren’t off the record), which, honestly, it’s nice how you get to be that hateful and dismissive, while I had to sit through the laughable charade of you and Dave “campaigns-for-cisfeminine-representation-using-standards-that-treat-me-like-a-former-man” Cornoyer and fixating not on the fact that you might have the climate science wrong, by under-emphasizing methane and that Joe Romm’s done this reporting six years ago… but some bullshit interpersonal connection to the war room.

    Thank goodness at least former Parkland E.D. Gordon Laxer was interested to know about how we might be distorting ourselves into the natural feedbacks.

    Please, keep making arguments to authority.

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