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'This country is fighting itself': Alberta separatists push for independence amid federal election

Peter Downing is the founder of Wexit Alberta, a political movement advocating for independence from Canada. (PHOTO: Crystal Laderas/CityNews)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — With the federal election fast approaching, a group advocating for Alberta to separate from Canada is hosting meetings in several cities in Alberta to gain support and the attention of federal party leaders.

The association dubbed Wexit Alberta, or Western Exit, envisions the future of Alberta as a sovereign republic with sole governance and legislation over its affairs. During a stop in Calgary, it’s founder Peter Downing renewed his call for independence in earnest citing Alberta’s lack of influence in Ottawa.

“Right now we have 34 seats in Alberta, our vote federally does not count,” he argued. Ontario holds 121 seats in the House of Commons while Quebec has 72 out of a total 338.

Despite the opportunity to elect a new government in the upcoming election, Downing is unconvinced that any of the parties would put Alberta interests first.

“The Conservative Party of Canada still has to pander to Ontario and Quebec because that is where all the votes are, that’s why they are talking about their carbon tax scheme and all of their social justice stuff,” Downing said.

“And again if you want to be that way that’s fine, there is nothing wrong with that, but Eastern Canadians are different from Western Canadians.”

Wexit’s bones of contention surround equalization payments, pipelines, and market access, which Downing says has been stifled by interprovincial spats.

While there is a tendency to point fingers at the federal government for Alberta’s economic suffering, Lori Williams, a political science professor at Mount Royal University, says there are much larger factors at play.

“The reality is that the economic condition of Alberta is not really caused by this or that government, it’s caused by economic factors that are well beyond any government’s control,” she argued.

“Even with a conservative government in Ottawa and without Bill C-48 or C-69, the economic conditions in Alberta are not going to change until access to other markets is achieved.”

The passage of Bills C-48 and C-69 in the Senate riled Alberta energy proponents who say the Bills will harm economic interests, arguing C-69 makes the regulatory process tougher to get projects like pipelines approved. In September the Alberta government launched a constitutional challenge to Bill C-69.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has pledged to hold a provincial referendum to remove equalization from the constitution if there is no progress on pipelines.

“We don’t trust the government in Ottawa, we don’t trust that they are going to do the right thing,” Downing said.

“This country is fighting itself. Whether it’s B.C. to our west, the lower mainland, and Quebec in the east, each of these provinces is blocking our pipelines east and west.”

Meanwhile, Williams noted the calls for independence have become louder.

“I get the frustration, I think a lot of people are just hoping that this will somehow or another impact the outcome of the election or shift government policy,” she said.

The reality is that the economic condition of Alberta is not really caused by this or that government, it’s caused by economic factors that are well beyond any government’s control.

The one thing that looks like it’s got a chance of making a difference is getting our oil products to other countries besides the United States.”