'Ottawa doesn't care': Western separatist movement gains traction as Albertans react to Liberal victory
TORONTO -- News of a Liberal minority win has breathed new life into the western separatist movement, tapping into the anger and frustration of voters who feel they’ve been short-changed by the federal government.
Though Alberta and Saskatchewan were washed in Conservative blue Monday, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau managed to hold on to power, winning a minority government, much to the disappointment of those opposing the Liberal party.
Early Tuesday, #Wexit began trending on Twitter in Canada, igniting calls for the West to separate from the rest of Canada.
“Trudeau's re-election is going to tear Canada in half. Good job Quebec. You'll get your separatism desires. The west is leaving,” read one tweet echoing the sentiment of many tweeting using the hashtag.
On Facebook, a group called “VoteWexit.com” surged in popularity, gaining tens of thousands of likes in a matter of hours.
At one point, the number of group members surged from 4,000 to 42,000 in 10 minutes, appearing to cause the group’s external website to crash. Many prospective Facebook members also complained that they could not access the Facebook page.
At time of publishing, the group had amassed more than 56,000 members.
Ryan Switzer, a Swift Current, Sask. resident in the Cypress Hills-Grasslands riding, told CTVNews.ca that he was invited to multiple western separatist-themed Facebook groups Monday night, noting that separatist sentiment has been growing in his Conservative-held riding.
“I live in a conservative riding with lots of conservative Facebook friends. I knew a reaction like that would be coming,” Switzer told CTVNews.ca in a direct message on Twitter Monday.
“There has been a lot of talk in my riding over the last four years of separation. There is a feeling that Ottawa doesn’t care about anything west of Winnipeg…There is a big feeling that the government does not have our back.”
Calls for western separation are not new. In the 2019 provincial election, the Alberta Independence party received about 13,400 votes, less than one per cent of the popular vote. The party’s main policy platform is Alberta’s secession from Canada.
“I am tired and I believe most Albertans are tired of being treated as a second-class colony,” Derek Fildebrandt, the leader of the Freedom Conservative Party of Alberta, told CTV News in March.
Prior to the provincial election in April, a poll from the Environics Institute found that 71 per cent of Albertans feel their province does not get the respect that it should.
Early Tuesday, a Change.org petition calling for an Alberta separation and a western alliance had garnered over 2,156 signatures within an hour of being created. Facebook Event pages calling for separation also began popping up within groups calling for a western alliance.