Alberta separatism: Wikis


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Alberta (orange) shown within Canada (beige)

Alberta separatism is a movement that advocates the secession of the province of Alberta from Canada either by forming an independent nation, or by creating a new federation with one or more of Canada's other three westernmost provinces.



Alberta separatism arises from the belief held by some that Alberta is culturally distinct from the rest of Canada, particularly Central Canada and Eastern Canada, and from the belief that Alberta is harmed economically by providing financial support to other provinces through the federal transfer payment program. The Alberta economy has been traditionally based on ranching, and in the last half of the 20th century, been bolstered by considerable revenues from oil and gas production. Alberta has developed a political culture that is more conservative, in both economic and social issues, than the rest of Canada.

Alberta separatism takes many different forms:

  • some advocate Alberta seceding from Canada to establish its own country;
  • more common is the idea that Western Canada (Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba) should separate to form one country, possibly including Canada's northern territories; see Western Separatism
  • one is that Alberta should separate only with British Columbia;




During the 1980s, when the National Energy Program was created by the federal government under Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, support for Alberta separatism reached levels that (as of 2006) have not been matched since. Gordon Kesler was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta in a by-election in Olds-Didsbury as a candidate of the Western Canada Concept party [1]. In response, Premier Peter Lougheed called a snap election in which the party nominated 78 candidates in the province's 79 ridings (electoral districts). Although the party won almost 12% of the popular vote (over 111,000 votes), Kesler was defeated after changing ridings, and no other candidate was elected. The party's popularity declined after the Progressive Conservative Party, led by Brian Mulroney, defeated Prime Minister John Turner as in the 1984 federal election although the WCC still managed a strong third place showing in another by-election in Spirit River-Fairview held in 1985. [2]. Under Mulroney, the NEP was rapidly dismantled.


Political events in the early 21st century have led to a resurgence in interest in Alberta separatism. In the 2004 federal election, the governing Liberal Party of Canada was returned with a minority government despite allegations of corruption. Albertans voted overwhelmingly (61.7%) for the opposition Conservative Party, while only 22.0% of Albertans supported the Liberals. There is also significant opposition within Alberta to the Kyoto Protocol as the Kyoto treaty has been believed to have negative effects on the provincial economy, which is heavily supported by its powerful oil and gas industry. Alberta contains the world's second largest proven reserves of oil, behind only Saudi Arabia.[3]

Despite these events, Alberta separatism is still considered by many Albertans (including most of the political establishment) to be the domain of fringe groups. Furthermore, Alberta's first past the post electoral system makes it very difficult to elect any candidate who represents what is perceived to be a fringe party. As of 2006, no elected political parties or Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) in Alberta unconditionally favour outright secession.

In the 2004 general election, the Separation Party of Alberta nominated 12 candidates who won 4,680 votes, 0.5% of the provincial total. No candidates were elected. This was less support than the Alberta Independence Party had attracted in the 2001 election, when 15 candidates attracted 7,500 votes.

Support in conservative parties

However, the notion of Alberta secession from Canada has gained sympathy from some figures within Alberta's conservative parties. A candidate in the Alberta Alliance's most recent leadership election offered conditional support for separation if the Conservatives lost the 2006 federal election. The candidate, David Crutcher, finished third in a field of four candidates with 21.5% of the vote in the second ballot. The Alliance, widely considered to be the most right-wing of the four parties with current representation in the Legislature, officially favours greater autonomy for Alberta within Canada. As of 2006, the Alliance continued to explicitly reject separation as a matter of party policy. It holds one seat in the Legislature.

Even after the federal Tories won the 2006 general election, a prominent Alberta Progressive Conservative and a candidate for the Tory leadership also refused to reject secession under all circumstances. Mark Norris, one of the contenders to succeed Ralph Klein as the Alberta premier, told the Calgary Sun in March 2006 that under his leadership, if a future federal government persisted in bringing in policies harmful to Alberta such as a carbon tax, "(Alberta is) going to take steps to secede."[4]

Also, some politicians and at least one poll have indicated that a much larger percentage of the Alberta population may be at least sympathetic to the notion of secession than would be indicated by election results. In January 2004, Premier Ralph Klein told the Canadian edition of Readers Digest that one in four Albertans were in support of separation. An August 2005 poll commissioned by the Western Standard pegged support for the idea that "Western Canadians should begin to explore the idea of forming their own country." at 42% in Alberta and 35.6% across the four Western provinces[5]. In response, some people have claimed that the Western Standard's poll question was too vague to be used for determining support for secession.

Although Klein has stated that he is committed to Canadian federalism, he has discussed measures that would distance the province considerably from the federal government. In 2003, Klein indicated that he was considering ideas on implementing what was called a political and economic "firewall". A top priority for many Albertans is withdrawal from the Canada Pension Plan, given the province's youthful demographics. Other proposals include establishing a provincial police force, collecting provincial income tax directly (rather than through the federal government), and withdrawing from the Canada Health Act.[6] All these measures would be constitutional, since they involve powers and responsibilities assigned to the provinces by Canada's constitution, and all of them have been implemented in some other provinces with the exception of withdrawal from the Canada Health Act. None of the "firewall" proposals have been implemented in Alberta.

The Conservative Party of Canada, under Ontario-born, University of Calgary educated Stephen Harper won a minority government in the 2006 federal election, leaving the separatist cause with uncertain prospects, at least for the short term. Many pundits have predicted that this result will cause support for separatism to ebb away; however, it is worth noting that Alberta separatism last peaked after a previous Conservative minority was defeated and replaced by a Liberal government. Some prominent federal Liberal leadership candidates such as Bob Rae promised they would not unfairly target Alberta wealth should they be elected.

See also


External links


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