By Michael Wagner
The future of Alberta separatism is bright. The anticipated elections of 2019 are likely to result in circumstances that generate increasing support for Alberta independence. With Jason Kenney as Alberta’s premier, and Justin Trudeau as Canada’s prime minister, the stage will be set for a potentially large-scale revival of Alberta’s separatist movement.
In 2015 Alberta elected its first NDP government under Rachel Notley. Later that same year, Canada elected a Liberal government under the leadership of Justin Trudeau, the son of Alberta’s archenemy, Pierre Trudeau. Guided by a common “progressive” ideology, Notley and Trudeau formed an alliance of sorts, working together on their respective agendas, especially policies meant to address climate change.
With the goal of mitigating climate change, both the Alberta NDP government and the federal Liberal government implemented policies to restrict the development and export of Alberta’s oil and gas resources. In terms of progressive ideology, hamstringing Alberta’s main industry has been a deliberate and successful strategy. However, clouds are on the progressive horizon.
Recognizing the suicidal economic nature of the NDP government, most Albertans are desperate for change. The majority are currently looking to Jason Kenney and his United Conservative Party (UCP) to bring about that change by winning the provincial election in 2019.
Kenney is a staunch federalist. However, it is in his political interest to intensify conflict with Trudeau. Trudeau’s policies are harming Alberta, so it is reasonable to try to resist them strongly. In addition to that, though, it is well known that any Alberta premier can increase his or her own popularity by fighting with the federal government. Various premiers have portrayed themselves as the “defender of Alberta” to generate support at home. Even Notley is now attempting to use this tactic, although unconvincingly.
A federal election is expected in 2019. Trudeau has a good chance of being reelected, but with even fewer MPs from Alberta than he has now. The Liberals won four Alberta seats in the election of 2015 but will hopefully lose all four in next year’s election.
In any case, with Jason Kenney as premier and Justin Trudeau as prime minister, tension will be high between Alberta and the federal government. Kenney will likely increase the tension through aggressive opposition to Trudeau’s carbon tax and other federal policies. The resulting conflict could eventually resemble that between Premier Peter Lougheed and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
If this scenario occurs, it is likely that support for Alberta separatism will grow. Conflict between Alberta and the federal government tends to have that effect. However, Jason Kenney will not be able to accommodate separatist sentiment because of his strong federalist stance. Similarly, Derek Fildebrandt’s Freedom Conservative Party supports a “united Canada.” Therefore, a new organization will be needed to represent the concerns of patriotic Albertans who realize that independence is the only meaningful solution.
With this in mind, Alberta separatists should look towards the future with optimism and plan accordingly.