The hashtag #wexit — an unoriginal take on Brexit, but for Western Canada — started trending on Twitter Tuesday as online armchair political “experts” spent the aftermath of the election in whine country.
First, do not lump in the more progressive and diverse voters of B.C. into an Alberta separation sentiment. B.C. voters en masse will not join you on that ride. Second, if I have learned anything from this election, it is that perception of online opinion is often inflated — just look at the election results.
Many conservative-leaning hashtags like #trudeaulesstuesday and memes (most boasting straight-up lies) flooded social media throughout the election in big numbers, but compare that to actual votes and those numbers don’t hold up.
I understand the frustration in Alberta. I think the anger is misplaced and most knee-jerk reactions don’t seem to realize the Conservatives have a strong opposition, putting Trudeau “on notice” as party leader Andrew Scheer put it.
If you voted Conservative, take your lumps, and realize there is an opportunity to work with other parties in a strong opposition. If the party is not hard-headed, and is willing to make concessions, Conservatives could have a role to play. One that rises above calling the prime minister names.
According to many tight races, including the South Okanagan West-Kootenay, where one per cent of the vote made the difference, and one per cent difference between Liberals and Conservatives in the popular vote nationwide, the country is clearly divided — but not enough to start separation talks, at least for the adults in the room.
The logistics of Alberta separation are silly. It would see the land-locked province become impoverished as the negotiations would sway heavily to the rest of Canada, which would hold most of the cards (international trade routes, a bigger tax base, more imports of essential products) probably creating a worse deal for Albertans overall — or a bastardized version of the current equalization agreement with harder borders.
I am not some outsider telling Albertans to sit down and shut up, I am Albertan born and raised. I spent the first 18 years of my life in the heart of oil and gas country in Cold Lake. My take away from that time? My hometown would see booms and busts with the swing and sway of oil prices, during both Conservative and Liberal governments who don’t have any control over a global market price. Not a great long-term planning policy for a community, or a country.
However, threatening to take your ball and go home is a pretty sad reaction to an election result and pathetically childish populism which will not come to pass. The narrative is being pushed by those who rightly think Alberta was relatively ignored during the election, but combining NDP and Liberal popular vote totals shows the overlapping environmental and social platforms between the parties resonate with more Canadians than the prominence of oil and gas — a tentpole of the Conservative campaign and surely the voter base.
As a nation we are clearly divided almost down the middle on energy issues, but the inevitability of progress and human history say the industry is going to dwindle. The inventor of the light bulb worked by candle light, the inventor of the automobile rode a horse, and the progress of renewable energy will depend on the oil and gas sector.
Dale Boyd is a reporter for the Osoyoos Times and Oliver Chronicle living in the South Okanagan.