Liberal victory renews talks of Alberta separation on social media

Oct 22 2019, 11:31 am

Justin Trudeau’s re-elected Liberal Party has ignited plenty of ire in western Canada.

The Liberals were elected as a minority government but didn’t win a single seat in Alberta and Saskatchewan, losing the popular vote 34 to 33% to Andrew Scheer’s Conservative Party.

Alberta proved to support the Conservatives with all but one of the province’s ridings going blue (NDP’s Heather McPherson won in Edmonton) as voters opposing the Liberals feel disregarded by the federal government.

albertafightsback.com

A Facebook group, VoteWexit.com, has been encouraging the idea of western Canada seceding from the confederacy.

The group grew in followers overnight, gaining thousands of supporters in the hours after the re-election was announced.

“We are all heartbroken,” states the VoteWexit Facebook page. “We have been betrayed by an ungrateful population of Eastern Canadian voters, who have spit in your face, as they watched you suffer through job loss…. over taxation….. over regulation….. yet took endlessly from YOU to fund their social programs. Well no more. Albertans are the toughest and most resilient people on planet earth. Get some rest tonight. Because tomorrow we begin the march to independence.”

As of this writing, the recently-surged group has 122,296 followers.

On Tuesday, #Wexit was trending on Twitter in Canada, calling for the West to split from the rest of the country.

But just how possible would it be for western Canada, or even just Alberta, to split away from Canada?

Quebec came close to finding out just how that would work back in 1995, when a referendum on Quebec sovereignty failed by a vote of just 49.42% to 50.58%.

Following the close call, the federal government created and passed the Clarity Act in 1999/2000, which lays out the groundwork on what would have to happen for a province (or provinces) to secede from the confederation.

As in Quebec nearly 25 years ago, the province in question would have to go to a referendum that has a clear yes or no question asking the public if they would like to secede.

However, the Clarity Act states that it would be up to the House of Commons to determine “whether a proposed referendum question was sufficiently clear and whether a referendum result had been adopted by a sufficient majority,” according to University of Victoria Law Professor Jeremy Webber’s The Constitution of Canada, a Contextual Analysis.

No threshold was officially set specifying that the sufficient majority would need to be 50% plus one or some other, higher amount. Instead, the matter of what qualifies as a sufficient majority would be determined by the House of Commons following the referendum.

The Clarity Act also included that succession would only be possible following negotiations among all provinces, and that any constitutional amendment that allows for secession would need to address “the rights, interests and territorial claims of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada, and the protection of minority rights.”

It was ruled by the Supreme Court following Quebec’s failed sovereignty referendum that a unilateral declaration of independence (ie, a choice being made by the province and the province alone) would not hold up legally as it would “ignore the federal structure of Canada and the primacy of the constitution,” Webber writes.

However, the courts also noted that “the principle of democracy would create a binding duty to negotiate if a clear majority of Quebecers voted ‘Yes’ to a clear question,” though that obligation would not be enforced by the courts.

So while Alberta, and the rest of western Canada, could potentially hold and succeed in a referendum to secede from the confederacy, even a majority vote wouldn’t guarantee sovereignty.

Still, talk of separation appears to have been ignited in the west following last night’s election.

With files from Ty Jadah