Alberta separatism

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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, by creating a new union with one or more of Canada's other western provinces, and/or joining the United States.


Alberta separatism arises from the fact that Alberta is culturally distinct from the rest of Canada, particularly Central Canada and Eastern Canada, and because of the economic harm done to Alberta under the Equalization payments in Canada system. Alberta is a net contributor and will never receive any payments under the current payment formula. Further the majority of Alberta's trade follows a North/South pattern more than an East/West pattern.

In the 1980s, the National Energy Policy set a lower Canadian price for oil from the West, which resulted in a transfer of wealth to the East. However when World Oil prices collapsed the East promptly abandoned the policy and no benefit was ever returned to the West. The Alberta economy had been traditionally based on agriculture, and in the last half of the 20th century, been bolstered by considerable revenues from oil and gas production. Alberta's political culture in the late 20th Century generally speaking was more conservative, on both economic and social issues, than the rest of Canada.


Separatism emerged in the 1930s within the Social Credit Party, which formed the Government of Alberta after the 1935 election. (Although it was said that implementing a form of social credit in the province was unconstitutional, Premier William Aberhart did secure provincially-owned banks and distribution of prosperity certificates.) The Government of Canada overruled legislation passed by the Alberta legislature to regulate and tax banks and newspapers in Alberta, most of which openly were against the government. Premier William Aberhart's followers called for separation from Canada, but Aberhart himself counselled moderation and rejected secession. The separatist movement was ridiculed by the media as a fringe movement of the uneducated.[1]


In 1980, a separatist movement emerged in western Canada that attracted thousands of people to rallies and resulted in the election of a separatist to the Alberta legislature.[2]

During the 1980s, when the National Energy Program (NEP) was created by the federal government under Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, support for Alberta separatism reached levels that (as of 2012) 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 (WCC).[3] 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 in the 1984 federal election. Under Mulroney, the NEP was rapidly dismantled.

The WCC still managed a strong third place showing in another by-election in Spirit River-Fairview held in 1985, following the death of Grant Notley .[4]


Political events in the early 21st century led to a resurgence in interest in Alberta separatism among some.

In the 2004 federal election, the governing Liberal Party of Canada was returned with a minority government despite allegations of corruption. 61.7% of Alberta voters voted for the opposition Conservative Party - 22% supported the Liberals, although how many of these Conservative voters were separatist can only be guessed.

There was significant opposition within Alberta to the Kyoto Protocol as the Kyoto treaty was believed to have negative effects on the provincial economy, which is based to a large degree on the oil and gas industry. (Alberta contains the world's second largest proven reserves of oil, behind only Saudi Arabia.[5])

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 attracted in the 2001 election, when 15 candidates attracted 7,500 votes.

Support in conservative parties[edit]

The Conservative Party of Canada, under Ontario-born, University of Calgary educated Stephen Harper won a minority government in the 2006 federal election. This left the separatist cause with uncertain prospects. Some pundits predicted that this result would cause support for separatism to ebb away.

The notion of Alberta secession from Canada gained sympathy from some figures within Alberta's conservative parties. Mark Norris, who was 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."[6]

Also, some politicians believe, and at least one poll indicated that a much larger portion of the Alberta population may be at least sympathetic to the notion of secession than was 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[7]

2010s resurgence[edit]

Support for Albertan separatism has increased in the mid-2010s, it seems from some reports.[8][9][10][11][11][12]

The topic of interest among Albertans for separation from Canada has been the subject of several media reports.[13][11][12]

Peter Zeihan in his book published in 2014, The Accidental Superpower: The Next Generation of American Preeminence and the Coming Global Disorder presented the reasons why he believed both Alberta and the U.S. would benefit from Alberta joining the United States as the 51st state.[14][9][10][11][12] Quote from pg 263 of book:

"The core issue is pretty simple. While the Quebecois - and to a slightly lesser degree the rest of Canada - now need Alberta to maintain their standard of living, the Albertans now need not to be a part of Canada in order to maintain theirs."

Zeihan also stated that "Right now, every man, woman and child in Alberta pays $6,000 more into the national budget than they get back. Alberta is the only province that is a net contributor to that budget — by 2020, the number will exceed $20,000 per person, $40,000 per taxpayer. That will be the greatest wealth transfer in per capita terms in the Western world."[12] Per Statistics Canada, in 2015 Alberta paid $27 billion more into the federal treasury than it received back in services.[15]

Since 2014, this core issue has become part of the mainstream public discourse in Alberta. In February 2016, during an interview with the newly formed Alberta Freedom Party, 630 CHED host Ryan Jespersen stated "I'm actually surprised at how much support you're seeing from people, from CHED nation, a lot of people, I mean someone out of High Level says 'I agree with this guy. How can I sign up? How can I support them?'"[16]


Benefits of separation from Canada and merger with US would be:[citation needed]

  1. True Free trade with the US. Agricultural products(grain, beef, etc) could flow freely in either direction
  2. Decreased regulatory burden. Infrastructure projects like Keystone XL would no longer need international agreements.
  3. Access to greater labour pool. Skilled workers could more easily follow jobs in either direction
  4. Access to investment capital
  5. Lower taxes
  6. Common stable currency
  7. Lower shipping costs
  8. Control over immigration


The disadvantages of separation from Canada and merger with US would be:

  1. Increased political interference
  2. Swapping exposure from Canadian federal debt($1.4 Trillion CDN) to US federal debt ($22 Trillion USD)


In most countries it would be considered treason to talk about secession. In Canada the Clarity Act, which has been approved by the Supreme Court of Canada, governs the process a province should follow to achieve separation. The first step is a province wide referendum with a clear question. The size of majority support required by referendum is not defined. The intent of the framers of the Clarity Act was to make it very difficult for a province to succeed. Once a majority has been obtained by clear referendum it would be very difficult to stop the process much like the Brexit vote.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Howard Palmer, Alberta: A New History (1990) p 272
  2. ^ Bell, Edward. "'Separatism and Quasi-Separatism in Alberta," Prairie Forum, Sep 2007, Vol. 32 Issue 2, pp 335-355
  3. ^ Elections Alberta Archived 2007-07-04 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Elections Alberta Archived 2007-07-04 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Calgary Sun". Calgary Sun. 
  7. ^ Kevin Steel, "A nation torn apart: An exclusive Western Standard poll shows more than a third of westerners are thinking of separating from Canada. What's dividing the country--and can anything be done to save it?," Western Standard August 22, 2005 online
  8. ^ Loutan, Tyler (16 February 2016). "Separatists getting louder with a quiet Alberta economy". 630 CHED. Retrieved 26 May 2016. 
  9. ^ a b "Should Alberta Join the United States?". The Charles Adler Show. Soundcloud. Retrieved 26 December 2017. 
  10. ^ a b Zeihan, Peter (26 December 2014). "The End of Canada?". Retrieved 26 December 2017 – via YouTube. 
  11. ^ a b c d "The Last Best West: Meet Alberta's New Separatists". 29 February 2016. 
  12. ^ a b c d Gerson, Jen (March 18, 2015). "Why leaving Canada makes sense for Alberta, and U.S. would likely welcome a new state". National Post. 
  13. ^ "Talk of the Town: Is separatism rising here again?". Medicine Hat News. 7 November 2015. Archived from the original on 18 April 2016. Retrieved 26 May 2016. 
  14. ^ "Peter Zeihan says Alberta would be better off as 51st U.S. state". CBC News. Retrieved 6 October 2017. 
  15. ^ Collins, Erin (June 10, 2017). "Analysis: Another decade, another Trudeau, another stab at sovereignty in Alberta". CBC News. 
  16. ^ Feb 17 – Jespersen Hr 2 – Meghan "Mama Circus" Schech – R.C.J. & Jeff Rout – Alberta Freedom Party. 630 CHED. 17 February 2016. Retrieved 26 May 2016. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Bell, Edward. "'Separatism and Quasi-Separatism in Alberta," Prairie Forum, Sep 2007, Vol. 32 Issue 2, pp 335–355
  • Larry Pratt & Garth Stevenson Western separatism: the myths, realities & dangers (1981)
  • Michael Wagner. Alberta: Separatism Then and Now (St. Catharines, ON: Freedom Press Canada Inc., 2009) 138 pp, favourable account that concludes, "The odds of Alberta actually leaving Confederation are remote, at this point." However, he adds, "in my view, separatism has a future."

External links[edit]