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, or by creating a new union with one or more of Canada's three other western 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 federal policies that disadvantage Alberta. In the past, tariff walls to promote the growth of tractor production in Ontario increased the cost of tractors for Alberta. In the 1980s, the National Energy Policy was seen as disadvantaging Alberta's interests. The Alberta economy had been traditionally based on ranching, and in the last years 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.


Separatism emerged in the 1930s within the Social Credit Party, which formed the Government of Alberta. The Government of Canada, at the urging of the banks and newspapers in Alberta, overruled legislation passed by the Alberta legislature to implement a form of social credit as being unconstitutional. Premier William Aberhart's followers started calling 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 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.[4] 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. 61.7% of Albertans voted for the opposition Conservative Party and 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.[5]

Despite these events, Alberta separatism is still a minority movement. As of 2014, no elected political parties or Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) in Alberta favour 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[edit]

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. Some pundits have predicted that this result will cause support for separatism to ebb away.

The notion of Alberta secession from Canada has gained sympathy from some figures within Alberta's conservative parties. 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."[6]

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[7]

2010s resurgence[edit]

Support for Alberta separatism has increased in the mid-2010s[8] but remains the view of a small minority.[9]

The increased interest among Albertans for separation from Canada has been the subject of several media reports.[10]

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?'"[11]

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
  4. ^ Elections Alberta
  5. ^
  6. ^ Calgary Sun 19 March 2003
  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. ^ Gerson, Jen (28 January 2016). "Hey Canada, a little help, please?". National Post. Retrieved 26 May 2016. 
  10. ^ "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. 
  11. ^ 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]