Regionalism and nationalism in Canada – yet another reassessment (Part Five)
By Mark Wegierski
Stephen Harper’s Conservatives won minority governments (a plurality of seats in Parliament) in Ottawa in 2006 and 2008, and a majority government in 2011.
Stephen Harper is often considered to be emphatically a Western Canadian. He has also certainly been a person of great political skill – who did not lack what are considered the major attributes for the Prime Ministership in Canada (such as being fluently bilingual, and being friendly to Quebec). Although Joe Clark was geographically from Western Canada, most Western Canadians increasingly came to view him as playing the role of a “collaborator” with the “Eastern” elites.
In Western Canada, the terms “Eastern” or “Easterner” or “Eastern Canada” refer mainly to Ontario and Quebec. Such terms frequently have a pejorative feel. In Ontario, the terms “Eastern Canada” or “from the East”, are usually a reference to the Atlantic provinces. They are not considered pejorative.
Perhaps Western Canadian alienation will now reach a boiling point again, as it could be seen that in the 2015 federal election, that Stephen Harper has been “done in” by the hostile, “Eastern” media and intellectual elites.
Western Canada has waited for a very long time for a so-called “place at the table” in Ottawa, and if there are widespread feelings in the West that Harper has been unfairly savaged, it will indeed be the hour of fury in Western Canada, and especially in Alberta.
Once a large portion of the federal Conservative caucus was elected from Ontario seats (which obviously was a precondition for Harper winning a parliamentary majority in 2011), the influence and representation of Western Canada in the Conservative Party – it could be argued – diminished somewhat. But it was substantially more than under the current Justin Trudeau Liberals.
It may also be unfortunate that Harper delivered so little of what so-called “small-c conservatives” might have expected from a “big-C Conservative” majority government. Harper continued with policies that were, in many cases, not substantially different from those of the more centrist Liberals. Indeed, were it not for the various penumbra of longstanding, inflamed partisanship, and longstanding historical voting patterns, it could be argued that probably close to eighty percent of Canadians could have supported Harper’s rather moderate and centrist policies.
The Wildrose Alliance was a more decidedly right-wing party (that existed only at the provincial level in Alberta), that indeed achieved considerable electoral successes. In 2015, the NDP had, amazingly, won a majority government in Alberta. However, the Wildrose Alliance and the provincial Progressive Conservative party merged, forming the United Conservative Party – which easily won a majority government in 2019, under the leadership of Jason Kenney.
However, a burgeoning Western separatist movement has emerged. The federal Wexit Party based in Alberta and other Western provinces, was renamed the Maverick Party in September 2020. A merger between the Freedom Conservative Party and Wexit Alberta has formed the Wildrose Independence Party in Alberta. And, in Saskatchewan, Wexit Saskatchewan has been renamed as the Buffalo Party. “Buffalo” was the proposed name of a larger province that would have included Alberta and Saskatchewan, before it was decided that the two smaller provinces would be formed. “Buffalo” is a rallying cry for the Western separatists and regionalists.
To be continued.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.