Prime Minister Justin Trudeau begins his second term facing an increasingly divided Parliament and country. His rock-star appeal from four years ago has diminished by scandal and lies.
Trudeau was re-elected in a stronger-than-expected showing in Monday’s national elections. But while his Liberal Party took the most seats in Parliament, it lost its majority. The Liberals will have to rely on an opposition party to get anything passed.
The prime minister struck a conciliatory note in an early morning address that forced the TV networks to break away from covering his Conservative rival, Andrew Scheer, who had just begun speaking to his own supporters.
“To those who did not vote for us, know that we will work every single day for you, we will govern for everyone,” Trudeau said.
With results still trickling in, the Liberals had 157 seats — 13 short of the 170 needed for a majority in the 338-seat House of Commons — while the Conservatives had 121.
While Trudeau claimed a “clear mandate,” his party won fewer raw votes nationally than the Conservatives did. Trudeau’s Liberals also failed to win a single seat in the western provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, where the Conservatives dominated.
There is growing outrage in Alberta, home to the third-largest oil reserves in the world. Trudeau’s has shown his inability to get a pipeline built to the Pacific Coast.
#Wexit – Fuelling Talk of Separation
A day after the re-election of the federal Liberals and a near Conservative sweep in Alberta and Saskatchewan, feelings of frustration in Western Canada were fuelling talk of separation.
The Vote Wexit Facebook page, with its motto “The West Wants Out”, went from 2,000 or so members on Monday to 170,000 and counting by late Tuesday afternoon. “Wexit” Alberta founder Peter Downing, a former soldier and RCMP officer, said his group received more than $20,000 in donations and membership fees overnight.
Downing said his group is pushing for Premier Jason Kenney to call a referendum on whether Alberta should separate from Canada.
“The idea of Canada has died in the hearts of many, many western Canadians,” Downing said.
Mount Royal University professor David Taras called the feelings of anger and frustration “very real and very understandable.”
Taras sees Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as having few options following Monday’s election results. Other than appointing someone to the Senate who has support in Alberta, then having that person serve in cabinet.
“I would say that’s probably the way he’s going to go, to, I guess, artificially ensure that there’s a voice at the table for Alberta,” Taras said.
Trudeau Hated in the West
Martha Hall Findlay, the president and CEO of the Canada West Foundation, said that as the person most responsible for national unity, Trudeau needs to take on the natural resources file himself.
“You cannot separate natural resources now from national unity,” she said.
“That is a huge part of the problem. And so, not only do you need Mr. Prime Minister to step into this file right now, and seriously, but you also need to make sure you have other people around your cabinet who understand the importance of resources, understand the importance of the west.”
After responding to the election results in the Alberta legislature, including detailing a five-page letter he sent to Trudeau, Kenney told reporters that Albertans should not let Trudeau and his policies “make us feel unwelcome in our own country.”
Kenney said he believes that, at heart, most Albertans are patriots, and said Alberta has allies across Canada.
“We have provincial governments who’ve got our back on a number of these issues. Including a fair deal for our resource sector and our oil and gas sector,” he said. “So we’re not isolated, we’re not alone.”
The premier added that land-locking Alberta through separation “is not a solution to a #wext campaign to land-lock Alberta.
“We’re not going to get one inch closer to a pipeline by closing in on ourselves as a landlocked jurisdiction,” he said.
Talk of Western Separatism – #Wexit
Grant Fagerheim, CEO of oil company Whitecap Resources Inc., said Alberta and Saskatchewan’s contributions to the Canadian economy have not been respected.
He said he’s not surprised there has been talk of #wexit separatism, but whether that amounts to anything is another matter.
“I don’t believe at this particular time, whether you live in Saskatchewan or Alberta, that people would say they’re Canadian first.”
Taras said while talks of #wexit separation are fueled “by real anger and discontent.” Wanting to leave Canada is a different question.
“I understand the anger, but do people really think that it’s a good idea to need a visa to go to Kelowna or to go skiing, or to visit relatives in Saskatoon?
“And if Alberta has difficulty getting its product overseas now, just wait until it’s not part of Canada,” he added. “At the end of the day, the people that I know love Canada. They are very emotionally attached to the country, and I don’t think you can wash that away very easily.”