Saturday, April 23, 2011

No, Craig ... Western Separatism Is More Fiction Than Fact

I was wondering where Craig Chandler had gotten to - especially in the run up to the current election - a time that usually draws him out to comment on something.

Well ... apparently he's been nursing his inner western separatist back to health after the 'flare-and-fizzle' of David Crutcher's Western Business and Taxpayers Association in 2008.

“Western Canada will not tolerate a purposeful slap in the face if the government they chose is rejected by Canada’s Central Canadian parties. The threat of the West organizing to separate is real and reared it’s head in a serious way last time the coalition threat occurred. Unlike Quebec, the West can afford to leave and even pay its share of the debt on the way out” stated Craig B. Chandler, Executive Director of the PGIB.


What people like Chandler don't seem to understand is that the idea of separation from Canada has been tossed about from time to time for decades. I first encountered it in the late 1970s when the Western Canada Concept party came into being. It didn't exactly go anywhere then, and in the thirty years since, entities like the WCC have flared up and died out repeatedly - usually led by a bunch of loudmouths who have no real idea what they're on about and gaining absolutely no real traction with the public as whole.

Why? Unlike Quebec, where separatism has its roots in the cultural history of the province and is deeply influenced by the colonial wars between England and France, the concept in western Canada is rooted solely in political and economic arguments with little or no grounding in our cultural identity as Canadians.

Simply put, most Western Canadians are quite happy to be Canadian first. We know that economic and political upsets happen from time to time - and we've likely as not lived through a few of them. The idea of separatism is a fantasy that gets played with occasionally, but really doesn't have any traction with people's sentiments.

Mr. Chandler seems to take great offense at the idea of a coalition being formed in our parliament and then governing. Sadly, his sense of offense is rooted in his blindness to the subtleties and workings of the Westminster Parliament system that we use in Canada.

Far too many people these days assume that we are voting "for the party leader" that we want as Prime Minister. In fact, we are electing our local representative to Parliament. It is up to the members of parliament to form a workable government that has "the confidence of the house". That may or may not be led by the party with the most seats, and if a couple of parties band together to form a government that is in fact perfectly legitimate - in spite of the lies that Harper has told the public about coalitions. (Perhaps, Mr. Chandler would like to muse a little bit on Harper's past dalliances with the concept of coalition as well)

Rather than fuming about Western Separatism as an alternative, Mr. Chandler would be better off focusing his energies on trying to understand why it is that voter turnout has been declining for so long. Why, for example, did 22% of the electorate decide 80% of the seats in the last Alberta provincial election? Why did over half the voters just stay home that day? (Of course, an engaged electorate generally doesn't bode well for today's conservatives, who know damn good and well that most people would object violently to their policies - if they bothered to look)

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