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Analysis

Jason Kenney’s Allies Are Floating Separatist Talking Points After the Defeat of Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives

“There is a war against Alberta,” says UCP organizer holding meeting to discuss the “unification of the separatist factions in Alberta”

Several prominent allies of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney are openly musing about separatism following the defeat of Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives in Monday’s federal election.

In the lead up to the election, there has been a rise in media coverage exploring the possibility that separatist sentiment is taking hold in Alberta, even though pollsters have repeatedly shown the data supporting this narrative is quite thin.

Although Kenney himself claims “the whole notion of separation is irrational,” many of Kenney’s top allies have been the loudest voices talking about the idea.

Last month, former Reform Party leader Preston Manning warned an elite luncheon in Calgary that the election outcome could encourage separatist sentiment.

That warning has been echoed with remarkable precision by others.

An internal e-mail obtained by PressProgress last week showed Whitecap Resources CEO Grant Fagerheim asked employees to share an anonymous chain letter warning friends and family Alberta could separate if the Conservatives lose the election.

Fagerheim and former Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, who sits on Whitecap’s board of directors, founded a third party group called the Buffalo Project, which has rejected suggestions that it promotes divisive rhetoric on national unity.

On election night, Calgary celebrity millionaire W. Brett Wilson floated the idea that Confederation would be “toast” unless Scheer’s Conservatives won.

Wilson, who has previously stated he is “not a separatist,” tweeted multiple times suggesting “Confederation will be challenged” as a result of the election.

Asked for comment, Wilson told PressProgress: “I love Canada.” Nevertheless, he describes himself as a “frustrated nationalist.”

Right-wing Calgary radio host Danielle Smith, a former leader of Alberta’s Wildrose Party, recently called Alberta a “doormat” and mused about “national unity” and “Alberta separation.”

On election night, Smith tweeted “I wasn’t joking when I said Justin Trudeau launched a separatist movement in Alberta tonight,” pointing to an online petition she claimed had collected 2,200 signatures.

In the thread responding to Smith, Questerre Energy CEO Michael Binnion said he hoped “good sense will prevail,” but suggested the Rest of Canada makes separation a “tempting invitation.”

Binnion, a big donor to Kenney’s leadership, Chair of the Manning Foundation and a funder of right-wing groups through his Modern Miracle Network organization, complained Canadians showed how they really feel about Alberta when they “voted for parties who want to phase out the West’s biggest industry.”

“Not too hard a choice for Alberta,” Binnion added.

In a statement to PressProgress, the oil executive clarified: “I am not a separatist but nor am I willing to stand by and be phased out.”

Binnion told PressProgress he agrees with “the principle of federal transfers” and thinks the argument that Alberta would struggle economically as an independent state because its would be “landlocked” is “backwards in my opinion.”

Craig Chandler, a top UCP organizer who once accused the Earls’ Restaurants chain of supporting terrorists, called election night “the evening that Confederation died.”

Before going to sleep, he had already organized an emergency meeting to begin discussions on the “unification of the separatist factions in Alberta.”

“There is a war against Alberta,” Chandler told PressProgress. “I think (UCP) MLA Jason Nixon said it best when he said … we are serving our Eastern overlords.”

Chandler said he would support a “Wexit” referendum, but only if supporters can first gather “100,000 signatures.”

“My view of separation is to have a Refederation,” he elaborated.

“We would be a confederation of nations where all nations are equal at the table. It would be like Europe, but the union would be called Canada.”

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Chandler previously called on everyone who doesn’t vote Conservative in Alberta to “leave” the province — about 60% of the population, at the time.

 


 

Update 1 (Oct 22): This story has been updated to include comment from Michael Binnion.

Update 2 (Oct 23): This story has been updated to include comment from W. Brett Wilson.

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