Support for separatism in Canada’s western provinces, or Wexit, has set record highs in a new poll following the election victory of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau.
The Ipsos poll, taken in the aftermath of the Canadian federal election, showed one in three Albertans supporting the notion that their province would be better off if it separated from the rest of Canada, Global News reports.
Alberta, which voted overwhelmingly for the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) and is seen as the heartland of the Canadian conservative movement, has been at odds with Mr Trudeau and the Liberals over their lack of support for the oil and gas industry, the major industry of the province, and the pushing of a “green” agenda.
The city of Fort McMurray, which is regarded as the home of the Canadian oil sands industry, has seen a particular decline under Trudeau, with customer insolvency in the city growing 39 per cent in 2018, the largest in Canada.
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While part of the decline of the city is explained by lower oil prices and by the destruction caused by the 2016 fire — in which Trudeau refused help from the United States, Russia, and Mexico — court challenges over pipelines and climate change activism and policy have also dealt a significant blow to the area.
The province of Saskatchewan, which also voted en masse for the CPC, saw 27 per cent of the respondents in the Ipsos poll say the province would be better outside of Canada. The figure is up from just 13 per cent in 2001.
Ipsos senior vice-president Kyle Braid labelled the results of the poll “historic” and said: “The most striking thing is that the entire country thinks that Canada’s more divided than ever.”
“I mean, they all saw on election night a government elected with barely one-third of the votes,” Mr Braid added.
He noted that for the first time, Albertans were more in favour of separation than the French-speaking province of Québec, which has a history of separatist movements going back decades.
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Last year, Québec voted in the right-wing anti-mass migration Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) in their provincial elections, a party which claims to be sovereigntist, rather than separatist.
The CAQ has also recently passed Bill 101, which will force newcomers to the province to speak French in order to access provincial government services. However, exceptions have been made for aboriginal residents and the historic English-speaking community in the region.
Simon Jolin-Barrette, the Québec minister responsible for the French language, commented on the measures saying: “It’s not because you say ‘I want it in English’ that it will be that. It’s very important that government communication be in French. That’s a natural reflex, except if you’re from the English minority. And also for companies, it has to be in French.”
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