A new provincial party is trying to gain a following with one main political goal – separation.
The Western Independence Party of Alberta is on the hunt for signatures in support of officially registering the party within the next six months. Close to 8,000 signatures are required, and so far the group has managed to acquire about half that amount.
Bob Lefurgey, sitting president of WIP Alberta, said the basis of the party has been around ever since Alberta became a province in 1905.
“It’s basically to remove Alberta from confederation,” said Lefurgey. “There’s been an accumulation of things over time and we’re in a perfect storm for separatists right now, with all the things going on – everything from immigration, gun control, equalization.”
In addition, he said the western provinces don’t have a voice in federal politics, because the race is won before polls in Manitoba are ever counted.
“It would be nice to actually have a say in the country you live in,” said Lefurgey. “When you stack it all up, I think we could do better off on our own.”
He said even with separation it would be necessary to be part of Canada to a degree, such as dealing with the post office or Environment Canada.
There is a lot for Alberta to gain from becoming a sovereign state, he said, like keeping money in the province rather than shelling out transfer and equalization payments.
“I think that money can be better spent here helping out the people here,” said Lefurgey. “We’ve paid enough, we’ve paid our dues.”
There are also issues to tackle such as immigration, he said. While he doesn’t have an issue with people migrating to Alberta, he said the numbers of people brought in by the federal government far outweigh the infrastructure available and stronger policies are necessary.
“Trudeau’s talking about downloading the responsibility to look after all these people coming in to the provinces,” said Lefurgey. “Where’s that money going to come from? We already have enough people unemployed, we have enough people on welfare who are looking for affordable housing.
“You have to look after yourself and your own, you have to look after your elderly, before you can start looking after anyone else.”
He said the number of supporters is rising, with tens of thousands of people joining Facebook groups and other forums to discuss separation. Now they party needs signatures to make it official, he said.
Heritage Pointe resident Heather McDonald-Furcoh is part of the WIP Alberta steering committee and is out on the pavement gathering signatures to register the party. She said they have six months remaining to get double the number of signees they have now.
The last separatist party to attempt to register in the province was the Separation Party of Alberta, which nominated 12 candidates in 2004 and took 4,680 votes with no candidates elected. Prior to that, the Alberta Independence Party had received 7,500 votes for 15 candidates in 2001.
Because neither party had gathered enough signatures prior to their deadlines, candidates were forced to run an independents in both elections.
WIP Alberta doesn’t want to suffer the same fate, said McDonald-Furcoh. They’re hoping Albertans will be looking for change in the next provincial election.
“I think there’s a lot of people who have kind of had enough of being ruled from the east,” she said. “We’re pushing a separatist agenda, because we feel we’ll never have a federal voice because of the way voting works out in the numbers.”
She said one of the major platforms would be to do away with extra taxation, like the carbon levy. One-quarter of Canada’s trees make the country carbon-neutral, so there’s no need for the tax, she said.
“If we were able to keep more of those funds here to look after our elderly or healthcare and education, it would just be so much more beneficial for us,” said McDonald-Furcoh. “I think people are tired of being treated like a piggy bank with no say and having decisions made in the eastern half of the country that create debt for us and for our kids and grandkids.”
There is no leader of the party yet, she said – that will be decided by member vote once enough signatures have been collected for registration.
She said the party will be looking for a representative who brings results and integrity to the job rather than an image.
For more information about WIP Alberta visit www.wipalberta.com.