'We are getting robbed blind': Billboards call for Alberta to separate
Anti-Ottawa sentiment in Alberta has reached new heights with the installation of two billboard advertisements in high-visibility locations.
The ads have recently been put on display in Calgary and Edmonton. They ask the question “Should Alberta ditch Canada?” and link to Alberta Fights Back, a website promoting a province-wide referendum on separation.
“We are sick and tired,” campaign director Peter Downing told CTV Calgary.
“Just like an abusive relationship, no self-respecting person would stay in this.”
Western frustrations have been voiced with increasing volume since the downturn in the oil and gas sector began. In the eyes of many Albertans, the federal government has not been doing enough to help prop up one of the country’s largest industries.
An Angus Reid poll released earlier this month found that 73 per cent of people living west of Ontario believe Western Canadian anger and resentment toward the federal government is on the rise.
Another question in the poll asked about the likelihood of Alberta seceding from Canada. Asked about the likelihood of Alberta separation, about 30 per cent of people in most provinces considered it to be a possibility, with 70 per cent saying it was “highly unlikely” at best. In Alberta, the pollsters recorded a 50-50 split.
Jason Kenney, who leads the provincial opposition United Conservative Party, warned last September that while he personally did not favour separatism, it would not surprise him if a “significant and growing minority of Albertans” was interested in the idea.
That sentiment is what Downing is counting on as he attempts to make separation a legitimate political idea in the province. He says the province is being ripped off when it comes to federal equalization payments.
“We are getting robbed blind on our taxes to send our money to Eastern Canada,” he said.
Ted Morton, a former provincial cabinet minister who called on the Alberta government to replace the RCMP and Canada Pension Plan with made-in-Alberta alternatives in the early 2000s, told CTV Calgary on Wednesday that he considers negotiation a better solution than separation for the Alberta-Ottawa relationship.
“If this is the status quo and this is separation, there are lots of opportunities in-between – but to move from the status quo requires that the government of Alberta initiate a challenge to the status quo,” he said.
Alberta Fights Back is a registered third-party advertiser for the upcoming Alberta election. Downing told CTV Calgary that he has received hundreds of dollars in donations from individuals and small businesses. The organization’s latest financial disclosure to Elections Alberta shows that it had received donations from two individuals as of Feb. 14, with the majority of the money coming from Downing himself.