Stake Your Claim!

Wexit and the Wexiteers

Stake Your Claim!

Given that I’m writing this column on Canada Day, today is as good a day as any to go back 50 years to an old Monty Python sketch called “Stake Your Claim” where 43-year-old Norman Voles (Michael Palin) claimed to have written all of Shakespeare’s plays. When told by the interviewer (John Cleese) that Shakespeare’s plays were performed 300 years before he was born, Voles says: “This is where my claim falls to the ground! There is no possible way of answering that argument, I’m afraid. I was only hoping you would not make that particular point, but I can see you’re more than a match for me.

That pretty well sums up “Wexit” and its merry band of “Wexiteers,” who magically believe that BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba (but mostly Alberta) should break away from Canada and form a new country; free from liberal elites, taxes, French on cereal boxes, foreigners, and the CBC.

If you follow the news, Wexit rallies are attended almost exclusively by angry white men; many wearing red baseball caps emblazoned with “Make Alberta Great Again” (“MAGA”). There have been billboards in Alberta calling for Alberta’s independence from Canada, with one even accusing Prime Minister Trudeau of leading Canada into civil war. And with no irony whatsoever, the Wexiteers have applied for three Canadian trademarks (1999061, 1992551 and 1998655) and market their MAGA hats featuring the Canadian maple leaf. Go figure.

A 2019 Calgary Herald article reported that the Russian government and its bots were actively engaged in promoting Wexit on social media to disrupt Canadian politics. As with the Brexit referendum and the last US federal election, Russian intelligence is always on the lookout for useful idiots, and the Wexiteers may fit the bill. Darker still, Vice reported last year that the Wexiteers were led by an assortment of right-wing, pro-gun, anti-abortion, anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists, climate change deniers and Christian Heritage Party members who have accused the Trudeau government of “normalizing pedophilia,” tolerating ISIS terrorists, and pursuing an immigration policy aimed to “depopulate the white Anglo-Saxon race.” (Maybe we should call these Wexiteers the “Bloc Redneckois”!)

Frankly, I think the Wexiteers are a few french fries short of a happy meal to think British Columbia, a province that elected 11 Liberal MPs in the last election, would break away from the rest of Canada to join this new nation of MAGA hat wearers, far right conspiracy theorists and climate change deniers. But BC should look on the bright side. If Alberta did somehow leave Canada, BC would be entitled to all federal lands bordering its territory, which would include Banff and Jasper National Parks! Unfortunately for the Wexiteers, without easy access to a pacific port from which to ship its oil and other natural resources, Alberta would be totally landlocked, rather like Bolivia. And God only knows how Alberta would pay for its share of the national debt or its continuing health, education, pension obligations, and social programs without substantial post-COVID oil revenues. Maybe a 65% sales tax?

And does anyone in their right mind think that the First Nations in Alberta are going to vote in unison with a bunch of middle-aged white guys wearing MAGA hats who complain about Ottawa, Trudeau, and foreigners? Alberta First Nations may be justifiably angry at Ottawa for a lot of things, but they aren’t going to give up on Canada and leave their economic and political fate to the Wexiteers. Likewise, new Canadians won’t be keen on living in a new country where they don’t feel welcome anymore.

Like Norman Voles claiming to have written all of Shakespeare’s plays, Wexit is nonsense propagated by magical thinkers, Russian bots and right-wing conspiracy theorists. Canada may not be a perfect union by any means, but when compared to other countries in the world on July 1, 2020, we’re about as perfect as it gets.

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