Following the 2019 federal election, we have a lot to unpack (or as some Liberal MPs are finding, to pack up). Just as predicted, with all of the scandals and controversies, Canadians decided to hand the Liberals a minority government. This is significant for a number of reasons, but most importantly because as of right now, there exists a great amount of discourse surrounding the idea of national unity, and arguably the lack of it following this election.
Personally, I believe in federalism and I would like to hope that people see the federation as a tool that everyone has access to in order to voice their concerns, and affect change.
But I am not oblivious to the challenges that we face.
Let us recognize that Canada has never really been as unified as some people (especially Ontarians) like to make it out to be. This idea of a united Canadian state, with people covering territory from sea to sea to sea, remains more a goal than an accomplishment. Regional differences vary greatly between economic, social, and political lines. One cannot reasonably expect that the concerns that people are facing in Montreal are the same as in Nunavut. This is where parties and their candidates come in. We find parties adapting and implementing inclusive and comprehensive platforms for voters within these different regions.
The issue is that when a party says (or does) one thing in Alberta, it could be understood as something completely different in Ontario. This is a huge balancing act that parties need to perform. It becomes incredibly difficult when that line that politicians and parties are expected to stand on are completely different between provincial lines.
Following the 2019 election, this notion that Albertans and Saskatchewanians are inclined to separate from Canada is being perpetuated. This is understandable since between the Western provinces, the Liberals were unable to garner a single seat (which speaks more to the need for some form of electoral reform, which is beautifully ironic) and currently more than six in 10 people believe that the country is more divided than ever.
Alberta and Saskatchewan are going to remain provinces within Canada. I am not one to dismiss feelings of resentment, but as it stands today there is no popular support for independence and no party support for it. Also, I have never created my own country before, but it would appear to be a daunting task and a bureaucratic nightmare—and that’s when you get over the fact that you’d find yourself in a land locked country that is economically dependent on its oil exports. But no less, if this is something that these provinces really want its quite clear what needs to happen.
Fragmentation within Canada is not new—a large motivating factor behind Confederation was unequivocally about dividing people and retrieving autonomy. Importantly however, goals within this project were met, and that was through cooperation. Today this principle remains the same. We have a goal, perhaps one that is incredibly different but we ought to work together and cooperate in order to be able to achieve it.
Achieving this goal of true unity will be much more beneficial to all parties involved than if we remain in our own separate states. Arguably, governments like Trudeau’s have recognized this and tried to achieve it by playing that very tight balancing act. Trudeau’s government nationalized a pipeline, but is also imposing a carbon tax. For some (probably in Ontario) his actions are ones that disregard the environment—not implementing enough regulation and tangible efforts towards thwarting the impacts of climate change. Whereas on the other hand, (probably in the West) his actions are seen as setting back middle-class families and stagnating projects and efforts that would put money into the pockets of hard working Canadians.
Irrespective of how you would like to interpret Trudeau’s actions, one thing is evident. There is a problem and people feel like they are not being heard. The best way to combat this is to listen. Again, it is incumbent on all politicians to recognize this: Canadians from coast to coast want to be heard. Maybe it’s time for politicians to shut up and listen.