WA: When Albertans cry

By Ruth Davenport

I’m a well-educated, enlightened sort of person, but there are things in my world that I don’t quite understand. The space-time continuum is one. Mullets are another. The intricacies of wine tasting and how Dance Dance Revolution ever became an accepted part of arcade culture, to name a couple more. And now I can add Western Alienation to my list.

I was born and raised in Ontario, so perhaps I don’t "get" this whole attitude of poor-little-us-we’re-being-robbed-blind-and-don’t-get-a-voice-to-squeak-about-it. That’s entirely possible, but even after living here for four years and hearing several lengthy and involved explanations by the most earnest of grass-roots "Alberta First!" yahoos, I hold with my first impression that WA is a sado-masochistic, self-fulfilling prophecy and most Albertans wouldn’t be de-alienated even if they could.

Here’s how it breaks down from the outside perspective: Alberta started griping back in the days of Trudeau and no one argues that these gripes weren’t justified. Albertans got their knickers in a twist and their heads right up their wahoos, found that being alienated is fun, easy and gets you on TV, and they’ve been there ever since.

To someone who was raised as a Canadian living in Ontario, this "us" versus "them" is truly bizarre for two reasons. First and foremost, what is there for Albertans to complain about? They’re in a position to make everyone love them, to reach out and extend a loving left hand to their fellow countrymen and share the wealth, but somehow they find it more productive to grumble about sharing their pocket change. The odd one claims that it’s not just about the money but rather the corruption of confederation, but that just makes us snort into our Sleemans. You’d have a tough time proving to anyone that Albertans are the champions of constitutional rights unless there’s something in it for them.

Second is this claim that somehow it was the rest of Canada that did the alienating. I’m sorry, but if you rush around demanding better treatment when you’re the richest province in the country, you’ve gone and alienated yourself. No one else is throwing tantrums and creating new political parties–except Quebec, as per the norm. No one’s particularly happy with the federal state of affairs right now; everyone’s paying more to the taxman than they want to. Why all the fuss from the wild rose people?

When Chrétien said Westerners were a different kind of people, no one in the East so much as batted an eyelash. We already knew that. We were surprised by all the outrage over that comment because to the rest of the world, it seems that the West revels in being a different kind of people. It’s their identity and they enjoy it. As far as we’re concerned, if Albertans weren’t alienated, they wouldn’t know what to do with themselves. In fact, the rest of Canada dreads the day that Albertans do get everything they want for fear they’ll turn their attention to something as equally productive like melting the icecaps with hair dryers.

Would it be too much to ask that Albertans remove the blinders and check out the scenery beyond their borders? Stop shouting for one second and listen to the sound of Newfoundland not sliding into the sea. Tell the rest of the country that you’re hard done by and "alienated" and here’s what they have to say: W.A. Boohoo.

Leave a comment