“A house divided against itself, cannot stand.”
This statement highlights the importance of unity for the strength of any nation. Although, the relationship between Ottawa and the Canadian provinces has been up and down for decades, however, recently Canada has been increasingly polarized. Tensions between Eastern and Western Canada have also grown significantly. For a relationship to truly work effectively, all parties must have an equal say, participate equally, and should be treated equally or else lack of unity is the result.
Both Liberal as well as Conservative governments have long history of treating Eastern and Western Canada unequally. Although Confederation was the product of Ontario and Quebec i.e., Upper and Lower Canada inviting other provinces to join the new country, Quebec has never signed the Canadian constitution. In addition to this, Quebec has always claimed to be a nation within a nation. Rhetoric like this has increased tensions between Eastern and Western Canada.
Quebec claims that it can amend the constitution unilaterally even if it affects the other provinces. Quebec also prefers to import oil from foreign countries rather than using oil from Alberta. Quebec politicians always promote separatist agenda and already there have been two referendums in this regard. Quebec claims to be a separate nation within Canada, whereas none of the other provinces claim to be a nation within a nation.
The current equalization payment formula which was developed by Harper Conservatives to win seats in Quebec in the federal elections is also one of the main reasons of dispute between Eastern and Western Canada. Out of $21 Billions of equalization money given by federal government, Quebec gets almost $13 Billion every year. Quebec represents 22 percent of Canada’s population but receives 61 percent from the equalization pot, whereas Alberta receives nothing. The equalization payment formula includes revenues from western Canada’s oil and gas sector but does not include the revenues from Canada’s largest hydro-electric power producing province i.e., Quebec, which is not considered to be fair by Western Canada. In more than 60 years of formal introduction of this program, Quebec, Canada’s only majority French speaking province has managed to claim that it deserves the biggest part of annual equalization payments, while asserting simultaneously that it deserves the status of nationhood and the ability to act independent of Canada if needed to be. Quebecers have claimed again and again that they do not need the rest of “English Canada.” The politicians from Quebec claim the equalization money as their constitutional right, although Quebec refused to sign the Canadian constitution and invokes the not withstanding clause whenever it wants to. Since Alberta has been contributing and Quebec has always been the biggest receiver of equalization payments, western Canadians have been questioning why they should continue sponsoring social programs of Quebec when the economic condition of Western Canada itself is worsening. Not only this has promoted division between Eastern and Western Canada but also this has increased the sentiment of separation in the Western Canada. In Quebec and Atlantic Canada, a culture of dependency on equalization money has developed over decades. Speaking about this issue, back in 1873, Cornelius Howatt, an MLA of the Prince Edward Island, stated unequivocally, “If P.E.I. joins Confederation, all we’ll will be beggars.”
Concerning western alienation, many Western Canadians see Eastern Canada as an anti-oil East and are seriously considering leaving Confederation. With ever rising French Nationalism in Quebec, legislations like Bill 21, Bill 96, and blocking of Energy East pipeline, we cannot ignore the reality that a unity crisis is around the corner.
Conservatives have favored Quebec over Alberta to get votes of francophone Quebecers although Western Canada has always supported the conservative Party. Liberal Party also has a long history of ignoring Western Canada. In 1980 Election Mr. Pierre Trudeau’s Liberal Party won a majority but failed to win a single seat in Western Canada. At this Pierre Trudeau’s campaign manager Senator Keith Davey, boasted “Screw the West, we’ll take the rest!”.
Damage to our natural resources industry has come from our extremist ideology such as calling Alberta energy industry as “dirty oil” by Quebec politicians. Attacks on minorities such Quebec Mosque attack murdering 6 people in 2017, and murder of Afzal family in London Ontario in June 2021 are just few of the examples. This trend if continues will weaken us as nation. We need a bold leadership to address the unity problem between Eastern and Western Canada. Federal government has been ignoring the economic difficulties of Alberta, as well as our energy industry, due to which a feeling of alienation is spreading across Western Canada like a fire.
Recently political polarization in Canada has been increasingly much more rapidly. The election of 2021 has seen the worst of polarization to the extent that people were throwing stones on politicians with whom they disagree. Politicians have used our languages, faiths, skin color, geographical areas, ethnicities, and even our most private things as sexual orientations to divide us. We have been divided in to pro-vaxx and anti-vaxx, French and English, Indigenous and immigrants, Eastern and Western Canadian, liberal versus conservative, right-wing versus left-wing and so on.
Rather than building one strong Canadian nation politicians are encouraging a culture of political tribalism. We may have different political opinions, but we are not enemies. This division has already been detrimental to our social fabric and economic wellbeing.
Political polarization, fear mongering and hyper-partisanship started to grow in Canadian political landscape with Conservative government in 2006. Lately, the worsening political polarization and riots in 2020 presidential election in the US further impacted Canadian society. Left-wing voters moved further left on the political spectrum, and the right-wing voters are only moving righter. Both sides have become emotionally involved in the political climate, furthering the divide.
Leaders of opposing parties feed on the support of the hyper-partisan individuals who support them, further widening the political spectrum. As society is split amongst political and personal differences in ideologies, strong left- and right-wing voters become more prominent in society. Such people are less likely to compromise their political views and want the government’s policies to align with their ideologies only. Political leaders can also further promote polarization to help further their power in the country. The polarization is fueled by politicians who promote their view on religion, different ethnicities, cultures, and many other social issues in society. Lastly, mass media had played an influential role in political polarization. Most social media platforms use algorithms that make certain sources of information polarized to the public.
Uniting Canadians in to one strong nation is the most urgent need of this time. We believe that unity is our strength. Right- and left-wing extremist political ideologies only deepen our divide, whereas Centrist Political ideology unites us. Centrist ideology follows practical and rational policies and prefers nation over partisan affiliation. Building a United Canada is one of the prime objectives of the Centrist Party. Centrist Party of Canada believes polarization in the society is detrimental to social fabric of our multicultural and peaceful country. A centrist government will take all necessary steps to eliminate polarization and division in Canadian society.
Centrist Party will never support Canada to break apart, therefore uniting Canadians from coast to coast to coast is our priority. Revision of equalization formula, elimination of Quebec Secularism Law and Quebec Bill 96, giving provinces more control over natural resources, removing the internal trade barriers and electoral reforms by not allowing any politician to use our diversity to divide us are some of the issues which need to be addressed immediately.