For the love of all things western: Interview with Peter Downing

Alberta Flying Away Illustration
Illustration by Erin Saunders

Disclaimer: Descriptions of residential school violence. 

Last month, two of our reporters at The Meliorist gave some background on the Wexit movement. As a follow up, I was able to get an interview with Peter Downing, a former RCMP officer and the current leader and founder of the federal Wexit party, which seeks to separate the west (i.e. Alberta and Saskatchewan) from the rest of Canada in a move to give the west more power and independence from the influences of the east. In a twitter post, Downing claims that “separation is the only way to preserve our way of life and our freedoms.” Below is an edited transcription of that interview, with some side notes on the Canadian political system. 

We are a student paper and we were wondering if you have seen any student interest in your party?

We have seen great student interest in our party. Before we got popular after election day, we had a fellow drive five hours to one of our Edmonton rallies from the University of Lethbridge. We are just in process right now of working towards getting a student co-op at the University of Lethbridge, like a Wexit student group. It’s great, we represent a wide range of age groups. From the students who recognize through separation and the ability to develop our own resources, we will have a lot more wealth to give to things like student loan forgiveness, so you guys aren’t coming out of school up to your eyeballs in debt. In contrast to the Quebec students, where your parents are paying wages right now that are getting taxed and transferred to Quebec to subsidize their education. Why should Albertan students work less than Quebec students? So we were looking at those options. And a lot of other issues that I think younger people will also be attracted to. The vulnerable, whether it be the homeless, those with mental health issues or addiction. Our First Nations are our friends and neighbours and they don’t even have healthy drinking water on their reserves. So, being able to fix those historical injustices [and] to be able to eliminate those injustices with the Indian Act. We would never tolerate a white guy act, a black guy act, a Muslim guy act, a women’s act. Again, it’s not a right-wing vs a left-wing issue- insourcing police, military, taxation, pensions, firearms, and immigration would be improving the public sector labour market. It really is Alberta first, Western Canada first. Solving problems that we could never solve as a part of Canada. 

What motivated you to pursue Western separation? What about today’s social and political climate makes Western separation a possibility?

Looking at the electoral maps, looking at our vote in Alberta, [it] really doesn’t mean anything. Talking about representation by population, we don’t have it. I live in a riding in Edmonton/Wetaskiwin that has one MP for  177,000 people. If you look at places in Atlantic Canada, who have one MP for 38,000 people, it would be five votes here to equal one vote in Atlantic Canada. It just isn’t right.

In the senate, 4.3 thousand people in Alberta are represented by 6 appointed senators. Senators that are appointed by the Prime Minister of the day (fact check: senators are appointed by the governor general on the advice of the PM). Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have 10 senators each but under a million people each. There really is no effective regional representation. I think what makes it more of an issue now is this climate crisis or climate scare. We are being told that if we don’t improve our situation in twelve years, we’re all going to die. And it’s nonsense because the people that are saying these things, they aren’t taking that action themselves. They are not requiring places like China or India to decarbonize so it’s the gullibility mindset in Canada. Socialism [is] being brought in under environmentalism. What we are seeing is places like British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan is we are being told that we can’t produce our resources, that it’s too dirty. But we are seeing it sold off wholesale to places like China. We know we are being lied to but there is definitely an international effort to keep our deindustrialize Alberta and we can choose to be reliant on the government or we can choose to separate but we can’t do both. 

Now that Wexit is an official federal party, what are your short-term plans going forward?

Short term right now we are focused on getting candidates across the 104 ridings across Western Canada to contest the next federal election. We want to be able to win by-elections and get competitive with by-elections as they pop up from time to time. As well we are talking with Conservative MPs and those men and women across the floor who really, truly care about representing Alberta. Even in the last election, what came out of it, they have to do more to appease Ontario and Quebec. The values of owners in Ontario and Quebec, especially in economics, are not the same in Western Canada. 

Provincially we are not too far off from gaining enough signatures to register as a provincial party. Then we are going to have a leadership race and start to nominate our candidates. 

Side Note: 

Allocation of seats in the house of commons. Image from the Elections Canada website. 

The senatorial clause was enacted in 1915 to ensure that no province has fewer seats in the house than they do in the senate. The immediate effect in 1915 was to give four seats to Prince Edward Island. The amendment was put in place after dissention among provinces with declining populations. It now protects small provinces from losing seats in the house in the face of declining populations. The grandfather clause ensures that no province has fewer seats than it had in 1986 when the Representation Act, 1985 came into force.

There has been a lot of criticism on Jason Kenney’s cuts to education, how do you plan on ensuring that post-secondary education will thrive under an independent Alberta?

Well it will absolutely thrive. If you look at the cycle that happens in federal politics, typically you have got a party like the NDP who spend and it’s unsustainable. Then they get kicked out and a different party is elected who makes cuts. People don’t like that; they kick out the conservatives and then it cycles. With Wexit, when we realize that instead of sending $50 billion a year to Ottawa in taxes, instead of being de-industrialized by legislation that keeps out resources in the ground, or not allowing us to export our resources, we have $20 trillion of resources that we can develop. We are talking about investing that into our post-secondary students. Whether it be debt forgiveness for qualified programs, in research and developments, develop[ing] technology, developing methods for more economic, [or] natural tight rock extraction on shale. We have one of the largest shale oil in the world besides Texas.

We need to look at other energy sources and be able to lower taxes so that we are bringing businesses here for manufacturing and secondary goods. We need to be able to refine our natural resources. Again, the royalties we make off of those we can put back into education. We have a huge incentive to do so economically.  

Looking at your constitution online, it states that Wexit Alberta is a voluntary association of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Albertans. Have you been in consultation with Indigenous leaders and how do you plan on negotiating with the rightful owners of unseeded Indigenous territories?

Great question. So the reality is that those treaties were signed at the edge of starvation. The Canadian government policy of purposefully exterminating the [bison], saying either accept these treaties or starve, and then forcing them into residential schools, [with] sterilization, beatings. Everybody knows the history. In Manitoba and other places, the younger people aren’t just afraid of the government as their parents and grandparents were, they recognize that there has never been justice for those crimes. There has never been justice the same way as there was in World War Two. The Nazis were held accountable for their crimes against humanity and the Canadian government never has. Wexit will fund lawsuits for cases against the international criminal court on that side of it. But it’s the people themselves who either suffer from high crime…so it’s even first-hand. They want clean drinking water; they want economic opportunity. Even racial law in Canada right now [is] saying the First Nations people can’t sell their tobacco to non-First Nations people. I mean, it’s absolutely insane, it’s apartheid. So, the reality is, the regular First Nations person who gets screwed by the government of Canada, they are getting screwed by their own politicians the same way non-Indigenous people get screwed by our own politicians. They are the ones who are a part of our organization, they are in fact members of our decision making and executive team. So, the only way that the First Nations are going to get their country back is by scrapping the Indian Act, by being able to take part in economic opportunity just like everybody else. And right now, those reserves, the federal government can sell right out from under them. Trudeau is trying to do that right now. 

We believe that Wexit is private property, surface and subsurface land rights. So, those places that have land claims or unceded territory, even just to keep the territory that they already have would be strengthened under a Wexit government. When it comes to unceded lands, we have got to be able to discuss incurring the costs of going around. We are not going to be in a fight forever with people over land claims and the reality is, if we have to go around, that…we can’t violate people’s property rights. 

Side note: Downing’s words fall short of credibility with a cursory glance through his social media, or the VoteWexit.com Facebook page. On February 16, 2020, Downing shared posts regarding the Wet’suwet’en protests, saying “It’s time for police to remove the protestors and illegal blockades; Batons, Dogs, Teargas.” And “If the Liberals will allow illegal blockades, then the Tek Resources Mining project can also begin without their approval.”

The UN Convention states that transit states have the right to ensure their legitimate interests aren’t infringed upon and that bilateral, sub-regional and regional agreements must be reached. How do you plan on getting oil products to market if British Columbia or Indigenous communities in those territories are unwilling to make agreements? 

We will shut off the taps. I mean, that’s the biggest thing that got the government of British Columbia upset the last time they went to the Supreme Court. We will do what we want, and we can watch the cost of gasoline in the lower mainland skyrocket. We can slap 300% tariffs on commercial goods to mainland British Columbia. We don’t want to engage in economic warfare, but we will if we have to. We are not allowing anybody to stand in the way of our prosperity and our own self determination. We believe in the self determination of other peoples and we can’t respect other people if we don’t respect ourselves. 

On the Wexit AB platform, it states that publicly funded schools will have to teach the importance of AB’s energy industry. You have also stated that wind and solar energy is unreliable and should not be publicly funded. How does this leave room for legitimate criticism and scientific advancements? 

Well, going with scientific advancement; when I see the surveys saying that 97% of scientists are at a consensus, that’s propaganda. Science is an independent field of inquiry…this climate hysteria is a scam, there is no evidence for what people are saying about carbon. We have the largest Boreal Forest across Western Canada, if not in the world so we are not a carbon sink. We are not buying into all of that. All that’s talking about is redistribution of wealth, and an international push towards socialism, which we reject 100%. Our oil and gas, our coal is just fine. We will look at bringing back coal, not just because of the towns that are hurting. If we can export ethical energy and technology, we can have a real impact on bringing down real carbon emissions. 

We have to look at the larger picture, it’s not about the environment, it’s about the industrialization and selling off our resources dirt cheap to the highest bidder instead of allowing Western Canadians to have our sovereignty and the economic prosperity that we deserve. Our own governments are selling us out.  We are wise to it and we are not tolerating it. 

A lot of governments around the world are declaring a climate emergency. You have used the Twitter hashtag climate hoax. How do you plan to deal with the changing climate conditions?

Well again, show me the proof. The reality is that Western Canadians are the most ethical energy producers in the world. We aren’t playing that game. We think that there has been some fantastic marketing and there are people making money off of it. I mean, what we are being told about environmentalism is a mix of socialism and hyper-capitalism, where the tiny fraction of the rich can get much richer at the expense of regular, hard working Western Canadians. 

On Wexit sponsored billboards across Southern Alberta, claims are made against Justin Trudeau, claiming that he is reintegrating ISIS terrorists into Canadian society, engaging in economic sabotage, foreign influence and ethics violations. How does this rhetoric translate into an effective campaign strategy? 

Well first of all it’s true. Everything we put on the billboard was true and we can point to examples of all of these things. Part of it is that we are promoting our referendum and the other side of it that we are helping Western Canadians realize that everything on those billboards are what people are talking about on social media and the common gripes that people have with Justin Trudeau. The United Conservative Party of Canada has just been too weak to represent people exactly the way they want to be represented.