As fascist and mainstream right-wing forces in Western Canada coalesce, Trudeau's flashy brand of Neoliberalism will be powerless against the rise of violent reactionary forces, argues John Clarke
It’s said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If that’s the case, then devotees of a right wing and xenophobic version of Brexit in the UK (not that the neoliberal EU can only be opposed from the right) should be honoured that an assortment of populist and decidedly far right elements in Western Canada are following in their footsteps. A ‘Wexit’ movement, centred in Alberta but going over to the three other western provinces has sprung up and it is a very ugly and truly disturbing development. It is presently rallying its supporters, extending its political base and making the organisational preparations for upcoming electoral activity at both the provincial and federal level.
The notion that the western provinces should break with the Canadian federal state, is not a recent invention. A well-known 1915 cartoon, ‘The Milch Cow,’ depicted western farmers feeding a cow that was being milked by bankers in central Canada. There is a long history of ‘western alienation’ and there is also no denying that the Canadian state is a seething mass of regional imbalances and injustices. However, the Wexit initiative is reactionary to its core and draws from a parallel tradition of right wing populism.
Three of the four western provinces are presently in the hands of right wing conservative governments. The Wexiteers, as they deepen their influence, will form an effective ginger group, devoted to pushing those governments even further to the right than their own inclinations would lead them. The regimes operating in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, have made impressive efforts in the field of hard right austerity before any Wexit pressure is added to the mix.
Mainstream and far-right
The Wexit project will perpetuate and deepen an almost symbiotic relationship between the conservative political right and the openly racist far right. This is far from unique to Canada but it has played out in particular ways here. As the mainstream conservative base moves to the right, party leaders draw closer to overtly racist positions and fascist groups see this as a way of gaining acceptance and legitimacy. In addition to anti-immigrant and Islamophobic positions, the far right in Canada has included the promotion of oil and gas pipeline expansion. White supremacy has fully incorporated climate denial into its repertoire. In February of this year, a faith gol ‘United We Roll’ pro-pipeline convoy travelled from Alberta to Ottawa. On one of the vehicles in the procession a sign had been mounted that read, 'NO to UN/globalist, carbon tax, tanker ban, dirty foreign oil, open borders.' When this fascist front operation reached Parliament Hill, it was addressed by Andrew Scheer, the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and he shared the stage with the notorious white supremacist Toronto mayoral candidate, Faith Goldy.
During the recent federal election, the Tories suffered a split in their ranks, with the most right wing of the contenders for leader of the Party, Maxime Bernier, jumping ship and running candidates for his own ‘Peoples’ Party.’ If Scheer proved attractive to fascists and racists, they reacted to Bernier like moths drawn to a flame and he made very little effort to rebuff their attentions, no matter how many scandalous selfies he was caught taking with white supremacists.
With the alarming rise of Wexit, the same process of the far right seeking a harbour of political legitimacy and the conservative mainstream adapting accordingly can be expected to be taken further than ever. This initiative has a major social media presence, with a Facebook group that has attracted some 250,000 members. Its two main figures ‘have a prolific history of pushing far-right and anti-Muslim conspiracy theories.’ Patrick King and Peter Downing, a former police officer, have accused the Trudeau government of bringing ISIS terrorists into Canada and of developing an immigration policy designed to 'depopulate the white, Anglo-Saxon race.' In their eyes, politicians of the neoliberal mainstream, like Justin Trudeau, are globalist agents of white genocide, working to ensure Canada is governed by Sharia Law. Yet these men are not hiding in the shadows or raving in obscurity. They are holding large gatherings and developing a significant following by playing to deeply conservative and xenophobic instincts, without making their full agenda too explicit. The western separatist platform is tailor-made in this regard.
The rise of such far right currents, their ability to blend in with the mainstream conservative crowd and the increasing degree to which major political leaders speak the language of overt racism can only be viewed with alarm. Boris Johnson’s infamous comparison of Muslim women to letter boxes and bank robbers was followed by a rise in hate crimes. Donald Trump’s particular brand of hate speech has had the same dreadful impact. In the case the developing Wexit movement, it will draw on regional tensions, economic insecurity and a federal government that is deeply despised. The Trudeau Liberals don’t hold a single seat in Alberta and Saskatchewan. It will also have conservative provincial governments ready to play to the Wexit base of support by doubling down on their right wing agendas. This dangerous initiative will fuel the worst sense of western particularism and feed the most dreadful xenophobic political instincts.
Trudeau’s fake progressive neoliberalism can’t possibly counter the forces at work in the formation of Wexit parties in the western provinces. The only electoral way forward must be one that offers a radical alternative such as Corbyn led Labour is posing in the UK at the moment. This must also be linked, however, to trade union and social movement mobilisation against the austerity offensive that is underway. There is no other means of responding effectively to the dangerous and alarming growth of the right.
John Clarke became an organiser with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty when it was formed in 1990 and has been involved in mobilising poor communities under attack ever since.
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