A separatist group calling for Alberta to leave Canada has begun the process to become a federal political party.
Wexit Alberta’s application arrived on Monday at Elections Canada, which has begun the verification process, according to a spokesperson for the federal agency.
The group, led by Albertan Peter Downing, aims to do “for Western Canada what the Bloc Québécois did for Quebec,” Downing said.
Downing ran federally with the Christian Heritage Party in 2015. He said he’s since been involved with federal Conservative Party boards, and as a campaign manager with the former provincial Wildrose Party.
Before that, he was an RCMP officer and during that time was suspended for uttering threats against his ex-wife — according to both National Post and a now-deleted article in the St. Albert Gazette. Downing has denied the allegations and says he left the force with a clean record.
Wexit (“Western exit”) supporters are scheduled to hold rallies across Alberta this month, and the sentiment has gained support in the wake of the federal election, which saw the governing Liberals shut out of Alberta and much of the west.
But experts say seceding could prove difficult. Any provinces looking to leave Confederation would have to address First Nations treaties and other complications like trade, national defence and amending the country’s constitution.
Wexit Alberta has been accused of allowing conspiracy theories or other harmful rhetoric to circulate online.
Downing sidestepped the question about that, telling CBC News he can’t be a racist, because his wife isn’t white and doesn’t speak English. He added he is exploring legal options against those who have described the group as promoting white supremacist and anti-Muslim rhetoric.
In order to get the party’s name on the ballot and issue tax receipts for contributions, Wexit Alberta needs to be registered with Elections Canada. To register, the application to the chief electoral officer must include:
- The party’s name, logo and fundamental purpose.
- Names, addresses and signatures of 250 electors that are members of the party and support the application (Downing says he sent in 543 signatures).
- A copy of the party’s resolution to appoint its leader.
- At least three officers, an auditor, and a chief agent — and their signed consent.
After the application is received, a detailed review process kicks off to verify all of the information is complete, accurate and meets the requirements. Then, as soon as the party endorses a confirmed candidate in an election or byelection, it’s officially registered.