Columnist Gary Mason summarizes the ostensible reasons for western feelings of alienation from the rest of Canada, while suggesting that remedies demanded by Alberta and Saskatchewan (changing equalization formulae and building more energy production) won’t work. He suggests these provinces should focus on working with Ottawa to develop greener economies.
Appropriate Subject Area(s):
Social studies, current events
Key Question(s) to Explore:
- How do you feel about the current discussion about western alienation and a divided Canada?
Wexit, palpable, angst, vexing, visceral
Globe article, Internet
Introduction to lesson and task:
The premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan have been clear about their disappointment in the results of the last federal election, claiming that the federal government—and the rest of Canada—are ignoring the plight of their largely energy-based provinces. They suggest western alienation is growing to the point that many are talking about extreme solutions, from changing the equalization formula to outright separation from Canada.
“Alienation,” implies one side fails to understand and respect the issues and positions of the other side. Students can benefit from sharing their feelings about their province or region relative to the rest of Canada with other students on the “other side.”
Action (lesson plan and task):
The attached article can spark a discussion on the issues; students will then work in groups to imagine fellow students on the “other side” and write a group letter to them explaining how they feel about the issue.
If you have the time, schedule this part of the exercise for the following class, to allow students to listen to the views of their parents, caregivers or others in the community on the subject. When each group has completed its letter, they will go to the NextGen site, select “Youth” and, while there, click on “Letters to the Editor,” and email their letter. NOTE: You may choose to synthesize group letters into a single letter from your whole class.
The NextGen Edition will then post a sampling of these letters on the website, so all students can compare the responses.
Have volunteers read Gary Mason’s article aloud. Discuss it with the class, ensuring the following questions are addressed:
- What is “Wexit?” (Note: it is not referred to in the article, but it has become a term describing the desire of some westerners to separate from Canada: West Exit = Wexit–like Brexit in Britain)
- Why is energy production part of the perceived problem?
- How were the results of the federal election perceived as minimizing the concerns of Alberta and Saskatchewan by the rest of Canada?
- How is federal policy around climate change involved?
- What does Mr. Mason suggest is the better approach for these two provinces?
- Mason is writing as a columnist, rather than a reporter—what does this imply about how we should read his column? (From Google: “A reportergathers information from sources and presents it in an unbiased manner, without his or her opinions injected into it. A columnist writes persuasive pieces (ideally also using quality sources) and may include his or her opinion in the work.”)
Organize your class into groups.
Work with your group to develop a consensus (where most of you, not necessarily all, mostly agree) on the contents of a letter you are sending to “the other side.” If you live in Saskatchewan or Alberta, you would be addressing the rest of the country, and vice versa.
Consider the following questions/issues in your letter:
- How often do you think about the “other side”? Daily, weekly, always, never?
- What do you wish the “other side” knew about your side? What do you think are the most common misconceptions?
- How would you respond if someone from the “other side” asked, “Why do you hate us?” or, “Why do you ignore us?”
- Do you wish anything bad for the “other side”?
- Have you ever lived in or visited the “other side”? Describe what you felt about your visit in terms of the place and the people.
- How do you feel about the issues raised about western alienation relative to:
- Building more pipelines vs combatting climate change
- Building the economy based on developing non-renewable resources vs building it based on increasingly less non-renewable energy usage?
- If you agree that we are a divided country, what would you suggest to help unite us as a nation?
Review the letters with the groups, then have them email them to The NextGen Edition.
Consolidation of Learning:
- Students discuss their letters in class to see where they converge or diverge.
- Students can offer an informed opinion on the issue of western alienation.
- Students visit the CE website and read letters from the “other side” to their classmates.