Prairie separatist group puts up billboards in Regina, Saskatoon

Wanting Western Canada to separate from the rest of Canada is not as new idea. This time around it is being advocated by a small group called Prairie Freedom Movement.

Group says Western Canada getting a raw deal from the rest of the country

A group advocating for Canada's Prairie provinces to secede has put up three billboards in Regina and one in Saskatoon bearing the question, "Should Saskatchewan leave Canada?"

The Prairie Freedom Movement has a list of beefs, mostly as it relates to Ontario and Quebec.

"For a very long time we have been bribing the East by ripping off the West," the group's spokesperson Peter Downing told Leisha Grebinski on CBC's Saskatoon Morning.

Downing, who lives in Leduc, Alta., also heads up a similar group called Alberta Fights Back, a third-party advertiser registered with Elections Alberta.

A billboard in southeast Calgary questions whether its time for Alberta to separate from Canada. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Downing's LinkedIn page shows he was an officer with the RCMP for nearly a decade.

Downing says his group is upset with equalization payments, taxation, the Trudeau government, the lack of pipelines and even the Canada Food Guide suggesting people eat less meat which hurt the livestock industry.

"Oil and gas in Alberta has already been rocked and we're seeing the same thing going toward agriculture and meat production in Saskatchewan."

Downing said he can't see the West getting a fair shake within Canada because of the electoral map.

"[There are] 14 seats in Saskatchewan compared to to the 121 in Ontario and 78 in Quebec and we are just not seeing the representation we need," he said. "We recognize the electoral realities that favour Eastern Canada in terms of Confederation and it's a bad equation."

Joe Garcea, a professor in political studies at the University of Saskatchewan, said this latest form of Western separatist movement will have trouble gaining traction with the vast majority of the population.

"It's a real radical movement that it's potential for growth is not that great given the spirit of the times,despite the discontent that there is in the west," Garcea said.

He said that while some of the economic grievances could have broad consensus, "this radical option, this radical agenda, I'm not sure there is that much support for it."

"It's all about economics. People want greater economic security," Garcea said. "I don't think they want to necessarily engage in something that could potentially compromise the economic security even more."

Downing said the group is in the process of commissioning a third-party study from an as-yet named public policy school to study the pros and cons of separation.

"We want to be able to present the strengths and weaknesses to voters so that they can make a fully informed decision and we are going to release that at a later time," he said.

He said they have had a "fantastic" response to the billboards.

"It is time to start having this conversation and discussion now."

With files from Sarah Rieger and Saskatoon Morning

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