In 2004, I was in charge of a popular website based at the University of British Columbia that tracked public opinion all over the world. In the hours that followed the conclusion of that year’s U.S. presidential election, I received dozens of emails from Americans who lived in the so-called “Blue States” — those where Democratic nominee John Kerry received more votes than Republican incumbent George W. Bush.
“How hard is it to move to Canada?” a curious reader asked from Michigan.
“Do I need to speak French in order to become an immigrant?” a Californian wrote.
“Can we claim refugee status if we’re governed by an idiot?” a New Yorker wondered.
Some of the emails were evidently tongue-in-cheek, but other Americans requested specific information about regulations, policies and deadlines. All of them were disappointed with the outcome of the presidential election. Few were actually looking for a way out of their country, but rather blowing off a little steam over the fact that the head of state they despised would be in the White House for four more years.
The recent discussions about the creation of a Vancouver Island province that would be independent from British Columbia brought back some of those memories from the 2004 American campaign, where a war hero was painted as a wimp by highly paid campaign strategists working on behalf of a draft dodger.
The disappointment of Vancouver Islanders with the outcome of the most recent provincial election is understandable. The area voted overwhelmingly for the B.C. New Democratic Party this past May. The New Democrats won 11 of the 14 seats at stake, with nine of the victorious candidates garnering at least 45 per cent of the vote.
The governing Liberals have lost the stranglehold they have held in Vancouver Island since 2001, when they carried every seat. In 2005, the NDP won nine of the 14 ridings. In 2009, ten of the elected MLAs were New Democrats. The Liberals have maintained their popularity in the mainland, while the NDP has done a little bit better in Vancouver Island with every election.
The Vancouver Island separatist movement is calling upon the federal government to grant the area provincial status by May 16, 2021. The initiative, however, seems to lack the cultural coherence of places such as Catalonia in Spain, and to a lesser extent, Scotland in the United Kingdom and Quebec in Canada. Issues such as sustainability, use of fossil fuels and environmental awareness will not be regarded as enough, at least right now, to give this agenda that first-time voters can back.
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Vice President, Public Affairs