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We the West? - An open letter to the leaders of each federal political party

I’ve been thinking a lot about the win by the Toronto Raptors, Canada’s only basketball team. I don’t watch a lot of sports. Well, I don’t really watch any sports. But I enjoy basketball, so I was excited about the Raptors’ success and found myself the newest member of the fan club even though I live on the other side of the country.

Whether you are from the eastern or the western part of Canada didn’t seem to matter; the Raptors’ win brought the entire country together. Everyone, even those of us who don’t watch basketball and have had absolutely no idea where the Raptors have placed in the standings in the past, found ourselves cheering for them during their playoff run. Any differences we may have as a result of our geography were put aside for a moment. We had one common purpose, one common goal – a win for Canada. “We the North”.

Unfortunately, beyond that fleeting moment of sports history, in the last few years we haven’t been able to come together as a country to support each other to ensure success and prosperity for all Canadians. The passing of Bills C-48 (the tanker ban on the West coast) and C-69 (the impact assessment act) have highlighted and exacerbated this feeling for many of us in the West. The constant, overt, unapologetic attack on Canada’s resource sector by members in public office feels like a direct, personal attack; it’s felt particularly strongly by those of us who work in the sector.

For many of us in the West, it feels like the very fabric of our country and society is being torn apart one small rip at a time until it will eventually be torn in two. For the first time in my life, I am hearing real, raw conversations about separation by people living in the West. Even though this sentiment has been disregarded by members of the governing party in recent days, the dissension is real. It’s scary. But it’s been fueled by the behaviour of politicians who are not working for the good of Canadians and by the media who is all too happy to fracture us by pitting regions and groups against each another for ratings.

Many Westerners feel that our concerns and needs are not being considered at the Federal level, but you, as political party leaders, have the opportunity to change that. You can put aside the political colours that you wear and ask yourself if your ideologies help or hinder ordinary Canadians. If they hinder, then you have an opportunity to reconsider your policies.

I recognize that speaking this way may not be popular. Quebec Senator Pierre Dalphond has already accused me of “fear-mongering to support short term political gains in Alberta and Saskatchewan” for contacting the Senate to express my concerns about Bill C-48’s impacts to national unity.

But he will not silence me.

The divide is real. And it’s growing. When we don’t work together, that’s the culture we create, and culture is stronger and more influential than any policy our formal leaders can put in place. You can’t legislate and mandate that people get along and work together for the common good; it has to be an inherent part of who we are as a nation.

Therefore, I ask each one you, when you are on the campaign trail this Fall, please think about how your actions and words affect national unity. And when you set policy, please think about the impact to ordinary Canadians and put Canada first. Bring us back together.

A proud Canadian,

Deidra Garyk

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