A sinister drumbeat plays in the background as a globe spins across the screen, with Canada in clear focus.

A map of the country then cracks into pieces. “Canada could actually split up after the next election,” a voiceover on the video says. The narrator goes on to suggest that many westerners in particular, “see no other choice” than to separate from Canada.

The video seems to base this idea on a poll released in February by the Angus Reid Institute, which found that 50 per cent of Albertans see separation from Canada as a “real possibility," and 60 per cent would support (either strongly or moderately) the province joining a separatist movement.

However, the claim is misleading — opinion polls are far less serious than a vote and might not represent what Albertans are actually willing to do, said Lori Williams, an associate professor of policy studies at Mount Royal University in Calgary.

"It's very difficult to read very much into a public opinion survey that has no consequence," she said.

The video was posted to social media on July 14 by Canada Proud, an influential conservative group aimed at defeating Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in this year’s federal election. It racked up 400,000 views in five days on Facebook, and more than 32,000 on Twitter. It also urged viewers to take up the hashtag #SaveCanada.

A recent video by Canada Proud claimed Canada could split up after the federal election. That's a "remote possibility," experts say. Fact check by @EmmaMci #cdnpoli #ableg

“It speaks to the fact that in today's social media politics, you don't really need facts as much as you need ominous music... to get some take-up on some pretty illogical, irrational ideas,” said Jared Wesley, a political scientist at the University of Alberta, adding that there’s no indication Canada is anywhere near the point of splitting up.

“This type of politics plays on fear, anxiety and emotion. It's proven to be very effective in other countries. This fall’s federal election will be the latest test.”

In reality, support in the province for separating from Canada is actually far lower than the video claims, he added. “Our research shows that fewer than one in five Albertans actually want to leave the country.”

Canada Proud founder Jeff Ballingall, who also started Ontario Proud — a similar group that played a significant role in the defeat of the Ontario Liberals in the 2018 provincial election — told National Observer he doesn’t think the video is misleading. Canada Proud is trying to discuss the issue before it becomes a mainstream problem, he added, and anything could happen if frustrated westerners don’t get the outcomes they’re asking for.

“A lot of things can happen in the political discourse that no one thought could ever happen now,” Ballingall said. “I think we’re seeing that across the western world, where people are shocked. So I think you need to make sure that people feel listened to, or else they’re going to start going to extremes.”

According to Facebook’s ad library, Canada Proud has spent between $1,000 and $5,000 to promote the video on that platform, reaching 200,000 to 500,000 viewers. The page has promoted two versions — one targeted only at Alberta and Saskatchewan, and another that targeted all provinces and territories, with a focus on Ontario.

"Separation is a remote possibility"

A screenshot of the video by Canada Proud.

Though Albertans certainly are frustrated with the province’s lagging economy, it’s in no danger of splitting off from the rest of the country any time soon, Williams said. The legal and logistical complexities of separating would take years, she added — that is, if Albertans voted for it in a referendum, a process that could be equally fraught with challenges.

For one thing, most of Alberta is covered by treaties between First Nations and the federal government. If Alberta were to separate, the First Nations’ legal claims to that land would have to factor into the discussion. Alberta would also have to create its own military, currency, tax system, pension plan and national police.

Negotiations for building a pipeline across a different, sovereign country, rather than a federation of provinces, would also be more complicated.

“There are probably some people in Alberta who, just because they're angry, don't want to be Canada,” Williams said. “But they probably haven't seriously thought through what the consequences would be."

The idea of Alberta separatism has been in the news a lot this year — new Premier Jason Kenney has warned that it’s possible, and as the video cites, six premiers wrote to the prime minister last month to warn that Trudeau’s policies are threatening national unity.

However, these moves are more about bargaining to get a better deal out of Confederation by capitalizing on existing frustrations, Williams said.

“(Separation) is a remote possibility, I suppose,” she said. “It's more an emotional expression of frustration... The imminent need for separation isn't widely felt, even among those who are angry."

Wesley said a lot of these feelings are related to Alberta’s economic conditions. Though joblessness has worsened amid the latest slump in oil prices, and the province’s economy isn’t as healthy as it once was, Albertans still have the highest average incomes in the country, Wesley said.

"It's a perceived loss of status," he said. "There's a sense that Alberta is being left behind by the rest of Canada, when that's not true. They just feel like they're not moving as quickly as they used to be."

Ballingall said although people might want to dismiss the video’s contents because they're inconvenient, he said it’s clear the video is resonating. (It’s also worth noting that social media platforms’ algorithms favour polarizing and extreme content.)

“It is a stark message,” Ballingall said. “It should shock Canadians.”

Canada Proud is most likely taking huge donations from corporations.

Ontario Proud is a dangerous astroturfing dark organization that is not being investigated seriously enough for the media sway it has managed to create. "Bots are us " is their true id. Where's all the research into who's funding them??? They, like the Can Taxpayers Assoc. get attention in MSM WAY out of proportion to their actual membership---they get asked to direct comment where the NDP an actual party in actual government doesn't. Now what does the MSM have to say about its choice of sources to quote----oh ya. Information in not the gig---it's spiked emotional terror that brings in the bucks

Some excellent observations. Makes it look like the mainstream power brokers actually don't mind right wing astroturf organizations.........or else, mainstream reporters are too poorly paid and overworked to notice that outfits like the 'Canadian Taxpayer's Federation' is actually just an office in Calgary with 3-5 employees. Giving that kind of upstart crew a major voice on economic policy is idiotic.......if it isn't expected by the owners of the media outlet.

So we can be amused or annoyed with outfits that want us to be Proud...by threatening our fellow citizens......but we have to be concerned as well.

Since when in this country, did such start ups garner so much attention and respect???

There is decent in the West. The focus across the country is always upon Alberta but if you consider the "deal" BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan are getting out of confederation. It is no longer fair or proper. All three are the "have" provinces that finance almost all of the equalization payments at present. The seat counts are not as they should be when counting the population in Canada east of Ontario compared to west of Ontario. The historical center of power in Upper and Lower Canada has become obviously out of date with where the country is heading and not just economically. There is a concern not necessarily that complete separation is the answer but a definite reorganization and redistribution of power will become a definite requirement in the near future.

As though leaving confederation would make BC opposition to TMX just go away ... last time I looked, AB (and Sask for that matter) were landlocked.

It isn't always about pipelines. I believe if there had been honest sit-down with Alberta asking BC what it takes to get it done instead of demanding and foot stomping something may have gotten accomplished. We all realize that the extensive safety requirements regarding tanker traffic for example will never be made possible by federal promises. They never are. The West must take care of it's own. This particular issue has made more and more opposition the only result over the last five years. In any case this is off topic.

And that very fact, of being landlocked, is why they are so annoyed with B.C. Damn those lala land folk, for being so ungracious as to reject an Alberta pipeline. They'd better smarten up, or Alberta will leave the confederation.

Hard to know whether to laugh or cry sometimes....but it does get funny. LIke Trudeau pays them a pipeline, and within weeks, they're accusing him of 'treason'!!!! Albertans with some sense are embarrassed....but where is the poll to chart our discomfort??

Poke an individual, a corporation, a government in its primary wealth/power creating existence and it will lash out. What everyone on Earth is failing to act on is that the poking/prodding we are dealing with now is universally dangerous not only to human existence but to a living breathing viable planet.

People tend to huddle into small self protective groups in the face of danger. Such groups are easy prey for the small minded "nationalist" agitators who seem to forget or never understood that this planet is a single connected whole and always has been. What happens in one part of the sphere, affects every other part. We are a closed system, mutually interdependent, now, more than ever. The laws of physics will win every time. Humanity is puny.

Why is the National Observer publishing - and providing additional viewing to - such right-wing movements. I would like to read in my National Observer news strong advice not to read nor pay attention to such garbage as Canada Proud or Ontario Proud.

Fringe Albertans love threatening the federal government, but they are far from the majority. Even if they did become the majority, most of them have little clue how complex and fraught with unforeseen losses separation would be. It's political theatre of a bullying sort........do what we want, give us what we want..

Or we're taking all our marbles home.

Thing is, no one province has as many marbles as they may imagine. And no one gets everything they want, or has it all their way, all the time. Fear mongering might work for oil patch conservatives, frightened as they are by the realities of climate change, global oil glut, and diminishing job opportunities....but after the dust has settled, Canada will survive them.

What's more, I even live in hope that we'll get busy working together to solve our actual crisis. It isn't the price of oil, or Alberta's frustrations: It's climate change. We can't heart Canadian oil, hate the federal government, and solve the rising extreme weather by going to war with each other.

Some adult decisions, and adult commitments are going to be required.

I watched the Canada Proud video... well, part of it. What a yawn. Can't think they'll have that much of an impact on the election if they can't manage something less boring.