Sunday, 17 April 2016

Separation Anxiety: A Critical Analysis of the Websites Alberta's Separatist Organizations

With Illustrations

The Official Flag of the Republic of Alberta. 


Alberta joined the Canadian federation in 1905 and Albertans have tried to declare their sovereignty ever since. The first efforts to establish Alberta as a unique member of confederation began in the 1930s under the Social Credit government which wanted to create its own banks and issued Alberta "Prosperity certificates." 

Various other movements-many erroneously calling themselves"political parties"-cite historical and contemporary grievances and the injustices and oppression suffered under the Canadian regime to promote Alberta's independence either as its own nation, as a new federation of western provinces, or as the 51st state of the U.S.A. While the notion of Western alienation may predate emergence of the World Wide Web, separatist movements have used the power of The Internets to advance their cause. How well do separatist movements capture the power of the web to promote their views? While principles of web design have evolved since the origin of the internet, have such principles extended themselves to the websites of these organizations? This paper examines separatist websites and correlates the validity of their claims with their adherence to web conventions.


Love Alberta? Give me
Western separatism has its roots in the emergence of the Social Credit Party in the 1930s. Grievances such as the delayed development of a railway line and tariff walls on tractor importation were early examples of complaints Alberta had with the motherland. The concept of secession from Canada experienced a resurgence with the NEP of the 1980s. In 1982, the fledgling Western Canada Concept party elected MLA Gordon Kesler to the legislature in a by-election. Just months later Kesler was defeated in a general election. 12% of the public voted for the WCC. The NDP became the official opposition and the WCC elected no one.

The idea truly came into its own with the election of the Liberals in 1993 just after the very first website on the WorldWideWeb was published by Tim Berners-Lee. Early separatist adopters of the web were quick to use the power of the web to reach out to potential supporters.  Many of them have never changed their websites since those early days of nausea inducing animated GIFs. 

Only one of these organizations is a registered political party in Alberta.  Originally called the Separation Party of Alberta, it changed its name to Alberta First in 2013. It does not have an active website and ran no candidates in the 2015 provincial election.While more recent incarnations call themselves political parties, they have not registered as such with Elections Alberta.


To complete this research I used highly scientific methodology and advanced algorithms to rate each organization in terms of content and web design using the highly regarded Canadian "plus/minus" or "+/-" rating system.
Free Alberta uses virtually every symbol of Alberta in this header
Plus points were awarded for overgeneralized statement about transfer payments, AKA "money stolen from Albertans", references to the uniqueness of Alberta's  pioneer culture, inaccurate claims to be a political party, ideological statements related to either Prime Minister Trudeau, reference to the NEP, third party advertising,invalid comparisons with the U.S. political or economic systems, solicitation of non-CRA receiptable donations, and the selling of merchandise.

Buy this classic thong to
support Alberta's secession from
Contact Us? Contact Jefferson at his house. In Bermuda.
Minus points were awarded for factual statements about the economy, historical accuracy, the voice of reason, any reference to indigenous people in any context (none found), evidence of the desire to form a political party,actual names and contact information for organizers (special mention to Jefferson Glapski of Free Alberta, who provides directions to his house in Bermuda on his personal website), any indication the site was updated in the past 5 years, and a platform or guiding principles.

Chris, Todd, Rick, Nick and Larry of the
Alberta Independence Movement have a platform. Unlike other separation "parties".
Web Design  The following elements of web design were analyzed and each site was rated according to the plus/minus system with plus points as follows:multiple fonts, font sizes and font colours on the same page, abuse of white space, abuse of Hick's Law and,Fitt's Law,broken links, low resolution images,distractions including animated GIFS and jingoistic photos of mountains, flags and the legislature.

"Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau believes Alberta's cultural values are so radical that no one from Alberta should be allowed to be the Prime Minister of Canada."
-Alberta Republicans 

Minus points were given for ease of navigation, appropriate visual hierarchy, intuitive site architecture,simplicity, active Contact Us and About Us pages (a link to email Ralph Klein doesn't count, sorry Republic of Alberta),links to active social media accounts,consistency and use of original and appealing images. (Unless they are of mountains. Enough already!)

Correlation A rating for each organization was calculated using the plus/minus rating correlated to determine a relationships between the two variables using Spearman's rank correlation as follows:

The raw scores   are converted to ranks , and   computed from:where
denotes the Pearson correlation applied to the rank variables where  is the difference between the two ranks of each observation.

Results can be seen in Table 1.

Table 1.


Is his face blurred out
for a reason?
Each group uses the World Wide Web to advertise its presence with varying levels of competence or observations of internet protocols. The findings of my research indicate a strong correlation between style and substance. Sites with inaccurate and misleading information about the relationship between Alberta and Canada closely correlate to those that demonstrate a faltering understanding of web conventions. In many ways their limited understanding of design conventions mirrors their understanding of political and economic systems in Canada.


Alberta Republicans do not intend to form a political party, but they intend to run candidates in upcoming federal and
provincial elections to "Put a boot in Trudeau's patoot."