Let the Eastern Bastards Freeze in the Dark: The West Versus the Rest Since Confederation

In this sweeping non-fiction tome, journalist Mary Janigan presents “the forgotten story of Canada,” chronicling the complicated people and events that shaped our lopsided union. Maritime readers may be inclined to take the “Eastern bastards” of the provocative title (and Alberta bumper sticker) personally but the ire of Western premiers was largely directed at Ontario (federal powers in Ottawa first, then Ontario provincially second) and Quebec - anyone east of them. Our pesky Atlantic complaints didn’t help matters, but the West certainly wasn’t seeking a solution with or through us.

“Maritimers do not remember their premiers once claimed they had bought the West, fair and square, so they owned the West’s land and resources,” goes Janigan’s premise, and she’s right; I don’t remember that. Or I conveniently forgot.  By “the West” Janigan means Maintoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta (i.e., not B.C.). Unlike P.E.I., the smallest province of confederation, those three never had control of their own resources until late in the game; Ottawa administered the land (for which it took a fee) and when it became crucial to farm and mine those huge tracts of land, Ottawa resettled 3 million immigrants on prairie farms without handing over control. As quickly becomes clear, the now stinking rich provinces had to fight for basic services and had no control over major provincial decisions.

Janigan’s astonishing victory is making us deeply sympathize with the unfairness of living in or being elected to run a province yet owning none of its wheat, coal or land. By the end of the book, their position as economic powerhouses feels, well, deserved. Janigan work is also an incredible primer on various Prime Ministers, referencing their diaries, letters and travel itineraries extensively.  Quite nearly an overachievement in terms of research, this is a book you should make yourself own and then non-judgmentally take time to get through. Read other books in between attempts to finish it. This is a slog - an important one - and Canadians are such tremendous sloggers, by climate alone. An enriching, educational and entirely readable lesson.