Who says separatism is dead? In the September issue of Pacific & Prairie Horse Journal, the abyss that yawns between Equine Canada and the Alberta Equestrian Federation is spelled out in words that are well-spiced, but far from minced. In an open letter response to the grenades AEF lobbed at EC in its summer newsletter, EC CEO Akaash Maharaj rebuts with no shortage of eloquence. Standing out from the more sedate explanation of the way things look from EC’s side of the table is a shocking comment, which Akaash was treated to while meeting with the AEF Executive earlier this year. Thinking he would get things off on a good footing with something the two sides would surely have in common, he made reference to everyone being a proud Canadian. “Albertans are not proud to be Canadians,” was the reply from one AEF Executive member. “Canada is just our address and what happens in other parts of the country has nothing to do with us.”

Now, I’m as ready as the next person to strongly express my opinion – as a brief perusual of this blog attests – and I admire blunt honesty in others. But making a politico-philosophical statement on behalf of the entire membership of AEF (nay the entire population of Alberta)? I think that crosses a pretty fat line. I wonder if the thousands of AEF members are aware that they have joined a political party. I went to the Separation Party of Alberta website to see if they have struck an alliance with AEF, but so far there is no sign that SPA is offering free, automatic membership in their party to all AEF members. In fact, the SPA website (http://www.separationalberta.com/) hasn’t been updated in quite some time; either AEF’s ideology is so far ahead of its time that the rest of the province has not caught up, or AEF is out in left field.

Just to restate the obvious: AEF has decided not to come out to play with EC. The newest AEF newsletter is published in the same issue of PPHJ where Akaash’s letter appears. In a section titled ‘facts’, the AEF Execs have blurred the line between incontrovertibles and opinions. You can’t start a statement of fact with the words “the AEF Executive Committee considers”. One of the ‘facts’ is that “82% of AEF individual memberships are recreational, Western and driving, with no direct contact of services from EC.” While there is a kernel of value to this statement (it wouldn’t be out of line to think recreational riding and rodeos haven’t skimmed the cream off EC’s budget), they have cast the blanket a wee bit far. Driving and Reining – both FEI disciplines – are supported by EC programs and very much in evidence on the EC website. Another of the AEF’s ‘facts’ is “EC competitions program supports only elite athletes.” Come on. Now you’re just being pissy.

One underlying message coming out of this fight is that it’s tough to be a minority in Alberta – ie, one of those ‘elite’ 18% who go to horse shows from time to time. And here’s another bit of news: If you are a horse show organizer in that opt-out province and you want to continue hosting EC sanctioned competitions, brace yourself for 2010, when you will have to work with the EC office on all the paper work. Akaash acknowledges that there ain’t no more staff skin to spread over the competitions program, though it is conceivable that if the EC Executive makes only right decisions in a timely fashion, the revenue generated from being in charge of all of EC’s Gold and Platinum shows, and at least two provinces’ Silver and Bronze shows, will allow EC to hire more bodies.

In the meantime, AEF is set to reinvent the wheel with their own ‘separate and distinct’ (my description, not theirs) horse show program. I realize that I am speaking without full knowledge of every last detail – or even most of the details – of what has been a complicated six year wrangle, not only between Alberta and EC, but all the provinces and EC. However, when I read Akaash’s letter, I hear the voice of reason. When I read the AEF newsletter I hear emotion. I have no doubt that today’s blog will lead to at least a few Albertans fantasizing about throwing me in the tar sands; but as temporary relief the DC board would probably be happy to lend you a couple of Karen voodoo dolls to stick pins into.

One thing I’m sure of: I’m sure I don’t envy Akaash his job, or that of EC Prez Mike Gallagher. Word on the street is that our more traditionally separatist province, Quebec, is also crying ‘hell no’ instead of finding a middle road with the national federation. Meow!