/WestJet CEO on Wexit: I wont tolerate that kind of language

WestJet CEO on Wexit: I wont tolerate that kind of language

WestJet CEO Ed Sims has taken aim at the Wexit movement, saying talk of Alberta separating from Canada runs counter to the economic interests of both the Calgary-based airline he leads and the province as a whole.

“I won’t tolerate that kind of language,” Sims said, when asked in an interview for his thoughts on Wexit, the movement that promotes an independent Alberta and that has come into the spotlight in the aftermath of the recent federal election.

“Having come from the U.K., I’ve seen three years of total economic paralysis and stagnation caused by Brexit,” Sims added. “I don’t envy our (U.K.) colleagues trying to deal with attracting people to a U.K. that feels very divided. And there’s no reason for Alberta to feel divided from the rest of Canada.”

While Sims said he doesn’t for a second underestimate the difficulties the Alberta economy has faced in the last year — pointing to continued pipeline delays, recent layoffs at Husky Energy and Encana Corp.’s decision to move its corporate headquarters to the U.S. as examples — he said most economists are forecasting some degree of economic improvement in 2020.

And he pointed out WestJet itself is confident enough in Alberta and its future that it chose Calgary to be the hub for its international Dreamliner service, launched earlier this year. In addition, three-quarters of WestJet’s total national capacity growth from 2015-2019 (the downturn years) has taken place in Calgary.

WestJet president and CEO Ed Sims, left, and Tawfiq Popatia, a managing director at Onex, stand next to one of the engines of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner in a WestJet hanger on Monday, May 13, 2019.

Gavin Young /


Sims said he is increasingly concerned that talk of Western alienation and economic stagnation is reverberating beyond Alberta’s borders and creating the impression that this province is not an attractive place to invest.

“If we are not careful we will start using the language of a depression rather than a recession,” he said. “I worry because we (WestJet) are a Canadian operation headquartered here.”

Sims is not the first in recent days to express concerns about Wexit and the impact it is having on Alberta’s reputation as an investment destination. Last week, Mary Moran — CEO of Calgary Economic Development — said in a speech at a business forum in Lake Louise that the rise of separatist sentiment in Alberta cost Calgary an opportunity to attract a major technology head office.

The city was high on the unnamed firm’s shortlist of potential hosts until alarms were raised over Wexit, she said in an interview after the speech.

Sims said he has shared his concerns with municipal governments as well as the provincial government, and warned that overly negative talk could also damage Alberta’s reputation as a tourist destination.

“We need to start adapting a more ‘whole-of-Canada’ voice than a provincial voice,” Sims said. “I am more than happy to take a lead role … in saying ‘there is no wall, and there will be no wall around Alberta.’ ”

— With files from the Canadian Press

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Twitter: @AmandaMsteph

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