Jason Kenney saved his vitriolic interventions in the Alberta election campaign for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rather than his opponent, NDP Premier Rachel Notley.
This made sense — political attacks rarely work when the target is more popular than source and many voters held Notley in greater esteem than Kenney.
But there was an edge to the United Conservative Party leader’s attacks on Trudeau that went beyond campaign strategy. The Liberal leader was citizenship and immigration critic while Kenney was the minister for the file in his early days in Stephen Harper’s government, and it would be fair to say Alberta’s premier-designate didn’t hold his counterpart in high regard. “The guy was my critic in opposition for three years. I don’t think he has the foggiest idea what’s going on,” Kenney told a reporter in one particularly caustic put-down. “This guy is an empty trust-fund millionaire who has the political depth of a finger-bowl.”
For all Trudeau’s Rotarian optimism about working together to “address issues of importance to Albertans and all Canadians,” including “taking decisive action on climate change, while getting our natural resources to market,” it promises to be a testing time for the loose confederation of warring tribes that we call Canada.
A new era of unfriendly federalism has been fully realized, with provincial governments hostile to the federal Liberals presiding in legislatures across the country, with the exception, at least for now, of three small provinces in Atlantic Canada. When Justin Trudeau came to power, 29 million Canadians lived in provinces run by provincial Liberals. That number currently stands at 1.6 million. And while Alberta was run by Notley’s NDP, she was an ally in Trudeau’s grand design to introduce a carbon tax while building a pipeline to new markets for the province’s oil. That alliance died with Kenney’s election Tuesday.
Alberta’s voters were not in a happy place going into this campaign, fizzing and popping like sausages in a pan. There was a sense they’ve been on the receiving end of a sustained assault on their interests. There were legitimate grounds for grievance — the governments of B.C. and Quebec went out of their way to oppose pipeline expansion, while the citizens of Quebec in particular benefitted from the equalization program, funded in large measure by the taxpayers of Alberta. The oilpatch has experienced an almost existential crisis, as jobs and investment have gone elsewhere.
Fully one-third of the United Conservative Party platform is devoted to “standing up for Alberta” — scrapping the NDP’s carbon tax and launching a court challenge to any federally imposed replacement; filing a constitutional challenge against the federal government’s environmental assessment bill, C-69; fighting “foreign-funded special interests” that oppose resource development; holding a referendum on the federal government’s equalization program, unless there is progress made toward building a new pipeline; pressing Ottawa to convert Canada health and social transfers to tax points for the province to give Alberta more control over how revenues are raised and spent; resistance to the housing stress test imposed by the …read more