Justin Trudeau came to Alberta last week and amidst stoneface employees at the Trans Mountain pipeline terminal just outside Edmonton held what can only be described as an election campaign photo-op.
He spoke forcefully about tackling environmental issues while at the same time ensuring jobs in the energy sector by green lighting controversial projects, such as the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which will ship diluted bitumen from Alberta to the B.C. coast.
But who was this message directed to? Most Albertans are firmly entrenched in the conservative camp and will likely stay there no matter what Trudeau does.
So why come to Alberta at all
Because it makes a great stage setting from which to send messages to the rest of Canada, especially Ontario and Quebec where all the votes are.
Kenney didn’t show up at Trudeau’s event to promote the pipeline, a pipeline the federal government now owns.
That’s not surprising since Kenney doesn’t want to be seen anywhere near Trudeau, who he has accused of trying to shut down Alberta’s oil and gas industry.
Never mind that buying a pipeline seems to indicate the exact opposite.
During the recent provincial election campaign Kenney smeared NDP leader Rachel Notley by constantly referring to the “Notley/Trudeau Alliance” as traitorous to Alberta’s interests.
Kenney has also killed Alberta’s carbon tax, which was part of Trudeau’s national strategy to reduce carbon emissions. He has set up a war room to combat what he calls environmentalists’ lies and defamation of the oil industry.
He has established a quasi-public inquiry to root out foreign funding of environmental groups that conspiracy mongers say is actually money from U.S. oil interests who want to thwart Canada’s oil sector.
And Kenney is keen to flaunt threats of separation from Canada.
During the annual premiers’ meeting in Saskatoon last week he warned Trudeau that a majority of Albertans are tired of contributing money to equalization payments and are seriously considering secession.
This is a radical agenda that goes over well in Alberta but to the rest of Canada may sound somewhat alarming.
So why wouldn’t Trudeau and the Liberals set themselves up as the “reasonable” ones who have the interests of all Canadians at heart
The party of national unity? The party that can bridge the differences between the interests of workers supporting their families and those who want action on environmental issues and climate change?
Why wouldn’t Trudeau prove his bravado by pitching his message to Canadians from the very province where so many people detest him?
Just as Doug Ford’s oafish brand of conservatism is hurting Andrew Scheer’s federal election ambitions in Ontario, so might Kenney’s agenda, which has been enthusiastically embraced by the federal Conservatives, hurt them outside Alberta.
Maybe they should rein him in too.
If they don’t, Trudeau can easily point to the Liberals as “not them” but a more unifying party.
Of course, in some parts of the country the Liberals are not green enough for voters. Spurred on by the radical agenda promoted by Kenney and Scheer they will likely turn to the Greens or the NDP. Or they might reconsider the Liberals.
That Trudeau was speaking in Alberta but really to the Rest of Canada, especially Ontario and Quebec, when he came to the Trans Mountain pipeline terminal last week was highlighted by his answer to a question lobbed at him from a Radio-Canada reporter.
The reporter asked about the nomination of Steven Guilbeault as a Liberal candidate in Quebec.
Guilbeault is a high profile environmentalist, who has campaigned vociferously against the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion in a province where oil pipelines are seen as an abomination.
Trudeau looked only too pleased to answer that question in French and English.
“Canadians have a broad range of views on a lot of different issues and one of the important things for us is to make sure that we’re listening to the voices of Canadians, to the preoccupations of Canadians,” Trudeau replied.
So much for Kenney’s paranoid and aggressive stance toward anyone who is anti-oil.
No question, Kenney will make it much easier for Canadians outside Alberta to decide to vote Liberal, NDP or Green