Trudeau’s Alberta Problem

The most memorable thing, at least to me, about last year’s Canada Day festivities was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Alberta gaffe.

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The most memorable thing, at least to me, about last year’s Canada Day festivities was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Alberta gaffe.

If you don’t remember this memorable gaffe, what happened was Trudeau, during his Canada Day speech, gave a shout out to every territory and province in the country, except one: Alberta.

Yup, somehow Alberta totally slipped our prime minister’s mind.

At the time, of course, Trudeau suggested it was just a simple mistake.

And maybe it was.

But sometimes I wonder if Trudeau’s Alberta omission was actually more like a Freudian slip, i.e. in his heart of hearts, maybe he wishes the Wild Rose province actually wasn’t a part of Canada.

Admittedly, that sounds a bit farfetched, but keep in mind that relations between Alberta and the Liberal Party of Canada have been somewhat frosty ever since Trudeau’s father, Pierre, nearly destroyed the province’s economy with his ill-advised National Energy Program.

Also recall how, when Stephen Harper – an  Albertan — was still prime minister, Trudeau told a Quebec TV station that “Canada isn’t doing well right now because it’s Albertans who control our community and socio-democratic agenda. It doesn’t work.”

So yeah, from the outset, there’s been something of a psychological divide between Trudeau and Alberta; it’s like Trudeau is from Venus and Alberta is from the Spice Mines of Kessel.

Yet, I suspect what really riles Trudeau about Alberta is that a) the province is packed with oil sands and b) Alberta’s economic prosperity depends on exploiting those oil sands, i.e. digging them up from the ground and then shipping them across the country in pipelines.

My guess is Trudeau doesn’t like anything about that picture; he doesn’t like digging things up from the ground; he doesn’t like oil sands; he doesn’t like pipelines, but since a prime minister’s job description includes promoting things like national economic development, he’s basically forced to publically support all that stuff.

And for Trudeau, that’s a real problem since its puts him on a collision course with the world’s “green” activists all of whom regard the oil sands the same way vegans regard “meat lover’s” pizza.

So basically, if Trudeau is for a pipeline, they’re against Trudeau.

Nothing can spare Trudeau from the green movement’s wrath.

Last year, for instance, American environmentalist, Bill McKibben wrote of Trudeau, “He’s hard at work pushing for new pipelines through Canada and the US to carry yet more oil out of Alberta’s tar sands, which is one of the greatest climate disasters on the planet.”

Such criticism must be awfully hard for Trudeau to take since he desperately wants to be seen and adored as a progressive, enlightened, leader who will do anything (short of cancelling a helicopter ride to a swank Bahamas resort) to save our planet from the horrors of climate change.

This is why he’s done whatever he can to appease the eco-crowd: he killed the Northern Gateway oil pipeline, he allowed the Energy East pipeline to die from neglect and he let it slip that one day he will somehow, someway “phase out” Alberta’s oil sand industry.

But none of that has ever allayed green activists.

Indeed, they’re angrier than ever with him now that he might nationalize the Trans Mountain oil pipeline.

Here’s what hipster lefty Naomi Klein recently posted on Twitter: “Not even Donald Trump has stooped to buying troubled fossil fuel properties outright. Trudeau and Notley are now in a class of their own – and it’s not “socialism” it’s Carbon Corporatism. A straight-up subsidy to Big Oil.”

Ouch! That Trump comparison must especially sting Trudeau.

Yet, there’s nothing he can do but take it, since his only other option is to shut down all oil pipelines and thus totally wreck Alberta’s energy sector.

And as much as he might like to do that just please people like Klein and McKibben, willfully destroying a province’s economy would probably mar Trudeau’s reputation as prime minister.

In short, Trudeau is doomed to be unpopular with a crowd whose approval he craves — and it’s all Alberta’s fault.

So it’s probably not too much of a stretch to imagine that Trudeau’s subconscious mind likes to create a Canada that’s Alberta-free.

Let’s see if he “mistakenly” omits Alberta from this year’s Canada Day speech.


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Gerry Nicholls

A regular guest on CTV's power play, Gerry is a seasoned professional with consulting experience. Gerry has helped politicians, business people, advocacy groups and non-profit organizations achieve effective and winning communications strategies. Being hailed as a "brilliant strategist" by campaign managers, Gerry publishes analytical pieces on political analyses and strategic communications. On top of this, Gerry has experience in both the US as well as Canada with media analytics and consultation. Gerry has published articles for other large networks such as: The Ottawa Hill Times, the Globe and Mail, The National Post and the Toronto Star.

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