07.10.2017 03:29 AM

This week’s column: on Trudeau and Alberta

So, the Alberta mistake.  Also, the braying and screeching.

Even the Washington Post has (amusingly) taken note.  The Washington Post!

The hullaballoo – the ceaseless braying and screeching – has prompted me to declare: I’m an Albertan.  Alberta’s home.  My family has lived there for decades. Hell, I’m heading back there to teach at the University of Calgary’s law school soon enough.

And, yes, I’m a liberal/Liberal (although I’ve always been more of a Democrat, but that’s a story for another day).  But, just because I’ve worked for a three-majority Liberal Prime Minister (that Chrétien guy) and a three-majority Liberal Premier (that McGuinty guy), doesn’t mean I’m ever afraid to criticize my own team. In the past few days, I’ve roughed them up pretty good over the appalling Khadr payment, for example.

So, believe me when I tell you: this Trudeau-forgetting-Alberta thing is a prairie-style butt truffle.  It’s stupid.  Ten reasons.

  1. Come on. Do you seriously think, Conservatives, that he’d leave out Alberta on purpose?Like, seriously?  If you think that, you’re stupid.  Sorry, but you are.
  2. He apologized! The second he realized his mistake, Trudeau walked back to the microphone and corrected it. “I’m a little embarrassed. I got excited somewhere over the Rockies,” he said. “Alberta, I love you. Happy Canada Day!”
  3. Alberta matters. The guy doesn’t just love Alberta, he needs Alberta.  Since 2013, he’s invested considerable political capital and resources in winning Alberta seats, and it’s paid off, big time – even in my hometown of Calgary, a political earthquake last experienced a half-Century ago.
  4. Watch him. The day after he announced his run for the Liberal Party leadership in his home riding – the day after!– Trudeau Jr. went straight to Calgary, and professed his undying fealty, as well as his disgust with his father’s signature energy policy, the NEP.  That did not go unnoticed, in Alberta.
  5. He’s walked the talk. Trudeau’s spilled a lot of political blood, in B.C. and elsewhere, to fight for the pipelines Alberta needs to get its oil to market.  On his watch, Keystone approval happened.  On his watch, Trans Mountain approval happened. On his watch, Line 3 approval happened, too.  A Conservative Prime Minister didn’t get those things done – a Liberal Prime Minister did: a Trudeau, no less.
  6. Um, who cares? Sensible Albertans shrugged about the sloppy speechifying.  Naheed Nenshi, for instance, called the resulting controversy “silly,” because it was.  “I screw up speeches all the time,” Nenshi said. So do the Conservative politicos who brayed and shrieked about Trudeau’s.
  7. Alberta has clout. Trudeau put two ministers from Alberta in his rather-small cabinet.  That’s the same number as Manitoba, one more than Saskatchewan, and one less than B.C. Overall, Ontario has the most representation at the cabinet table, followed closely by the West. That matters.
  8. R-e-s-p-e-c-t. My friend, Alberta Liberal legend Darryl Raymaker, has recently written an excellent book about Alberta and the Trudeaus, called Trudeau’s Tango. You should buy it.  In his compendious book, Raymaker reminds everyone that the Trudeau name has always been controversial in Alberta – but respected, too.  The Trudeau name gave “Alberta Liberals hope,” Raymaker writes.  The father, then – like the son, now – “was a man for his time – new, youthful, superbly confident, tough, and equally articulate in both official languages.”  What made Pierre Trudeau appealing in Alberta in his era makes the son just as appealing in his.  Conservatives dominate Alberta – but the Trudeaus (and Rachel Notley) remind us they don’t own
  9. Check the numbers. Polls say Trudeau’s still competitive. CBC’s Eric Grenier – who most recently took an up-close look – says that, even with the Tories way ahead in Alberta, Trudeau is still doing well enough to win again. In fact, Grenier notes, at about 26 per cent support, Trudeau is still tracking a couple of points higher in Alberta than he did on Election Day 2015.  While the CPC, notably, remains where it was on that day.
  10. It was an INNOCENT MISTAKE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. None of the conservatives who leapt on Trudeau’s gaffe – Jason Kenney, Brian Jean, Michelle Rempel, et al. – were nearly as outraged as they claimed to be.  They were, as politicians do, taking political advantage of a rival politicians’ slip.  It was a mistake, to be sure.  But not a career-ending one.

Albertans (where I grew up) are like Quebeckers (where I was born).  They see themselves as a distinct society: part of Canada, but arguably better than the rest of Canada.  As such, when the offered the opportunity, they will never hesitate to moan that they have been harmed and humiliated and hurt.  It’s in the genes.

So, will Albertans accordingly let Trudeau’s slip, slip by? Not on your life.

When even the Washington Post is taking note of the mistake, there’s braying and screeching to be done!



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    Pedant says:

    Just a point of clarification : the 2011 Ontario election resulted in a Liberal MINORITY, having won 53 out of 107 seats.

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    cynical says:

    All Albert needs is a sales tax and they’d be indistinguishable from RoC. And arguably economically better off as they’d have a buffer against boom-bust economics. But NOOOOO!

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    P. Brenn says:

    there is so much time wasted on the “small stuff ” in the name of politics…we need running water on all reserves , we need to drop wait times in healthcare , we need jobs for our young and old, we need good infrastructure, we need solid education sysatem, we need to end backlog in courts that see guilty go free – we don’t need to analyze every word of our elected leaders or how they look or smile, we don’t need to mess around with the electoral system , we do not need to call each other names on twitter or facebook….

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      P. Brenn says:

      ps if you disagree with me you’re a loser.

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    James Smith says:

    Would my former neighbours in YYC be better served with a FIREWALL?

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    Richard says:

    Faux-outrage from wannabe snowflakes.

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      Charlie says:



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    Kelly says:

    I don’t even think most people who live in Alberta were born there so Alberta is a lot more Canadian than American now. If we had PR over a quarter of Alberta’s seats would be Liberal and all of this BS regionalism would just . . . . disappear. It’s fake. Conservatives have nothing to offer Alberta. They pissed away the oil money and it’s never coming back. You won’t even be able to buy a new fossil fuel powered car in half of Europe by 2025. Volvo’s going all electric by 2019 and they are set to gro share mightily now that they have Chinese ownership and a huge money pile to help expand. The world will still burn lots of oil but not at prices that make much of our expensive low grade product economic. Trudeau at least thinks long term and speaks the truth about Alberta’s economic future. As does Notely.

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    Eric Weiss says:

    Most Albertans shrugged it off. Don’t let the Pols or the trolls on the comment boards make you think most of us care as much as they seem to think we do. And I’m not a big JT fan.

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    Charlie says:

    “Oh noooo!!! Trudeau forgot to name Alberta in a speech nobody gave a shit about!!!! He must hate Alberta, and despise all Albertans!!!! This is a sign of the Trudeau government’s agenda to destroy Alberta and remove the province from the map entirely!!!!!”

    Get the fuck outta here, you whiney snowflakes. You wouldn’t have given a shit if Trudeau had made 40 minute speech about the greatness of Alberta and still would’ve hated him as much as you hate him for forgetting to stroke the gentle ego of hyper sensitive conservative Albertans.

    Alberta conservatives: the Quebecois nationalists of the West.

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      Ronald O'Dowd says:


      Not quite. Remember that we have neither signed nor ratified what passes for our constitution. The only good part is the Charter.

      Don’t forget that in Germany that Bavaria (Catholic) never signed but did subsequently ratify so their’s eventually became legitimate.

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    Doug Brown says:

    1) Come on. Trudeau is stupid. He named the provinces in order from west to east and still missed one. Maybe his coaching team was on summer vacation.

    2) He apologized! Which staffer caught the mistake and quickly crafted an apology?

    3) Alberta matters. Alberta doesn’t need the federal government so the usual vote buying tactics are less effective there. It doesn’t matter from a federal perspective other than as a cash cow.

    4) Watch him. JT’s visit to Calgary was playing to his Eastern base (i.e. he is “tough” enough to visit hostile territory).

    5) He’s walked the talk. Will the Feds arrest protesters who try to physically block pipeline construction? How will they respond to provincial and municipal incursions into federal jurisdiction? And to counter the spin: Keystone approval was 100% due to Obama leaving. It had nothing to do with any Canadian politician. A Conservative PM could not have approved Line 3 or TMX given that neither had completed its application.

    6) Um, who cares? Correct. Trudeau is a talking Ken doll programmed by the same brain trust that ran Ontario into the ground. He should stick to selfies and other things that don’t involve thinking.

    7) Alberta has clout. Alberta takes one for the team on practically every issue. The two cabinet ministers have had no impact.

    8) R-e-s-p-e-c-t. Maybe in an alternate universe. I read the book even though it was about events before I was born. Youthfulness, confidence and especially speaking both official languages is style, not substance. Alberta’s geography, history and economy are incompatible with the strong federal government that Trudeau Sr espoused.

    9) Check the numbers. The Liberals barely winning two Calgary seats, while historic, isn’t much of a foundation for future success.

    10) It was an INNOCENT MISTAKE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. Agree with this one.

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