An apology by Justin Trudeau and the resignation of the Liberal Party’s energy critic, both over bone-headed remarks about Alberta, are being used by political opponents as evidence that the party will never understand the province and its people, that the national energy program of the 1980s is an essential part of the LPC’s DNA.
There is a certain element of truth in that, but then the Liberals are caught in a vicious circle. Alberta is misunderstood by federal Liberal politicians, therefore none are elected, therefore Alberta is misunderstood by federal Liberal politicians.
It almost goes without saying that a party that had to look to the resource-rich region of the Ottawa South riding – and the brother of Ontario’s Premier – for its natural resources critic is likely going to have some trouble getting a read on Alberta.
The election of an Alberta MP or two would serve as a welcome tonic for the Liberal caucus.
Anne McLellan was a powerful cabinet minister from the province, serving as justice minister and deputy prime minister in successive Liberal governments. Her presence did not eliminate the sort of eastern parochialism that Justin Trudeau and David McGuinty have been guilty of, but it did ensure that Alberta was strenuously represented in caucus.
It’s unlikely that Mr. Trudeau would have rambled on about the deleterious policy influence of Albertans, or that Mr. McGuinty would suggest Alberta Tory MPs don’t belong in Parliament unless they adopt a more national view of the oil and gas sector, if Alberta members of their caucus had been there to call them on it.
Until these foolish outbursts – Mr. McGuinty was made recently and Mr. Trudeau’s was dug up from two years ago – a Liberal candidate was seriously challenging the Conservative candidate in today’s Calgary Centre byelection. It’s unclear what, if any, impact the controversy will have, but it is important to remember there are such people as Alberta Liberals – and they care just as deeply about their province as Tories do.