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By JOHN IBBITSON (@JohnIbbitson)
Determined not to be his father’s son, Justin Trudeau is heading to Alberta with encouraging words for a province reeling from collapsing oil prices.
In truth, there is little the Prime Minister can offer other than sympathy and perhaps the future relaxation of employment insurance rules, along with promises of infrastructure spending down the line. But options are limited. Talk of economic diversification must meet the walk of a province far from salt water and major markets. Oil has been Alberta’s economic engine for more than half a century because there is nothing else to drive the economy other than farming. Without the oil industry, what would a million Calgarians do?
But if the Liberal government can offer only limited help, it must also take care not to do real harm. Will ambitious commitments to fight global warming further dampen oil sands development? Is this the right time to ask employers to pony up for an enhanced public pension plan? Does this Liberal prime minister truly feel Alberta’s pain, or is he secretly muttering to himself: “Why should I sell your oil?”
The Liberals won four seats in Alberta in the last election. Those four could be a beachhead or they could be one-term wonders. How Mr. Trudeau handles himself in and on Alberta will shape their future and his.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS MORNING
By Chris Hannay (@channay)
> Mr. Trudeau is expected to wait until the federal budget – likely in March – to unveil help for Alberta, which could include employment insurance changes or a rarely used financial stability program. He is in Edmonton today and Calgary on Thursday.
> An estimated thousand indigenous Canadians were left out of the residential school settlement because of a decision by Justice Department lawyers partway through the submission process. That means that some survivors were accepted or rejected based on how early they submitted their claims or where on the residential school grounds assaults occurred.
> The U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security hears testimony today on the implications of Canada’s Syrian refugee program. “Our concern, because our immigration policies are so similar, is that somebody could use Canada to get to the United States,” said an official with the National Border Patrol Council.
> Canada’s auto parts makers are urging the Liberal government to protect the industry from foreign competition before beginning free-trade talks with China.
> The Senate is continuing to figure out its role as a political institution and is trying an experiment today: Fisheries Minister Hunter TooToo will answer senators’ queries after this afternoon’s Question Period.
> And from the Bloc to the boardroom? Former BQ leader Daniel Paillé is running for the presidency of financial services giant Desjardins Group.
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WHAT EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT
“What a strange time in the United States: Its currency is rising, its economy is booming, unemployment is at around 5 per cent, its military is unassailably strong, its ingenuity is intact and it is a beacon for immigrants. And yet American politics, dysfunctional in so many ways, has become a swirl of resentment and anger – for evangelicals that the country has gone all secular on them; for Republicans who feel cheated, even by their own party, that government just keeps getting bigger; for Trumpites that immigrants and blacks are being favoured at their expense; for workers who have lost their jobs; for ordinary Americans, even in far-removed Iowa, that terrorism lurks around every corner, and that this once great, and recently uncontested power, has lost its standing and its way in the world.” – Jeffrey Simpson (for subscribers) on the implications of Iowa.
Globe and Mail editorial board: “No one is saying ride-share companies should be allowed to do what they want. But Edmonton has provided a template on how to both increase competition, a highly desirable thing, and set equitable rules for all to play by.”
Bob Rae (Globe and Mail): “What, then, should be the direction of policy [after La Loche]? Put simply: Mend hearts and mend treaties. Give some real meaning to self-government, and provide First Nations governments with the authority, jurisdiction, land and funding every government needs to do a job.”
Rona Ambrose (writing in the Toronto Sun): “From agriculture, to fisheries, to mining, to timber, and yes, even oil and gas, it’s natural resources that have helped propel Canada to being an economic world leader.”
Neil Macdonald (CBC): “Still, as much as Justin Trudeau likes to talk about diversification, and leading a fourth industrial revolution, and resourcefulness instead of resource extraction, his options are pretty limited in the here and now.”
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