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gary mason

Christy Clark needs a lesson on playing nice Add to ...

When the country’s first ministers next gather, there will be a greater-than-usual interest in the seating arrangement. No doubt many of the premiers will be wondering who will get stuck next to her.

Her, of course, is Christy Clark, the greatest premier in all the land – and if you don’t believe me, just ask her. Ms. Clark, as you’ve no doubt heard, presides over the strongest economy in the country, British Columbia, the Maserati of provincial jurisdictions where only the rich and the lucky can afford to live.

This is not something that’s happened by chance. No, not one bit. It’s the result of prudent fiscal stewardship and laser-focused leadership, the likes of which the country is sorely lacking, you should know. And over the course of the next year, in the run-up to a provincial election, Ms. Clark’s citizenry will be reminded daily of just how lucky it is to have her.

While it will be all smiles for the cameras when Ms. Clark next joins her provincial colleagues – a meeting is tentatively planned in Vancouver next month – there will no doubt be some tension in the room. If the person in charge of the seating chart really wanted to have fun, she would sit Ms. Clark next to Alberta Premier Rachel Notley.

Ms. Clark is persona non grata in Alberta since authorizing an unseemly, partisan attack on British Columbia’s next-door neighbour in last week’s Speech from the Throne – of all places. While boasting about how well-managed B.C. was under her leadership, the Liberal Party Leader held up Alberta as a cautionary tale of what happens when you fail to properly plan for the future and spend like drunken drill hands instead. (In this week’s budget, the B.C. government also wagged its finger at Ontario, over its mounting debt, and Quebec, for high taxes.)

The B.C. Premier seemed genuinely surprised when her comments were greeted with widespread disdain, certainly inside the borders of Alberta, anyway. And who could blame B.C.’s neighbours for their umbrage? For the last decade, Alberta has been the engine that has propelled Canada’s economy, and there isn’t a province that hasn’t benefited from its oil-driven horsepower.

Ms. Clark would later try to undo the damage that she caused, by calling Alberta her province’s best friend. By then, it was too late. The interprovincial carnage her self-serving strike produced will linger. Albertans have long memories, and there may well come a time when Ms. Clark’s words come back to haunt her.

The fact that there was a ring of truth in what she said is beside the point. Sure, Alberta could have socked away more money during the good times. Everyone knows that. But the greater reality is, the entire country shared in the province’s wealth and good fortune, and the extent to which it did is evident today. The gigantic tank job we are witnessing in the economy generally (and the fallen loonie) is largely due to what’s happened to commodity prices, especially oil.

It’s fine to be anti-oil sands, pro-environment. But none of us should be cheering about what is happening in Alberta now. This is not the time to be beating your breast about how good things are in your own neck of the woods, to be snidely remarking – in public, no less – about how the folks next door got what they deserved. I’m not sure there is a lot that other provinces can do to assist Alberta at the moment, but extending a helping hand would be a whole lot better than a kick in the teeth.

Rachel Notley took some heat for not standing up for her province in response to Ms. Clark’s comments. I’m not certain the Alberta Premier deserved the criticism. Sure, she could have mentioned that debt in British Columbia has climbed by more than $10-billion on Ms. Clark’s watch. Or she could have said the B.C. budget was balanced on the back of fate and luck (see real estate), just as much as Alberta’s oil fortune has been.

But what is that old saying about stooping to the level of your attacker? I think Ms. Notley did the wise thing by holding her fire. In hockey, when someone rams you into the boards, you take a number.

Well, Ms. Notley now has Ms. Clark’s.

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Follow on Twitter: @garymasonglobe

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