Good morning! It’s James Keller in Calgary.
British Columbia’s Lower Mainland has become a battleground in the federal election, with the dense urban area in and around Vancouver creating a number of competitive races that are too close to call. Alberta, on the other hand, couldn’t be more different, with the only mystery being whether the Conservatives will sweep the province or just take nearly all of the seats.
And both of those realities trace back to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
The pipeline project, which has been beset by years of regulatory and legal delays, would add hundreds of thousands of barrels a day to the existing Trans Mountain network. It has become a flashpoint in the debates about climate change, Indigenous rights, and the future of the Alberta economy.
In Alberta, the project has become a symbol of a system – and a federal Liberal government – that many voters believe is holding the province back and has fuelled a resurgence of Western alienation that hasn’t reached this level in a generation. In B.C., the pipeline has fuelled legal battles, protests and civil disobedience.
Economics reporter David Parkinson and I examined the state of the Alberta economy and how that has shaped the province’s place in the campaign. Spoiler alert: Alberta hasn’t factored much at all. The party leaders have barely set foot in the province since the campaign began, and the major party platforms pay the province little attention considering the scale of the economic downturn that has stretched on for the past five years. The only real Alberta issue to break into the national conversation is the future of the Trans Mountain pipeline, including condemnations from the New Democrats and Greens that have left Albertans feeling even more attacked.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney told me that the frustration in his province is enormous: “We have a sense that we played by the rules, that we’ve contributed massively to the federation … And most Albertans, right across the political and demographic spectrum, just feel that that has not been recognized.”
Justin Giovanetti also travelled to Edmonton to examine a conundrum in that city: despite the Alberta capital’s labour roots and support for the New Democrats provincially, it still remains a Conservative stronghold.
The flipside of that is what’s happening in B.C., where the pipeline has turned several ridings, notably the area around the marine terminal in Burnaby, east of Vancouver, into tight races that defy prediction.
Ian Bailey took stock of the campaign to win the Lower Mainland, which has 26 of the province’s 46 seats.
The Vancouver region was key to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s victory in 2015, catapulting the party’s seat total to 17, from just two in the previous election. Local opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline may have soured some voters on Mr. Trudeau, meaning he’ll have a tough time to maintain that support.
For the Conservatives, the challenge is to build their base to compete in cities, since the party traditionally does well in more rural and northern areas of the province. The New Democrats, whose provincial wing formed a minority government after the 2017 B.C. election, are seeking to capitalize of the popularity of Premier John Horgan.
And the Greens are the wildcard that could make the results even more volatile. Leader Elizabeth May has the party’s only seat won in a general election; the second Green MP, Paul Manly, picked up a Vancouver Island seat in a recent byelection. The Greens believe the Island is ripe for a breakthrough and are focusing their efforts there (and, as it turns out, PEI).
This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here. This is a new project and we’ll be experimenting as we go, so let us know what you think.
Around the West:
Conservative ads: The federal Conservative Party has been running Facebook ads on its Chinese-language page falsely accusing the Liberal Party of planning to legalize hard drugs, rhetoric the party has pushed aggressively in Chinese but has made little reference to in English. Mr. Trudeau has said in the campaign that his government is not considering decriminalizing any currently illicit drugs. The Conservatives, however, are not backing away from the ads’ content. In a statement in English, the Conservatives referred to “Trudeau’s not-so-hidden agenda: Legalizing hard drugs.”
Canadian freed: An Iranian-Canadian widow who was barred from leaving Iran, triggering a high-profile consular case, is now back at home with family in Canada. Maryam Mombeini, an Iranian-Canadian dual citizen, was greeted by her two sons in an emotional reunion at Vancouver International Airport on Thursday night after nearly 600 days apart.
Bad water: Four years after Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau vowed to end all drinking-water advisories on First Nations reserves, the federal government faces lawsuits from five First Nations demanding water service equivalent to that enjoyed by other communities in Canada. The latest legal action is from the Okanagan Indian Band. Chief Byron Louis credits the government for making “significant progress" nationally. But at his own reserve just west of Vernon, B.C. (known as Okanagan No. 1), only one of its half-dozen water systems has been recently modernized; the others remain little changed from when they were built in the 1970s and ’80s.
Cannabis edibles: Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is hoping for more details on the federal government’s plan to ensure edible cannabis products will not be produced or packaged in a way that would entice children and teens.
Healing music: When you attend the symphony, an opera or a performance of any kind, there is a high probability that at least some of the women onstage have been victims of sexual assault. About one in three women will experience sexual violence in their lifetime. This most certainly does not exclude classical musicians. If you attend a performance by the Artemis Musicians’ Society in Vancouver, you will know that all of the people onstage have been victims of sexual assault. That is the point.
Van attack: It took more than a week for Kim O’Hara to understand what happened to her. O’Hara, one of four pedestrians struck by a speeding cube van in downtown Edmonton two years ago, testified Friday at the jury trial of Abdulahi Hasan Sharif. She told court that she doesn’t remember being hit by the van, just waking up in a hospital and not being able to understand what people were saying.
Dropped candidate: A B.C. candidate dropped by the Conservative Party last week is continuing to use Tory campaign signs and will appear as a Conservative on ballots in the Oct. 21 election. The Conservative Party severed its ties with Heather Leung, who is running in the riding of Burnaby North-Seymour, after videos surfaced in which she denounced the “perverted lifestyles” of LGBTQ people and said they were recruiting children. But Ms. Leung’s dismissal by the Conservatives occurred after the Sept. 30 deadline for parties to change or drop candidates.
Overdose death: Manitoba’s justice minister has asked Mounties to review a fatal overdose of a woman who had been reportedly living at the home of a top official with the City of Brandon.
Gary Mason on trucking safety: “Where is the scrutiny of this industry, which has included many who have operated in this shameless manner under the nose of governments for too long? What they are doing is unquestionably immoral, yet they seem to be able to go about their business with impunity.”
Naheed Nenshi on Calgary’s dam: “The Alberta government has committed to building dams and upstream mitigation on both the Elbow and Bow rivers, at the Springbank dam and a location currently being determined. Four premiers from three different political parties have agreed on what is needed. But we can’t get what we need built. And the blame can largely be laid at the feet of the federal government, through its inability to get the regulatory system for major projects right.”
Jeffrey Jones on Alberta’s energy regulator: “It was up to Gord Lambert, the Alberta Energy Regulator’s interim chief executive officer, to apologize to 1,200 employees, many of whom feel betrayed, and reassure them that a nightmare at the agency is ending.”
Konrad Yakabuski on Jason Kenney: “Alberta Premier Jason Kenney certainly seemed to enjoy himself during his weekend campaign blitz through Toronto-area swing ridings. Too much, perhaps, for the comfort of some federal Conservatives who fear the contrast between Mr. Kenney and Leader Andrew Scheer could work against their party on Oct. 21.”