Shortly after the Fort McMurray wildfires forced the evacuation of the entire town, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne was one of the first provincial leaders to express concern.
“Frightening to see the forest fires in Fort McMurray,” she said on Twitter. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the community – hoping everyone remains safe.”
Soon after, Ms. Wynne pledged 100 firefighters from her province to help battle the blaze. “We are committed to helping other provinces in times of need,” she said.
This week, Ms. Wynne was in Alberta for the first time since the fires broke out. She sat in the gallery of the legislature, where she was introduced by NDP Premier Rachel Notley. You would have thought this would have been an opportunity for all of the parties to thank the Ontario Premier for her heartfelt response to Alberta’s troubles. What she received instead almost defies comprehension.
Instead of praise, Ms. Wynne was treated to an ugly, classless, partisan attack by the Wildrose party and its lead pitbull, Derek Fildebrandt. With Ms. Wynne looking on, the Wildrose finance critic decided this was the right time, and forum, to hold Ontario up as an exemplar of reckless fiscal governance. “Currently, Ontario has the largest subnational sovereign debt on the planet,” he said.
Mr. Fildebrandt mentioned that Ontario’s budgetary plight was so bad the province was now even receiving equalization payments. “It’s an example of what happens when a government fails to get its spending under control,” he said. Of course, it was all a naked effort to link Ontario’s problems to the debt being racked up by Ms. Notley’s government. (In terms of blatant political point-scoring, it had echoes of B.C. Premier Christy Clark’s decision to criticize Alberta’s fiscal management in her government’s Speech from the Throne this spring). He wasn’t finished there either; he went on to slam Ontario’s climate-change initiatives as a complete bust.
While Mr. Fildebrandt carried on with his unseemly condemnation of Ontario Liberal policies, his leader, Brian Jean, sat beside him, bemused by it all. That Mr. Jean couldn’t have realized how tactless his headline-hungry finance critic was being is one thing. That he allowed his colleague to deride someone who was so quick to offer support in fighting the fire that not only claimed his own home but threatened to wipe out his entire hometown defies belief.
Is Wildrose so blinded by ideology it can’t demonstrate the least bit of civility and manners when the occasion demands? Has Mr. Jean become so accustomed to being led around by the nose by Mr. Fildebrandt that he allowed this sorry spectacle to unfold? Why doesn’t Mr. Jean simply step aside now and allow Mr. Fildebrandt to ascend to the position he so clearly lusts after?
If there is any good news in all of this it was in the response that Wildrose’s actions precipitated. They were nearly universally condemned. When Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi met with Ms. Wynne on Friday he apologized on behalf of the people of his city for Wildrose’s callous behavior. Like many, he questioned the logic of attacking a premier whose support for the Energy East pipeline project is considered so crucial.
If this is how a Wildrose government would treat those whom Alberta needs to get its energy to market, the province will be waiting a long time indeed before it ever sees a pipeline get built.
It should be said that when Ms. Wynne was introduced in the house on Thursday, members of the NDP, the Progressive Conservatives and the Alberta Party stood to applaud. The Canadian Press reported that about half of the Wildrose party stood and clapped as well – but not Mr. Jean. Again, shameful conduct by the party leader. I mean, this wasn’t Jeremy Corbyn he was being asked to show some respect for.
It’s worth noting also that Mr. Fildebrandt was later asked if he regretted attacking Ontario with Ms. Wynne in attendance. Not a bit, he said. It was his job to fight for Albertans, not worry about hurting people’s feelings.
He never explained, however, how scorning a province Alberta needs in its bid to get a pipeline built actually helps the people he is supposed to be serving.Report Typo/Error