Skip to main content

Opinion Is this the end of hostilities between the federal and Alberta government?

Duane Bratt is a professor in the department of policy studies at Mount Royal University in Calgary.

On Monday, Justin Trudeau led a wave across the country that resulted in a Liberal majority government. Canadians voted nearly 40 per cent for the Liberals and gave them 184 seats. But that wave crashed in Alberta: 60 per cent of Albertans voted Conservative, and only 25 per cent voted Liberal. The Conservatives won 29 of 34 Alberta seats.

That being said, the Trudeau-led Liberals do have beachheads in both Edmonton and Calgary. Randy Boissonnault and Amarjeet Sohi won in Edmonton. More significantly, federal Liberals were elected in Calgary for the first time since 1968: Kent Hehr and Darshan Kang. It is also expected that MPs from both of Alberta's major cities will become Liberal cabinet ministers (I expect it to be Mr. Sohi and Mr. Hehr). The four Alberta Liberal MPs, combined with the fact that two are likely to be in cabinet, means a Liberal government will have its best Alberta representation since the 1960s.

Story continues below advertisement

There is reason to expect a positive relationship between the federal Liberals and the Alberta government. Traditionally, this relationship was quite hostile. Think back to Peter Lougheed's fight with Pierre Trudeau over the National Energy Program in the early 1980s, or Ralph Klein's battle with Jean Chrétien over climate change in the 1990s and early 2000s. But Mr. Trudeau and NDP Premier Rachel Notley have strong similarities.

Ms. Notley officially supported Tom Mulcair and the federal NDP, and she publicly door-knocked for local NDP candidates in Edmonton. But I think part of her is relieved Mr. Mulcair is not the prime-minister-designate. Ms. Notley and Mr. Mulcair have policy differences over the Alberta energy sector, and some report personal frostiness between them. In addition, an NDP government in Ottawa would have complicated things for Ms. Notley in Edmonton. It is widely believed Ms. Notley delayed the budget until after the election to avoid damaging the Mulcair campaign.

It was quite obvious Ms. Notley did not want Stephen Harper's Conservatives to be re-elected. On the campaign trail, Mr. Harper said the NDP government is already a "disaster."

In contrast, Mr. Trudeau and Ms. Notley both are newly elected and won in similar fashion. Both are charismatic leaders who campaigned on a positive message. Both defeated long-lasting Conservative governments with unpopular leaders (Mr. Harper federally and Jim Prentice provincially). Both came from behind in an unexpected fashion. Mr. Trudeau led a third-place party and Ms. Notley led a surge from fourth place. Both were trailing in the polls at the beginning of their campaigns. They share many policy ideas.

Both Mr. Trudeau and Ms. Notley support some pipelines (expansion of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain and the development of Energy East) and oppose others (Northern Gateway). Where they disagree – the Keystone XL pipeline – it is on a decision that is solely in the hands of the U.S. President. Both support reduced greenhouse-gas emissions. Ms. Notley has commissioned a panel to look at Alberta's climate-change strategy. Mr. Trudeau has promised to work with the premiers on a national strategy and bring them to Paris in December for the major international climate conference.

They also agree on a host of other issues. Mr. Trudeau plans to raise income taxes for those making more than $200,000, echoing what Ms. Notley did last June. Both support expanded infrastructure spending even if it results in government budget deficits.

So, while I expect a Trudeau government to be more receptive to Alberta's interests than previous Liberal governments, conservative voters remain the majority in Alberta – and they voted against both Mr. Trudeau and Ms. Notley. In the provincial election, the combined vote percentage of the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose parties was 53 per cent compared with 40 per cent for the NDP. In the federal election, Albertans voted 60 per cent for the Conservatives compared with 25 per cent for the Liberals. So, the final similarity between Mr. Trudeau and Ms. Notley will be the common problems of addressing this widespread and institutionalized opposition to them and their ideas in Alberta.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter