The premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan warned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about growing Western alienation on Tuesday in the wake of a federal election result that saw the governing Liberals lose all four of their seats in the two provinces.
Voters returned Mr. Trudeau to Ottawa on Monday with diminished power, as the Liberals dropped to minority from majority status. A day later, premiers Jason Kenney and Scott Moe renewed their demands for the fast tracking of pipeline construction and the end of Liberal policies such as the federal carbon tax.
Mr. Moe and Mr. Kenney were echoed by local mayors in the region who called on Mr. Trudeau to take the concerns seriously and act to bridge the deepening divide between the federal Liberals and the Prairie provinces.
“Many Albertans feel betrayed,” Mr. Kenney told the provincial legislature in Edmonton.
He said the 40-day election campaign, in which several parties attacked the province’s oil sector, confirmed Albertans’ views that they aren’t treated fairly in the federation.
The Prime Minister didn’t speak with reporters Tuesday, but in response to the two premiers’ demands, Mr. Trudeau’s office referred The Globe and Mail back to his speech Monday night in Montreal.
In it, Mr. Trudeau promised to “fight for all Canadians" and called on people in Alberta and Saskatchewan to "work hard to bring our country together.”
“Know that you are an essential part of our great country. I’ve heard your frustration and I want to be there to support you,” he said.
In order to ensure Alberta’s oil reaches tidewater and the accompanying higher prices, Mr. Trudeau has promised to get the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion built. But construction has progressed in fits and starts and now that Mr. Trudeau will have to govern with the support of other parties, there’s concern it will never be completed.
To avoid that outcome, Mr. Kenney called on the Prime Minister to not strike any formal deals with the NDP, Bloc Québécois or Greens, all of which have been hostile to pipelines and other oil infrastructure.
“Albertans feel like everywhere we turn, we are being blocked in, pinned down and even attacked within our own country," he said.
Martha Hall Findlay, president and chief executive of the Canada West Foundation, cautioned that the Liberal government needed to take the concerns bubbling over in Alberta and Saskatchewan seriously.
“This has to be the Prime Minister’s number-one task,” said Ms. Hall Findlay, a former Liberal MP.
“It’s far more serious than people outside of Alberta and Saskatchewan realize and that’s probably what makes it even more dangerous," she said
In Saskatchewan, Mr. Moe wrote a letter to Mr. Trudeau asking for a “new deal” for his province that would include cancelling the carbon tax, transforming the equalization program and getting natural resources to market. He described a country at a “crossroads” and said it was up to the Prime Minister to repair divisions that, he argued, were the product of four years of Liberal government.
“There is a fire burning here in the Prairie provinces," Mr. Moe said. "What I am doing is handing him a fire extinguisher and asking him not to show up with a gas can.”
Alberta and Saskatchewan aren’t historically fertile territory for the Liberals, but the party’s wins in 2015 helped bring legitimacy to the rookie government, allowing Mr. Trudeau to say his administration represented every region of the country.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi called on the Prime Minister to find a way to include voices from Alberta in his office and cabinet, highlighting the challenges of a sputtering economy and high unemployment.
“There really is a feeling that no one is noticing or caring that we actually really need some help here,” Mr. Nenshi said.
The mayor of Medicine Hat, Ted Clugston, said Albertans are past the “West wants in” mantra of the 1990s and is at the point where “the West wants out.”
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said he raised his concerns about the “troubling” regional divides directly with Mr. Trudeau during a phone call on Monday after the Prime Minister secured a second mandate.
“More words and platitudes will not cut it. He must be willing to change course, to stop his attacks on the energy sector," Mr. Scheer said in Regina on Tuesday.
Despite his second-place finish, Mr. Scheer confirmed that he would stay on as leader. However, he might still have to persuade party faithful that he should continue in his post. In an interview with the CBC, Conservative MP Erin O’Toole avoided directly saying whether Mr. Scheer should stay on. Mr. O’Toole did not reply to a Globe request for an interview.
Mr. Scheer will face a leadership review at his party’s convention in Toronto next spring.
While Mr. Trudeau faces a deepening divide in the West, he must also grapple with a resurgent Bloc Québécois.
At a news conference in Montreal on Tuesday, Leader Yves-François Blanchet said finding a way to make a fractured Parliament function is Mr. Trudeau’s job.
"It is their responsibility, not ours, not the responsibility of the NDP or the Conservatives,” Mr. Blanchet told reporters.
In Burnaby on Wednesday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh tried to position the near halving of his caucus and the drop to fourth party status in the House of Commons as a victory.
Mr. Singh was asked whether he would try to seek a deal with the Liberals or take an issue-by-issue approach, but he didn’t give a direct answer, instead telling reporters "we’re not going to negotiate that here.”
With reports from Bill Curry, Daniel Leblanc and Janice Dickson
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