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Alberta Diary

djclimenhaga's picture
David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. His 1995 book, A Poke in the Public Eye, explores the relationships among Canadian journalists, public relations people and politicians. He left journalism after the strike at the Calgary Herald in 1999 and 2000 to work for the trade union movement. Alberta Diary focuses on Alberta politics and social issues.

Grits in Ottawa and Dippers in Edmonton: Far from the worst combination for keeping Alberta's economy in motion

| February 4, 2016
Trudeau-Notley Newser

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There's a case to be made that it is far easier for Alberta Premier Rachel Notley to work with a Liberal prime minister than it could ever have been to work with a New Democratic one.

With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, it's easier to see now why federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair wasn't going to become prime minister of Canada, or that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau could escape the seemingly inevitable impact of being the focus of the be Conservative slime machine.

But that's the way it turned out: Mulcair failed to capture the imagination of ordinary voters, especially after he adopted the Conservative position on deficits, and Trudeau turned out to be coated with Teflon, so none of the stuff the government of Stephen Harper threw at him ever stuck.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Back in the day, though, at the start of the campaign leading up to the Oct. 19, 2015, federal election that Harper so unwisely called early so as to be able to work his dark magic on Trudeau in particular, that the outcome wasn't nearly so apparent.

Back then, Notley -- her own majority government elected only on May 5 that year -- always looked a bit as if she recognized a Mulcair government in Ottawa had the potential to be bad news for her government in Edmonton, but was too polite and savvy to speak that possibility aloud. Leastways, it always seemed to me that she was stepping pretty gingerly whenever Mulcair was in town.

I mention all this ancient history only because the brief appearance of Prime Minister Trudeau at Premier Notley's side in Edmonton yesterday really does suggest the two don’t find it all that difficult to work together.

The conservative opposition at both levels of government, naturally, won't find anything Notley and Trudeau agree on to try to remedy the economic downtown spurred by the fall in world oil prices satisfactory, or satisfactorily speedy.

But even if their joint statement was a little anodyne, yesterday's announcement that Alberta will get nearly $700 million in infrastructure money "immediately" to keep the foundering provincial economy afloat is about the best that could be hoped for in circumstances when almost anything the two levels of government can come up with is not going to seem like enough.

The money will be "allocated immediately to projects that will help Alberta's economy, help Albertans get to work and, indeed, contribute to the growing of our nation’s economy," Trudeau said.

Notley said that "the federal government will start pushing it out the door as soon as we're ready to go, so we really are talking a matter of months, weeks to months. Very soon."

Can you imagine how much more difficult getting this stimulus ball rolling would have been if an austerity-obsessed conservative government were still camped in Edmonton, or especially in Ottawa?

If Harper in particular had been safely ensconced in another term as PM, we could take it as given that his response to a flagging economy would have been job-killing austerity. Shorter timelines for qualifying for Employment Insurance, as Trudeau and Notley are discussing? We could forget that too.

As for the provincial Tories, their response in the same situation would have been an attack on public sector jobs and pensions, both of which would have resulted in less money circulating in the economy. If we had a Wildrose Party government, it would have been even worse.

So now we are being treated to the ironic sight of conservatives of all stripes at both levels of government screaming Spend! Spend! Faster! Faster! This isn't necessarily the worst policy under the circumstances, but it does suggest they’ve forgotten that the past few decades ever happened.

Well, whatever. But we too shouldn't forget that Grits in Ottawa and Dippers in Edmonton probably offer the best available combination for keeping the Alberta economy in motion until oil prices recover.

Speaking of history, surely it was no accident that Trudeau's first visit to Alberta as prime minister and the first Alberta meeting between a Canadian PM and an Alberta Premier since 2005 included a tour of a union training facility, operated by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

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