It was damned near impossible for the Liberals to turn Quebec into Canada’s happiest, most optimistic province, while killing hopes for millions of people in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
But they’ve done it. Brilliantly.
We already knew discontent was deep on the Prairies. A new Angus Reid Institute poll shows it’s almost bottomless.
Seventy-one per cent of Albertans are dissatisfied with the way the country is going. Only 29 per cent approve.
In Saskatchewan, 61 per cent are dissatisfied; 39 per cent are relatively happy.
Moving east, Reid finds that Quebecers are Canada’s most contented citizens.
Fully 76 per cent like Canada’s direction; only 24 per cent are dissatisfied.
A province that once sought to separate luxuriates in the warm bath of Liberal prosperity, while people in two resolutely Canadian provinces feel they’ve been ditched by this nation.
It’s -29 C in Calgary as I write this, on the way to -32 Tuesday night.
But, good news! The freeze pushed up natural gas prices by 14 cents a gigajoule.
Maybe one or two energy jobs will come back. More than 30,000 people have lost theirs in downtown Calgary alone.
Among many bitter sights was the Liberals’ mournful wailing over the GM plant closure in Oshawa, compared to their inattention as thousands per week were getting layoff notices in Alberta.
No westerner I know took any joy in those GM job losses. But it would have been nice, as the Liberals expressed deep disappointment with GM and made serial promises to help workers, if a federal minister had urged a single energy producer not to close its doors.
“People in Alberta and Saskatchewan (are) deeply worried, angry and anxious about what the future holds for their economies, the resource-driven futures on which those economies have been built and flourished, and their place in Confederation,” says Shachi Kurl, executive director of Angus Reid.
“That these provinces feel disconnected from and disrespected by the rest of the country, particularly central Canada, is a sentiment only further exacerbated by the bullishness Quebecers feel.”
And yet, this crisis in trust was not inevitable after the oil price crash hit in 2014.
Provinces that found genuine support from Ottawa might still feel positive about the future, and grateful to the Liberals.
Reid finds that a year after the Liberals’ 2015 victory, majorities in both Alberta and Saskatchewan were still relatively happy with the country’s direction.
Fifty-three per cent in Alberta were satisfied; 57 per cent in Saskatchewan felt optimistic.
The Liberals had won four seats in Alberta and named two ministers.
Alberta’s NDP premier, Rachel Notley, had a fresh idea — co-operate with the Liberals. Many moderate Albertans thought it was worth a try.
But then, a series of events set tests that the Liberals failed one by one.
In B.C., John Horgan’s NDP defeated the provincial Liberals on May 9, 2017.
Horgan said he would use “every tool in the toolbox” to block the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
He gave it a good try, proposing and passing new laws, inventing exotic provincial powers for the courts to test and reject.
It all took time — and that was the point; stall until the project died.
MARTIN OUELLET-DIOTTE/AFP/Getty Images
When this tactic became obvious, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau needed to firmly assert federal authority and warn that Horgan’s obstruction would cost B.C. a heavy price in lost federal funding.
But he did not. With Lower Mainland ridings always in mind, Trudeau waffled.
When pipeline proponent Kinder Morgan finally gave up, it was Canadians at large who paid, as Trudeau was forced to spend $4.5 billion to save the project.
Please do not call that “buying a pipeline for Alberta.” It was a desperate move to save a public work the Liberals themselves helped sabotage.
Not long after Horgan won, TransCanada cancelled the Energy East pipeline that was to carry oil from Alberta to Quebec and the East Coast.
Montreal politicians, including then-mayor Denis Coderre, danced a happy jig. They had taken down a $15.7-billion Canadian project that would have replaced much foreign oil.
The Liberals didn’t voice regret. Nor did they bark in May 2019, when the Quebec national assembly passed a resolution claiming for Quebec “the full legitimacy to refuse pipeline projects passing through its territory.”
Then there was Bill C-48, the so-called tanker moratorium for B.C.’s north coast. It does not ban tankers at all, actually; only the loading of refined petroleum products that might someday come from Alberta.
By federal election day last Oct. 21, the Liberals had convinced many westerners not only of their own hostility but also that provinces whose federal votes they covet are free to violate the Constitution of Canada.
These are deep existential threats for people living in landlocked provinces, of which Canada has only two, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
And so, this poll is in no way surprising.
But Trudeau now has a special Prairie envoy, Jim Carr, who is charged with “listening” and “making you happy.” Impressive!
Don Braid’s column appears regularly in the Calgary Herald.
This content was originally published here.