It’s part of Canada DNA that Albertans do not like Liberals, and the Liberal Party does not know Alberta.
Some Grits expected that once the party snagged four of 34 seats, Justin Trudeau’s inroads into the state from the 2015 election, would form a beachhead for earnings.
However, if indignation over the recent slide during his address on Parliament Hill of the Prime Minister is any indication, things are returning to normal.
To poach from Dr. Johnson, anticipating further Liberal gains in Alberta are the triumph of hope over experience.
Mr. Trudeau was at his most Justin in his July 1 speech celebrating Canada in 150. Enthusiastic, confident, hyperbolic (there were tens of thousands of spectators on the grounds of Parliament Hill, not the hundreds of thousands that he alluded to), respectful of the Native origins that long predate Confederation, and thrilled by the multicultural accomplishment of this diverse, tolerant, surprised-at-our-own-success-ful nation.
Regrettably, while reciting a list of lands and states that “embrace that diversity,” he was able to bypass Alberta, even though the state was named in the prepared text. Oops.
Afterwards, as he introduced Canada’s two new astronauts, Mr. Trudeau started: “Let me just start by saying I am somewhat embarrassed. I got excited somewhere over the Rockies,” including: “Alberta, I adore you. Happy Canada Day.”
But all Canadians, no matter background or creed or race, share an exquisitely capacity to feel slighted. To the surprise of no one, with indignation, the Twitter-verse exploded within moments of the gaffe. Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt tweeted a map of Canada, with each state marked “Canada” except for Alberta, which was marked “Not Canada” and Saskatchewan, which was “Form of Canada.”
The easily-incenced Michelle Rempel, Conservative MP for Calgary-Nose Hill, announced on Facebook: “The prime minister of the country — on Canada Day! — forgot that Alberta exists. I don’t believe that was an accident.”
It did not help that, due to the G20 and other obligations, Mr. Trudeau will not be attending the Calgary Stampede this year.
Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr, MP for Calgary Centre, valiantly rose to his leader’s defence, pointing out that Mr. Trudeau had attended four of the previous five Stampedes and could be in Calgary later in the summer.
“To some people, if the Prime Minister walked they would say: ‘Look, the Prime Minster can not float,”’ Mr. Hehr told the Calgary Sun, lifting a joke which, if memory serves, was initially utilized to describe Joe Clark. “I feel this is one of those times.”
It is such an old story. Liberals are distrusted by albertans. Trudeaus is especially distrusted by them. And so, when a Liberal prime minister named Trudeau leaves out Alberta while reciting the states and territories, it all comes back: “Why should I sell your wheat?” The National Energy Policy. “Let the Eastern bastards freeze in the dark.” Equalization. The West Wants In. The Letter.
According to conventional political wisdom, the 600,000 Americans who immigrated to Alberta around the turn of the last century imbued the state’s political culture using a conservative spirit of individual responsibility and a commitment (more honoured in theory than practice) to small government. Federal regimes that pandered to the interests of Quebec and Ontario abandoned feeling .
It is not now, and certainly was not that black and white, of course. Peter Lougheed, the former premier that is much-honoured, was as advanced as conservative. The mix was enriched by immigrants from both inside abroad and Canada. There are mayors in Edmonton and Calgary, with the NDP in power provincially. And remember one NDP MPs and those four Liberal.
But the Prime Minister makes the resentments and a slip come flooding back. DNA is destiny.
No wonder Mr. Trudeau was seen shaking his head when he realized his error. He knew what he was in for.
Incidentally, do not think this animus is in any way. Ask anyone from downtown.