PHOTOS: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, not looking quite like himself, were still smiling and standing side by side at the start of the July 2015 premiers’ meeting in St. John’s. A week later? Now? Not so much. Below: Mr. Wall as we’ve come to know him (Photo: Daniel Paquet), interfering Alberta premier William Aberhart circa 1935, and Wyoming Governor Matt Mead.
The question must now be asked: Were the attacks by Saskatchewan’s premier over the past year and a half on the policies of Alberta’s NDP government just an interprovincial rivalry with an ideological tilt, or were they made in return for more than $2-million in donations from Alberta corporations reported Tuesday by an Edmonton-based progressive advocacy group?
Likewise, were the many Alberta companies that gave all this money to Mr. Wall’s Saskatchewan Party merely supporting a politician they liked in a province where they might someday do business, or were they intentionally circumventing Alberta’s tough election financing laws, which ban donations from corporations and unions, confident in the knowledge Mr. Wall’s comments would be extensively covered by media in Alberta?
Back in July 2015, when the now famous spat between Mr. Wall and his Alberta counterpart Rachel Notley made headlines during the meeting of Canadian premiers in St. John’s, N.L., Ms. Notley gently dismissed Mr. Wall’s outburst as “ridiculous.”
The Saskatchewan premier had blown a gasket in St. John’s, accusing Ms. Notley of offering a “veto” to Ontario and Quebec on bitumen pipelines from the West because he disapproved of her social license approach to winning approval for such projects. Mr. Wall seems to favour dictating his plans to other provinces, and casting aspersions on those who disagreed with him when that doesn’t work out.
That very day, Mr. Wall’s cheering section in mainstream media picked up his bleating and broadcast it throughout Alberta. Since then, it’s rarely stopped.
For her part, Ms. Notley shrugged off Mr. Wall’s tantrum at the time as “a little bit of showboating” and expressed the view “you don’t get things done by picking fights with people gratuitously.”
That’s true enough, of course, if the fight you’re picking has the goal – common to both Mr. Wall and Ms. Notley – of getting a pipeline built from the Prairies to what we Canadians quaintly call tidewater. But in light of Progress Alberta’s revelations this week, I think we need to look at this in a different light. We should at least consider the possibility Mr. Wall was rendering a service in Alberta for the people who were investing generously in his political party back in Saskatchewan.
Since July 2015 there has been a series of similar events – each one rebroadcast enthusiastically by the Alberta right’s mainstream and social media auxiliaries. Mr. Wall has attacked the Alberta government over carbon taxes, pipeline policies and even beer sales. The latter prompted the usually upbeat Ms. Notley to accuse Mr. Wall of executing a “political drive-by” with his vocal complaints.
For a guy who’s supposed to be the Mr. Congeniality of Canadian politics, Mr. Wall sure seems to spend his days in a state of suppressed fury at the Alberta government.
This led recently to Jason Kenney – the would be uniter of the Progressive Conservative and Wildrose Parties in one super-right, social-conservative political entity – declaring Mr. Wall to be “the real leader of Western Canada.”
Well, as blogger Dave Cournoyer pointed out in a highly entertaining post on this topic yesterday, while it’s unusual nowadays, there’s nothing unique about Western Canadian premiers interfering in the politics of other provinces – as Bible Bill Aberhart’s Social Credit majority government did without much success in the 1938 Saskatchewan provincial election.
Much the same thing is happening right now on the other side of the Canada-U.S. border, with the governor of Wyoming travelling to Washington State to press locals into allowing a terminal to be built to ship Wyoming coal to Asia.
“The decisions those folks on the coast are making affect more than just the future of their state,” Gov. Matt Mead told the New York Times in a lament that will surely sound eerily familiar to many Western Canadians. “It is deciding the future of citizens of Wyoming and Montana and other major coal states.”
Gov. Mead’s pleas on behalf of the largest state exporter of coal sound a lot like what Mr. Wall would dismiss as a lily-livered attempt at gaining social license – but then they have a different constitution in the United States, a place where the phrase “states’ rights” resonates.
Meanwhile yesterday, Mr. Wall’s government was running advertisements designed to look like news stories in Calgary’s and Edmonton’s Postmedia newspapers that sounded very much as if they were once again trying to woo businesses away from Alberta.
Well, that may annoy the Alberta government, but it’s not quite the same as Mr. Wall putting his oar directly into Alberta politics with a little bit of help from his deep-pocketed pals in Calgary and their buddies in the media.
I wonder what Mr. Wall’s allies in Alberta would say if the NDP government started doing the same thing in Saskatchewan?
This post also appears on Rabble.ca.