Alberta Politics
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with his boilersuited boosters at Friday’s news conference in Edmonton (Photo: Screenshot of Global News video).

OK, he said nothing new, but why did Justin Trudeau’s pipeline presser make Conservatives so angry?

Posted on July 15, 2019, 1:09 am
8 mins

Conservatives’ faux shock at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s relatively news free pipeline construction announcement in Edmonton last week was a thing to behold.

The tone generally was, “there oughtta be a law,” to wit, a law against making announcements when you have nothing to announce. Only with considerably harsher language, of course, because nowadays the Conservative rage machine is, well, fully enraged.

Then immigration minister Jason Kenney’s fake citizenship ceremony in 2011 (Photo: Found unattributed on CBC and Postmedia sites).

Now, Mr. Trudeau may not have had much to announce, and he may have been surrounded by men and a few women in blue boilersuits when he announced it, but two things must be remembered about this in half-hearted defence of the PM:

First, announcements that don’t contain much news, and re-announcements of things that have already been announced, are absolutely a staple of democratic politics, employed by all political parties in all democratic jurisdictions.

Second, the Conservative Party of Canada and its provincial farm teams are masters of this political art form, as Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and his ministers demonstrate regularly in a stream of government news releases that don’t contain much news.

Mr. Kenney, in his more recent role as premier of Alberta (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Not only that, but using humans as props is standard operating procedure, as Mr. Kenney famously illustrated back in his days as federal immigration minister when his department dragooned a dozen professional civil servants into pretending to be new Canadians for a political Kabuki performance put on for the benefit of the Sun News Network.

Say what you will about Mr. Trudeau, at least the blue-boilersuited folks standing by supportively Friday in Edmonton were real workers, not, in effect, actors, and unwilling ones at that, as in the case of Mr. Kenney’s fake citizenship ceremony in 2011. Naturally, Mr. Kenney denied that he was responsible for the hoax, blamed his officials, and refused to apologize.

Nor were Mr. Trudeau’s human props actual actors with political science degrees like the once and future roughneck trotted out by one of the multitude of Conservative support groups not so long ago – although, that’s not to say no one in the group with the PM had a university degree, of course.

Alberta Opposition Leader Rachel Notley, also the former premier of Alberta (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Meanwhile, as Canadian Conservatives were reacting with weirdly hysterical fury to Mr. Trudeau’s newser, Mr. Kenney was doing essentially the same thing to better reviews from the trained seals in mainstream media.

The same day as Mr. Trudeau was in town, Mr. Kenney was announcing a meaningless “bold step to increase free trade in Canada” by dropping half of the province’s exceptions to the so-called Canadian Free Trade Agreement, a bit of neoliberal inter-provincial folderol cooked up by the usual suspects in 2017.

This was done, I guess, to show that a Conservative federal government would make Canada more prosperous by discouraging provincial public sectors from supporting local businesses. How making sure big corporations in other provinces can shove aside local suppliers is supposed to support hard pressed regional economies is not entirely clear, despite the market fundamentalist dogma nowadays pretty well universally accepted as gospel among Canadian political parties.

Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

As an aside, it’s important to note that most of the exceptions on the list were demanded by Rachel Notley, then the NDP premier of Alberta, to ensure profits from rebuilding Fort McMurray after the devastating fire in 2016 weren’t pocketed by companies from outside the community. Many had been recommended to her by then Opposition leader Brian Jean, the Wildrose MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin, to protect his community.

So it’s interesting that Mr. Kenney is willing to toss these useful tools over the side for meaningless symbolism without much thought to future disasters to which his government’s climate policies may well contribute.

Regardless, on the list of restrictions “unilaterally” dropped by the United Conservative Government was “procurement of local food under the Supporting Alberta’s Local Food Sector Act.”

Former Wildrose Party Opposition leader Brian Jean (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Now, the Supporting Alberta’s Local Food Sector Act is a somewhat misnamed bit of NDP legislation passed last year, mainly concerned with ensuring food sold in local markets as organically grown is accurately described as such.

Still, there’s something mildly ironic about the idea of unilaterally ensuring that a legislative effort to support local farmers no longer excludes farmers from other provinces!

Lending even more cognitive dissonance to this posturing was the fact, only a week earlier, that Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen was imploring us to “buy Albertan” to save farmers “caught in the crossfire of a bunch of international fights that have nothing to do with them.”

“Everyone can do their part and help our farmers by buying Albertan,” the MAGA-cap minister pleaded.

I suspect most Albertans will do exactly as Mr. Dreeshen’s boss is encouraging government officials to do, to wit, look for the best price, regardless of where it comes from.

Of course, a certain amount of policy incoherence from Premier Kenney is not entirely unexpected, as we Albertans are coming to learn.

An appropriate response, however, is one of genial contempt, not the seething fury that greeted Prime Minister Trudeau’s newser.

We can only speculate on why this might be, but it suggests that Canada’s Conservatives, having talked themselves into the idea they’re a deadbolt cinch to win the next federal election, are starting to realize that thanks in part to friends like Mr. Kenney and Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Andrew Scheer’s coronation as prime minister in October may not be the sure thing they’d imagined.

9 Comments to: OK, he said nothing new, but why did Justin Trudeau’s pipeline presser make Conservatives so angry?

  1. Kim Poirier

    July 15th, 2019

    What are we to do? I have to say, I lived in AB for two hellish years. I wish you folks would stop migrating here to my pristine wilderness. Just sayin’

  2. ronmac

    July 15th, 2019

    Yeah it was wierd not seeing Bernard the Roughneck among that gang of boilerplate blue at Friday’s presser. Maybe he was busy doing theatre somewhere. Maybe at Stratford doing some Shakespeare. He would make a great King Lear.

    • tom in ontario

      July 15th, 2019

      “Everyone can do their part and help our farmers by buying Albertan,” the MAGA-cap minister pleaded.
      He could help Alberta farmers by enticing Bernard the Roughneck back from Stratford or wherever he’s doing his thespian thing and the pair of them could stuff their faces with high quality Taber corn. Sun photogs would love it.

    • Jerrymacgp

      July 17th, 2019

      The last time I saw Mr Hancock, it was April, a couple of days after the election; he was walking alongside Resources Road in Grande Prairie, collecting his election signs. I also had the opportunity to chat briefly with him during the campaign, at an all-candidates forum. He was far more rational than he has been given credit for, although I would never in a million years vote for him.

  3. Bob Raynard

    July 15th, 2019

    Great article, David; I really enjoyed reading it! I think the frustration of having a few days of silence imposed on you showed with your real vitriol.

    I also enjoyed reading the National Post story of an event I had long forgotten about, Kenney’s fake citizenship ceremony. No doubt the Post also enjoyed exposing its then-rival Sun’s hoax. Sadly, I suspect we wouldn’t read about such an event in the Post today, as they would be in on it.

    Meanwhile, in an issue of the Edmonton Journal last week they ran full page ads on the front page of an inside section telling us how trustworthy they are, at a time I find the paper the exact opposite.

  4. Jerrymacgp

    July 15th, 2019

    All of those so-called “interprovincial trade barriers” are, in one form or another, simply evidence of something else conservative politicians of previous generations have long held dear: provinces exercising their authority in matters of exclusive Constitutional jurisdiction. Provinces and territories have the right to govern certain aspects of public policy within their borders, and in doing so to respond to the needs and wants of their voters and not necessarily to those of voters elsewhere. So, for example, there are the concerns that have been expressed in the past by the Government of Nunavut about liberalization of cross-boundary trade in alcoholic beverages, when that government feels the need to keep it under tight control as a major drug of abuse in their territory.
    While I enjoy a beer now & then, and am particularly partial to local craft beers rather than the major national brands, I also know that alcohol is highly addictive and a serious contributor to a number of deadly and costly health problems in the population. So, we ought not, as a country, be treating interprovincial trade in alcohol just like any other product in the marketplace. There are legitimate public health interests in regulating it, as has been recognized by the Supreme Court in the famous “free the beer” case.
    Of course, I do feel that if a province is maintaining non-tariff trade barriers for other reasons, like maintaining the guaranteed revenue stream of a retail monopoly in beer, wine & spirits, there may be room for some liberalization, but it is essential that we tread carefully to ensure provincial and territorial governments retain unfettered authority to act in the public interest within their exclusive jurisdiction.

  5. Dave

    July 15th, 2019

    The Conservative rage machine has been going full tilt in Alberta for some time, the main goal was to help get the UCP elected here, which it accomplished. It will not be as effective Federally as there are not too many more seats they can win here, but I am guessing it is quite good for their fundraising to continue to whip up anger against the Federal Liberals. Of course, now that they no longer have the provincial NDP to blame for the state of the economy, they also need to have someone else to demonize so Kenney and the UCP will remain blameless in case the miraculous economy recovery he talked about in the election does not magically happen.

    It’s not too hard to demonize the Federal Liberals, especially when led by someone named Trudeau, here in Alberta, but unfortunately Mr. Trudeau is not playing along and making it easy for them. First, he went out and bought a pipeline, kind of an odd thing to do if he is as anti oil as the Conservatives portray him. Their answer is yah, but he secretly doesn’t really want to build it. Well that sort of worked when construction was held up (not by Trudeau, but by the courts), but now that has resumed, so they are now have to find other things to criticize – he didn’t go to the Stampede. Well, then he showed up there the other day so their answer was, yah, but he didn’t sit in the grandstand this time, as if this was some great offense or insult to Calgary.

    The Federal Conservatives could probably change their name to the Yah, but party however all this yah butting, is not a good sign for them. The Conservatives are getting angrier and angrier because Trudeau isn’t playing along very well with their little game to demonize him. It probably wont affect the election outcome too much in Alberta, which is reliably blue Federally anyways, but I think they can already sense power slipping away from the grasp of Andrew Scheer. I can already anticipate their quiet thinking – yah but, next time we’ll get Jason Kenney for Federal leader and he will do much better.

  6. Pogo

    July 15th, 2019

    You do realize that because we are such predictable blocks of meat, there will be predators? Right? No? Well then, welcome to the abattoir! A song for the de-boning? I won’t even bother getting a live version. This is for the cattle entering the shute!

  7. Sam Gunsch

    July 15th, 2019

    Re: ‘policy incoherence’ and dropping requirements to favor ‘buy local’

    Seems to me that the hysterical ranting/freak out reaction about buying foreign oil is a pretty good example that Conservative party leaders/media allies/industry boosters regularly engage in.


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