Alberta Premier Danielle Smith bloviates as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on, slightly bemused, at the Alberta Government’s offices in Calgary yesterday; the furry thing in the foreground is obviously either a muppet or a microphone (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta Premier Danielle Smith had a five-minute-and-10-second televised conversation of remarkable vapidity in Calgary yesterday.

Why is this man smiling (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Notwithstanding the frenzied spinning of some local newshounds, what little news there was at the Calgary Stampede photo-op needs to be prised out from between the lines. 

Ms. Smith grandstanded a little about how Ottawa’s climate goals will be impossible for Alberta to meet. “We would like to establish a working group so that we could talk about how we might be able to achieve a net zero power grid, but I’ve indicated to the prime minister that that is not possible by 2035, which is the federal target,” she said piously.

Translation: It’s possible, but we won’t do it. 

The prime minister was a sport and pretended good-naturedly he thinks they can reach some sort of compromise that everyone can say will help save the planet. 

“You’ve highlighted one of the one of the great achievements that we’re looking towards, which is this working group, where we will be able to sit down and really look at what our experts are saying, what your experts are saying, figure out the common ground, figure out the path forward that’s going to make sure we’re responding to the energy needs of a growing economy around the world, while at the same time making sure we get to that net zero by 2050 that we all agree on,” Mr. Trudeau responded with equal cheer. 

Prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau in a nice Calgary suit with his wife Margaret during the Calgary Stampede in 1971 (Photo: Graham Bezant, Toronto Star/Digital Archive Ontario).

Translation: I’m not optimistic, but if you think you can use your Sovereignty Act to stop us, we’ll see you in court!  

Mr. Trudeau subtly one-upped the premier, telling the camera that “I want to start by of course recognizing thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes across Alberta.” If Ms. Smith noticed that he’d reminded anyone listening that she’d forgotten about her own voters’ troubles, caused by fire and flood, she sensibly didn’t acknowledge it.

Ms. Smith pleasantly noted that her officials had given Mr. Trudeau a note “to take away on our request that the Parliament be recalled so that we can put an end to the port strike in in B.C., which is causing extreme hardship to our producers and our exporters here.”

Translation: What the hell! It’s an opportunity to own the Libs! 

Mr. Trudeau responded with equal good cheer that in their upcoming private meeting, “of course we’ll be talking briefly about the B.C. strike as well. I know how impactful it is on producers across the Prairies, including here in Alberta.”

“We believe fundamentally that the best deals are always found at the bargaining table and we will keep putting a lot of pressure on all parties to find that solution that I know is out there,” he continued, though.

Translation: We won’t legislate till the pips squeak if it means losing union support. 

It’s unlikely the working group will be the big deal the local Calgary press made it out to be – or even that there will be much working.

Indeed, the subsequent private meeting, by the sound of it, was less smiley and not very productive. 

As for Postmedia columnist Don Braid’s mythologizing about how Mr. Trudeau was the foil who made the May 29 Alberta election victory possible for Ms. Smith, that wasn’t quite the way it unfolded.

The real reasons: Conservatives hold a huge structural advantage in Alberta and so an NDP election was always unlikely. The deal was sealed when Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley’s campaign team ran a lacklustre campaign that focused on Ms. Smith’s obvious flaws, which everyone was aware of, but never tried to give habitual Conservative voters a good reason to vote NDP. 

Mr. Braid also remembered fondly how in 1971 the prime minister’s PM father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, wore “a nice Ottawa suit” in the Stampede Parade (he didn’t, he wore a nice Calgary-style Western suit he wouldn’t have been caught dead in in Ottawa) and “gave an Alberta crowd the middle finger from a train window” (it was in Salmon Arm, and the crowd, like the town, was British Columbian).

But for some reason he didn’t mention the most likely reason why Mr. Trudeau was also smiling politely at Premier Smith for most of the five minutes they spent in public yesterday. 

To wit: Because what she and her government get up to in the weeks and months ahead are almost certainly the key to how Mr. Trudeau and his Liberals will win the next federal election!

Join the Conversation


  1. DJC…..First of all, I would like to express my thanks for the amusing commentary. I believe it is a perfect punctuation to the end of a rather odious week.
    Since I make a conscious effort to avoid all and sundry related to the Stampede, I’ve decided to use the next 10 days to reacquaint myself with the rudiments of “Philosophy 101” . I’m sure that the extra reading will be of existential help to my basic understanding of English .

    But in the meantime: I believe it’s the wrong color to be ‘animal ‘, and i couldn’t see if there were chains , so I surmise a microphone ( what a shame, first guess is much more amusing.
    And if i was going to put a ‘thought bubble ‘ into the meaning of that smile — he just noticed what she has on her s’it-kickers. She did say she was taking some ‘brushup’ lessons……yee hah !! Later !!

  2. Hi DJC,
    From what I’ve been able to find, the Salmon Arm incident with Pierre Trudeau occurred in 1985. I’m pretty political, having grown up in Ottawa and having politics in my my blood, but I didn’t remember reading about this, so I looked it up. And, you’re right, Pierre was always well turned out and never would have worn such a suit in Ottawa. Here’s a link to an article mentioning the Salmon Arm incident.

    1. Christine: Most references seem to say 1982, and a number pinpoint the time as Aug. 8, 1982. Years ago I met the fellow who claimed to be the protester at whom the PM. He was a colleague of my late sister and all I can remember now is that his name was also David. Be that as it may, he struck me as annoying enough that I might very well have given him a doigt d’honneur myself in the same circumstances. DJC

  3. There are three things that can be said of the annual cowboy cosplay event known as the Calgary Stampede, and they are more than a few locals will fall off the wagon, a lot of weird and truly disgusting foods will be consumed, and the numbers of STD infections will skyrocket. All in all, have a great Stampede.

    As for the detente between Danielle Smith and PMJT, are you kidding? Acting like an adult and working cooperatively toward long-term goals that are beneficial to Alberta (and Canada) is not in Smith’s CV. For one thing, given the on going Night of the Long Knives in TBA, it’s beginning to look more and more likely that Smith may have to watch the optics of what she does with Ottawa. On the one hand, she may be able to complete a workable agreement with Ottawa on carbon emissions; but later she will also have to scream that PMJT railroaded and lied to get the arrangement. It’s like the NEP. Back in the day, Peter Lougheed and the Elder Trudeau signed off on an energy agreement that would forever curse the Trudeau name in Alberta. Whenever I heard the discouraging word about the NEP being a hatchet job on Alberta, I would always point out it was a fair and negotiated agreement with Ottawa, that gave an improved position to Alberta on oil revenue-sharing and the advantage in ongoing investments. Of course, I was poo-poo’d for repeating the lies. “But Lougheed and Trudeau toasted the deal with Champagne,” I would reply. There was even a photograph of the toast, which was roundly denounced as “fake”. Yes. Even back then, the chant of “Fake news. Fake news.” was used in abundance.

    Trudeau can score easily by looking dashing in cowboy wear at his fifty years of age, while Skippy Pollivere’s endless raging is aging himself. As for Smith, frothing as the mouth about the usual nonsense is the only card she has to play.

  4. It isn’t that surprising to me that Danielle Smith only tries to bark like a small dog. She thinks that she is tough, but she really knows nothing. All mouth and no brains are what should be expected from another phony Conservative and Reformer. Those who defend her and the UCP are the same way. Good at mouthing off, but incapable of reasonable thinking. Seeing the responses in the Postmedia newspaper comment sections is proof of that. They attack anyone who is smart enough to not support Danielle Smith and the UCP. All these columnists do is give Danielle Smith and the UCP accolades. Lorne Gunter, David Staples, and others would never take away their support for the UCP, and they are part of the problem. I actually recall hearing about someone who was asked to join the Wildrose party. As soon as they heard Danielle Smith mentioning how she admired Ralph Klein, they declined, because they knew he wasn’t any good. They also knew him for a very long time, and remembered how bad he was, so long ago. Much like Ralph Klein, we can expect another horrific mess, with Danielle Smith and the UCP. Massive amounts of money lost from our oil wealth, and our tax base, more very pricey shenanigans, which will cost us a fortune, the dismantling of our public healthcare and our public education, so they can be privatized, utility and insurance costs that go through the roof, more lost jobs with massive layoffs, having more poverty, having retirees struggle even further, see crime escalate, and let the environment get destroyed. I do not see one bit of sense in this. In the last provincial election in Alberta, people still made the very foolish mistake, by putting Danielle Smith and the UCP back into power. There is quite a difference from the way Peter Lougheed looked after things, than what Danielle Smith and the UCP are doing now. We would have been much better off with Rachel Notley and the NDP back in power, but look at what we are stuck with, once again.

  5. Maybe those media bros should have focused in on the past immature hand-shaking stunt by our petty, petulant, perennially-puerile premier and the actual hand-shaking this time around. It’s Stampede, doncha know, faux-friendly, howdy neighbor and all that. If they want to get into an Insta Who Wore What, let’s just say that Smith has ruined green for me. Never mind. This is all they’ve got in their western resentment saddle bags.

  6. What can we say about Don Braid? Perhaps he’s trying to reestablish his neoliberal credentials with the mouth-breathing Postmedia faithful after being branded as a LPC/NDP operative (under direct orders of JT himself, of course) for writing one or two articles that could be construed as somewhat negative towards the UPC. Poor Don, being relegated to writing fan fiction for a targeted crowd. Speaking of fan fiction, for some strange reason I decided to check out the Substack page of that Joe Friesenhan character who posts here occasionally. His analysis of the recent provincial election was quite amusing. To summarize for you fine folks the UPC won because, well, UPC good, NDP bad. Very profound. Yes their victory had everything to do with great policies and outstanding campaigning skills. He conveniently forgets that 6 months ago the NDP were polling extremely well and that if it weren’t for rebounding oil prices (temporary), election lies and gerrymandered districts we might be having a very different discussion these days. And yes Joe, if you are reading this, I fully admit the NDP ran a very lacklustre campaign; you won’t get any argument from me on that front.

  7. Never mind all those evacuated albertans fleeing unprecedented fire and floods, we’ve got a strike to break !

    Really too bad it’s in BC and 14 words Dani can’t use her unconstitutional union busting law to have them all dragged away by the Alberta police for she wishes she commanded

  8. “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”; unless of course, you are a certain type of slow learner and narcissist who habitually likes to be the center of attention by pissing into the wind and getting wet. That blunt and somewhat cryptic observation is based upon the following:

    “Smith’s view that Alberta should get credit for emissions reductions abroad by exporting LNG is unsupported by science. While true that burning gas is cleaner than burning coal, gas is still a fossil fuel that must be phased out to avoid catastrophic global warming. Her argument is essentially that if gas extracted from Alberta can be used to displace coal-fired power plants in another country, then Alberta should get credit for the emission reduction.”

    “While there may be some appetite from British Columbia and Alberta to pursue these sorts of international credits, it’s not clear that would be doable given the international system as it stands now, and it’s also not clear that other countries would be willing to enter into agreements with us on those,” McKenzie said.”

    “The CER forecasts also show demand for natural gas and LNG declining as the world takes action to slash greenhouse gas emissions. And because it is well understood that extracting gas emits a lot of methane –– a greenhouse gas roughly 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide over the first 20 years, making it a priority in efforts to reach net zero by 2050 –– wanting to get credit for exporting it is simply not aligned with what climate scientists say must happen to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”

    It all amounts to little more than crude political posturing from a crude opportunist that seems to favor ‘doxa’ over ‘episteme’ [i.e., the physical laws of this world do not care what your opinion is], apparently not fully understanding the difference between science fiction, science, and the essentials of the scientific method. In the scientific world knowledge, proof, and the formal consistency of theories are established by the rigors of ongoing research.

    1. Alkyl: a few salient comments in agreement with your post, if I may.

      1) What Daniellezebub says is moving too fast on emissions reductions, many of the Prime Minister’s critics outside Alberta are saying is too little, too late. In fact, he’s expended a great deal of political capital on appeasing Alberta, whereas had he decided to simply throw the fossil fuel industry under an electric transit bus, he might have eaten even more of the Greens’ & NDP’s lunch in the more populous regions of Canada — home of the electoral equivalent of the Willy Sutton law: that’s where the voters are. There’s nothing he could possibly do to overcome the relentless & irredeemable Trudeau Derangement Syndrome so prevalent out here, but there are many things he could do to attract more votes and win his majority in parts of the country that really do give a sh!t about climate — and yet, he continues to kowtow to Oilbertastan & Saudi Saskarabia despite the lack of any political benefit in doing so.

      2) That argument that increasing natural gas extraction and exports to the Asia-Pacific region will reduce global CO2 emissions by displacing higher-emitting coal from energy production, is one that is also popular amongst federal Conservatives outside of Alberta. Leaving aside the validity of that argument from an engineering perspective — I don’t feel qualified to evaluate its veracity — what it really means, is that all the sacrifices that need to be made to reduce global warming have to be made in developing countries rather than this particular G7 country. It puts the burden of capital investment to repurpose existing coal-fired power plants to burn natural gas, and to build new plants to replace those that can’t be repurposed, fully on the shoulders of those countries that can’t really afford it, while we here in Canada go merrily along doing what we’ve always done.

  9. Ah yes, one of the old axioms from my poli sci days was to the effect that opposing parties always ran Ottawa and the provinces. I think that still holds true. If the provinces are Conservative/New Democratic then the Ottawa government will likely be Liberal. And vice versa.

  10. It seems like they were mostly talking past each other to different audiences, but that has really been the situation for a long time.

    While our multi party system masks partisan entrenchment, long time Alberta Conservatives are probably less likely to vote Liberal than long time die hard smokers are to quit. So they just keep talking past each other. Perhaps it is a bit easier for some less die hard Conservatives to vote NDP and in the last election a huge reason to do so was Smith. I suspect after a few years of Smith in power, that may become even more compelling and clear.

    Braid is partly right, Smith and Trudeau do find each other useful to rally their own bases. So in that regard, if I was the Federal Conservative leader, by the way still without a credible climate change plan after all these years, I would be worried. Kenney sabotaged the last Federal Conservative campaign at a time it seemed he had some momentum. I suspect Smith will play a role in shoring up support for the Liberals in the East in the next election just at a time when the Federal Conservatives seem to be getting some momentum again.

    Some healthy partisanship is not a bad thing, but when it becomes excessive and leads to entrenching those in power it is not a good thing.

  11. So the UCP now wants to strike break the long shore strike in Vancouver but they didn’t use Bill 1 to break the Coutts border blockade. Interesting.

  12. Talk of reducing emissions—whatever the timeline (Alberta and Federal governments quibble over 15 years, 2035 versus 2050, to achieve “net-zero”—no prize for guessing which figure represents the Wild Rose province’s position)—is sounding more purely rhetorical all the time. Remarkably, both jurisdictions bend over backwards for Big Oil—or, in Alberta’s case, Big Oil’s branch plant, the Bitumen Mines of Albetar—well, perhaps more backward by the feds who don’t care where LNG comes from as long’s it goes through the gigantic export facility it has gigantically invested in at Kitimat, BC, and as long’s diluted bitumen goes through the more modest export facility in Burnaby, BC, the latter, TMX, courtesy of Trudeau Jr and all Canadians, the former, CGL, courtesy of TMX’s would-be nemesis, BC Premier John Horgan and, again, Trudeau fils on behalf of all Canadians, and perhaps more forward in the exclusive jurisdiction of Alberta by way of giving Big Bitumen a free pass on its industrial-pollution clean-up bill.

    The Prime Minister, who’s attended more stultifyingly boring caucuses and summits than Danielle Smith, we hope, ever will, is depicted with an unsurprisingly “bemused” expression as he listens to recognizable blather from the Alberta premier. Yes, yes, honk, honk, quack, quack, the old hand (yet in his early fifties) is well accustomed to political rhetoric and is deft at blowing it off: he’ll “be talking briefly” about the stevedore strike on the West Coast, by which we can presume it won’t be about back-to-work legislation; and Alberta’s exclusive jurisdiction over it resources?—well, yes, of course!—except that what wafts in the winds and migrates over provincial boundaries does fall into the federal purview, as the courts have determined; and sequestration and small-nuke technology?—sure!—have at it! —he knowing full well that if Big Bitumen doesn’t even want to mop the floor after it’s done muddying it up then it’s even less likely to invest in these exotics; meanwhile EVs are gaining traction in the automobile economy—one of the biggest consumers of petroleum, the steady ascent of EVs presumably reducing the demand for petro-fuels that are liquid at standard atmospheric pressure; in another atmosphere of pressure, the forecast of ever-expanding bitumen production—at least bitumen the way it’s gotten now and what we do with it—hints at meta-rhetoric towards fantasy, predicated by the fact that there’s enough of it—like air or salt-chuck or magma—and by the surrender of public good, that is, the good public will be paying the profiteers to take it away, if they haven’t started already and just don’t know it.

    Insofar as any net-zero date has been acknowledged by the UCP government, and exotic sequestration and nuclear remedies are conditionally dependant on federal largess, and the not-small matter of how the provincial electrical grid is powered, it appears that Alberta is doing something of a capitulation—to be sure with the counter rhetorical threat of secession. Naturally Trudeau looks bemused: after all, Alberta’s prosperity is captive of the petro-market and the province has conceded almost all there is to concede to keep bitumen bubbling in its stills. And for just as long’s Big Oil cares to trouble with it.

    It might look like Trudeau fils’ gratuities for Alberta are atonements for the mythologized sins of his father, but it’s more the fact that all of Canada has benefited from petro-industry and that we owe it to Alberta, its poster girl, to help it transition without actually saying as much. It’s equal parts petulance and petroleum. And that’s come a long way from the National Energy Program.

    Just one look was all it took.

    1. Valerie: Wish I’d seen the latter link when I was putting together tonight’s post. It would have helped. DJC

        1. Valerie: Those biceps look like gym muscles to me. That lump under the T-short, as I tweeted, looks like a man’s girdle-vest. Be that as it may, the prime minister’s muscles may not look as big, but they’re proven to pack a punch. DJC

  13. As for the recent missive by Don Braid that Rachel Notley should consider stepping into retirement, it has got a fair bit of derision from some commentators. I am one of those who believes that, more often than not, aging leadership should be ready to step aside and not at the time of their choosing. I am also of the belief that, also more often than not, in the interest of assuring that there are no knives pointed at their backs, leadership tends to go out of their way to prevent the next generation of leadership from rising. We have seen this endlessly, most recently at the end of Jean Chretien’s tenure as PM. What came in the wake of Chretien’s resignation was a free for all of bloodletting that gutted the LPC for over a decade. Harper’s ascension to power also brought with it a starving of talent, because loyalty to Harper was more important that being good at your ministry. As a result, the attack dogs in the CPC caucus did better than most and became proven failures in leadership. Trudeau appears to be headed down that same road. Even though the CPC is able to throw up one leadership disaster after another, at some point they find the one with the right royal jelly. If not Skippy Pollivere, than someone else and worse than him.

    Notley does run the risk of turning into another Andrea Horwath, who lead the ONDP through four elections. Even with a decimated OLP, Horwath was no where near a win, for all kinds of reasons. But the one reason that was mentioned was her uninspiring and tired leadership; it was the familiarity with Horwath that did her in.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.