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Don Martin: Trudeau government stacking up Alberta snubs
My lingering Albertan DNA has me wincing a lot lately.
There’s been a sudden spike in the number of threats and slights against Canada’s hefty-horsepower economic engine.
It started when the government’s Edmonton cabinet minister announced that all that Calgary lobbying was in vain and Cowtown would not be the location for the $33-billion infrastructure bank. That perk would go to Toronto, seemingly without much arm-twisting of the Toronto-elected finance minister.
Then a report came out this week recommending the Calgary-headquartered National Energy Board be replaced by an Ottawa-based pipeline and transmission line approving authority.
Both moves suggest the invention of the Internet and anywhere telecommunications isn’t enough. Only geography matters.
Highways and bridges being built across Canada with a mix of private and public support can only, for some reason, be negotiated within sight of the CN Tower.
And it appears the quality of board members doesn’t drive NEB decisions on pipelines and powerlines. Merely having an office in downtown Calgary is sufficient to bias the NEB toward resource developments over environmental considerations.
All this nonsense comes coincidentally linked to two other worrisome developments.
The Trudeau government will decimate the lovely town of Vegreville by moving its crucial immigration processing centre to Edmonton, reportedly at a hefty cost.
And there’s a clear and present danger to the Trans Mountain pipeline’s go-ahead, given the upheaval in B.C. politics where the Green Party could have the balance of power.
Let’s not forget that the West doesn’t take systemic political snubs lying down.
The Mulroney government’s partisan relocation of jet-fighter maintenance from Winnipeg to Montreal in 1986 was the alienation spark which ignited the Reform Party flame.
Despite the oil price setback, Alberta is still a robust economic cornerstone of Canada. But it needs diversification like the infrastructure bank while retaining the prestige of headquartering the NEB.
Unfortunately, it’s losing its voice in Ottawa. Alberta’s two cabinet ministers are low-key and only modestly influential. And the departure of heavyweights Rona Ambrose, Jason Kenney and perhaps Michelle Rempel, if she seeks the Calgary mayoralty, is eroding its depth in the Official Opposition as well.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has shown commendable attention to Alberta with numerous visits, but actions speak louder than his smooth-talking words.
The West fought hard to get the federal respect it deserves. It won’t tolerate being on the outs with Ottawa again.
And that’s the Last Word.