Tom Bad, Linda Sad
Thursday, May 31, 2012
You have to feel sorry for Linda Duncan. The Member of Parliament for the federal riding of Edmonton-Strathcona belongs to the New Democratic Party, you see. Although some may argue that fact alone, would be enough to engender our sympathy, it’s not why the hard working and competent Ms. Duncan deserves our pity.
The reason Ms. Duncan tugs at our hearts strings is that it must be lonely for her. When she has a gathering of the Alberta wing of the NDP caucus, the get-together could be held in a recliner in her living room since she is the only NDP MP in the province. Her next closest team member eastward is about 1200 kilometers away in Winnipeg Center, since the NDP juggernaut was shut out entirely in Saskatchewan. There’s another Manitoba NDP’er up in Churchill, but no others until you get to Ontario.
Westward is somewhat better. An NDP team member is only about 550 kilometers west in Castlegar. Then there are none until you get to a (small l) liberal sprinkling of New Democrat parliamentarians along B.C’s coastal cities and on Vancouver Island.
The fact that, in western Canada, federal NDP members are fewer and farther between than 6/49 lottery jackpot winners is indicative of a party who does not speak for a vast region of the country. This has never been brought home more obviously than by listening to the divisive and poorly-considered musings of the Opposition Leader of the country, Thomas Mulcair.
It is likely the aforementioned Ms. Duncan, who is obliged to call Mr. Mulcair “boss”, must cringe every time he opens his mouth. By suggesting Ontario’s fiscal problems are being caused by Alberta’s prosperity is going to make Ms. Duncan’s supporters and constituents wonder where they rate in the NDP program guide. Ms. Duncan must already be in the market for new business attire since she will never get the tire tracks off her old outfit after she was thrown under the bus. The knife sticking out the back of the ensemble was probably the clincher.
How can the inestimable Ms. Duncan face her supporters and convince them that the NDP is the right party for Albertans when their leader sees us as the problem and not the solution? One gets the impression Mr. Mulcair would be quite happy to sell western Canada down the river if it gained him seats in vote-rich Ontario and artificially vote-rich Quebec. To view the oilsands as the cause of manufacturing troubles in Ontario is not only wrong-headed but mean spirited. Unfortunately he wouldn’t be the first federal politician to knowingly fuel regional animosity in the country for short-term political gain. Pierre Trudeau, whose polarizing policies almost lead to the dissolution of the country, was more than happy to play population-rich central Canada against the resource-rich, under-populated west. That’s how the game was played in those days. Who cared if Alberta was unhappy? Hardly anybody lived there and those that did only ever voted conservative anyway so why bother worrying about them?
A lot has changed since then on both the political map and the dynamics of the country. Alberta’s status and influence has grown steadily since the dark days of “Trudeau-mania” thanks to the energy sector. As Alberta boomed, Ontario and the Maritimes sputtered. This meant a huge influx of people was arriving in Alberta wanting to enjoy the fruits of the booming oil-patch economy. Along with the wealth they accumulated, many returned home to their own provinces with a different perspective on what a western Canadian is like. The image of the Alberta bogeymen created by the divide-and-conquer policies of successive Liberal governments is slowly being erased.
Our premier, Allison Redford isn’t talking about shutting off taps, she’s talking about inclusion. She’s offering ways Alberta’s wealth can the benefit of the entire country. A new era of co-operation appeared to be on the political horizon. Alberta is poised to receive more seats in parliament to reflect our burgeoning population. We even appeared on the covers of the nation’s largest and most influential news magazines with stories of “The New Alberta”. The province was finally allowed to sit at the adult’s table at suppertime.
Then Mr. Mulcair opened his yap and in one fell swoop, resurrected the damaging policies of those previous governments. In a moronic statement, he attacked the greatest engine of economic growth the country has ever seen, in favour of a poorly managed, poorly governed manufacturing sector in Ontario. Mr. Mulcair clearly threw down the gauntlet. It is obvious he has no intention of fostering a national mandate, nor an interest in leading a united country. Instead he is banking on reconstituting the historic divides that once fractured the country so badly we almost lost it.
There are, no doubt, teams of strategists who have helped Mr. Mulcair shape these policies. They have likely pored over statistical analyses of historic voting patterns by region and have made the crass realization, as others before them have, that the House can be won without a single seat across the prairies. The well-worn template for such a win involves developing policies to appeal to Central Canadians at the price of prosperity for the west. This has been the historical reality of Alberta, even back to the formation of the province in 1905 when the federal government attempted to deny Alberta the same resource ownership rights of other provinces.
We must hope the workers from other provinces who have been feeding Alberta’s insatiable labour monster, have been taking a bit of the Alberta spirit back home with them. Perhaps they’ve spread the word that a healthy Alberta economy makes for a healthy national economy. Let’s hope they will remember when the country faced imminent breakup and will reject Mr. Mulcair’s divisive policies that will lead us down that road again.
Otherwise, it will get a lot lonelier for Linda Duncan.
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