Trudeau’s $60 million Quebec job

Funding promise, then by-election call, smells badly

When I was in college in the mid-1990’s, my roommate and all of his friends were from the Maritimes. As this was the era of the Reform Party, I was forced to listen to endless critiques of Preston Manning, Alberta politics, the oil and gas industry and constant requests to explain “western alienation.”

The gist of what my roommate and his Newfoundland buddies wanted to know was, in essence, “What the hell have you got to complain about? Alberta doesn’t have anything to complain about.” As one of the Maritimers continually pointed out to me, Newfoundland and Quebec have a lot more to complain about than Alberta.

I’m not sure where to even begin with this. One of the most obvious starting points would be the way in which Alberta, since the Sixties, has been treated alternatively as a cash cow then doormat by pretty much all parts of the country (transfer payments, NEP, Meech Lake Accord, Mad Cow Disease). Then, when Alberta has serious trouble, such as the energy industry collapse of 2014 or the Mad Cow “outbreak” in the early 2000’s, the federal government in particular seems to almost take pleasure in this province’s misfortune, saying there’s nothing that can be done, smirking all the while.

It sickened me last week when I read this excerpt from a Canadian Press article:

“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called a by-election for the Quebec riding of Chicoutimi-Le Fjord, only days after pledging $60 million in federal funding for an aluminum-smelting project in the area.

“Voters in the riding will head to the polls on June 18 to elect a new member of Parliament, after first-term Liberal MP Denis Lemieux announced his resignation due to family reasons late last year.

“Trudeau announced the by-election on Sunday, three days after visiting the riding with Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, where the two offered financial support for a $558-million prototype aluminum smelter.”

The riding in question swings between parties easily; the Liberal Party in the last federal election won the riding by only 600 votes over the NDP. So is it just a coincidence Trudeau drops a $60 million gift on them?

Meanwhile, one of the most pathetic political flaps in Alberta history is ongoing between this province and British Columbia over pipelines.

As B.C. stalls the Kinder Morgan pipeline, the performance of our federal leader Trudeau has been underwhelming and sort of disturbing, although it pales in comparison to the pathetically incompetent strategy Premier Rachel Notley decided was adequate: banning B.C. wine imports (that’s a subject for another day).

As far I can tell, Trudeau has done nothing to quell this feud between two provinces, one, Alberta, which is completely within its rights to do everything to benefit from its energy resources, and another province that’s obsessed with media publicity and social justice warrior theology.

Trudeau had a chance to show balanced leadership in the issue, and instead spent time touring India in clothes crafted by a millionaire Toronto designer.

Then he pulls the $60 million job. Very disappointing. It’s just more Pierre Trudeau, Jean Chretien stuff. So disappointing.

Stu Salkeld is editor of The Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the newspaper.

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