COMMENTARY: If Trudeau is serious about allaying western frustration, there are steps he can take


You’re not likely to find many Albertans in a charitable mood these days as far as the prime minister is concerned, but allow me to be one: I don’t believe that Justin Trudeau is deliberately trying to harm or alienate Alberta or Western Canada.

However, the obvious implication then is that he has no idea how things got this way and therefore has no idea what to do about it. I think Trudeau is someone who genuinely wants to be liked by everyone, but is also oblivious about how he contributes directly to producing the exact opposite effect for some.

A lot of what transpires in the months ahead could come to define Trudeau’s legacy, and this is his opportunity to show that he can be a unifier. Even if one has no vested interest in the political fortunes of the Liberal Party of Canada or its current leader, we do all have a vested interest in maintaining a certain level of national unity.

So if Trudeau is serious about addressing what is a very real sense of frustration, we should be prepared to offer whatever kind of helpful suggestions we can.

When it comes to the sort of economic anxiety being felt in the west, there are limits on governments’ ability to make a significant difference. To some extent, we’re at the mercy of circumstances. Higher commodity prices and the completion of the Keystone XL and Line 3 pipelines on the U.S. side of the border would go a very long way, but there’s little we can do about that.

But there are steps that the prime minister can take.

Firstly, Trudeau needs to stop sounding like he’s ashamed of Canada’s oil and gas industry. It’s all well and good to talk about being leaders when it comes to climate change, but it’s not a conflict to also promote Canada as an energy superpower.

Undoubtedly the Liberals would point to their approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion (TMX) and the LNG Canada project as proof of their support for this industry, and they do indeed deserve praise for that.

But think for a moment how the Liberals have framed the federal Conservative leader and various premiers as “not caring” about climate change or “not doing anything” about it. They all have, or have proposed, emissions-reduction policies. But when they seem so half-hearted about it, when they fail to articulate the need to tackle climate change, they lack credibility. They don’t really seem like they care all that much.