"By now, everyone’s probably heard about Ontario Liberal MP David McGuinty’s claims that Stephen Harper and other Alberta Conservative MPs are “shills” for the oil industry and that they should just go back to Alberta. Needless to say, Albertans are outraged, and with very good reason. Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae has publicly apologized for McGuinty’s remarks, and McGuinty himself has resigned his party’s Natural Resource Critic position.Jared Milne, who wrote this post, hits the nail so squarely on the head that a Central Canadian Liberal like me can see what exactly is wrong with the comments like the ones that McGuinty, and now Justin Trudeau, have said. It explains why Albertans should indeed feel like they're alienated from our half of the country, because for some reason, we keep acting like they are! Our words, and our previous actions, have lead to Western alienation, and I can't emphasize more that the problem is not because of Westerners, the problem is one that we helped create pretty much on our own.
But perhaps we as Albertans are judging David McGuinty too harshly. Maybe we’re the ones who owe him an apology…
Maybe we Albertans should be apologizing for being so concerned about the oil and gas industry because it’s so critical to the livelihoods of so many of us.
Maybe we Albertans should be apologizing for being so jittery about a Liberal government because of the widespread belief that we have been or would have been burned by past Liberal policies as the National Energy Program, the Kyoto Accord carbon emission reductions and the Green Shift.
Maybe we as Albertans should apologize for getting so angry at feeling like we`re being looked down on because of our ideas and concerns, with the implication that we`re somehow less Canadian for having them.
Maybe we as Albertans should apologize for being so frustrated at this that it was a major reason why we helped create and voted in such large numbers for the Reform-Alliance Party.
Or maybe David McGuinty should realize that it`s attitudes like his that are why Albertans and many other Western Canadians got so alienated in the first place. I`ve discussed this more elsewhere, but that perception that we as Albertans were looked down on by Liberal governments whose bases were in central Canada, especially in and around the Toronto region, and that we were somehow less Canadian because we had reservations about policies that people from that region advocated, or because we had different political ideas altogether, is a major reason why what John Ibbitson calls the “Laurentian Consensus” collapsed, even when we as Albertans shared a lot of common values with our central Canadian kin.
In the comments section of his article on French no longer being necessary for Canadian Prime Ministers, I took Gerry Nicholls to task for thinking that the interests of his region of Canada were the only ones that mattered and looking down his nose at people in other parts of Canada. Now, whether he meant to or not, David McGuinty is doing exactly the same thing in the minds of many Albertans. It’s this type of attitude, whether expressed by Conservatives from Alberta or Liberals from Ontario, that has been one of the biggest hindrances to Canadian unity for the last several decades, if not longer.
To their credit, other Liberals are calling McGuinty out on his comments. Justin Trudeau also deserves praise for taking a sensible and balanced approach to resource development, notably in supporting oil exports to Asia while saying that the Northern Gateway pipeline is not the best way of doing so. But the larger problem, expressed by people like Gerry Nicholls and David McGuinty, is still a very serious one. Until we deal with it, regional alienation is going to continue to be a headache in Canadian politics."
I wouldn't expect anyone to try and accommodate or understand where Easterners may be coming from when we say or do things that Albertans and Westerners feel is an attack on them - after all, it (usually) isn't born out of hatred or dislike for our fellow citizens. We simply have a view of how their resources should benefit the entire country. They want to keep control over what is by right, their land and their resources. They are the primary benefitors, after all, and any changes affect them first and last.
It is a view that will cause clashes, but we can have discussions about it, and compromise to get deals through that benefits all parties. But how can we expect Albertans to work with the rest of the country when continue to say stupid things like what McGuinty and Trudeau have, or what Mulcair and Premier McGuinty said in the past. We need to smarten up, if we want not only the Liberal Party to succeed, but if we want to even keep this country together.
(PS: Post name changed due to the fact that Jared isn't a Liberal! Sorry about that Jared, it should be good now!)