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There’s an old, never-fail strategy in Alberta politics: When your government is in trouble on the eve of an election, pick a fight with Ottawa. Almost nothing rallies Alberta voters around their provincial government like a dust-up with the feds. The only thing better is when Ottawa starts the skirmish.
Alberta may as well not even have held its 1982 campaign. Coming the year after the Trudeau government imposed the National Energy Program on the province, the provincial Conservatives could have run tree stumps as their candidates in most constituencies and won. There were 79 seats in the Alberta legislature that year. The Tories won 75. They earned over 62% of the popular vote.
New Alberta Premier Alison Redford is at the head of a government in trouble (although, according to recent polls, not as much trouble as when she took it over last fall from the bumbling and unpopular Ed Stelmach). And a provincial election is expected this spring. But until Monday, it looked as though Ms. Redford wouldn’t have a central Canadian bogeyman to run against.
The federal Tories are more popular in Alberta than the Premier’s provincial party. On issues that matter to Albertans — such as gun control, runaway government spending and oil sands and pipeline development — Ottawa might even have been a more vociferous defender of the province’s interest than Ms. Redford herself.
Enter Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.
Just when it appeared Ms. Redford would have to campaign on her own achievements and charm (both of which are a little thin), along comes the Ontario Liberal Premier with a campaign gift.
During a swing through the United States to sell American politicians and investors on the need to integrate continental energy policy (and build the Keystone XL pipeline to take Alberta oil to Texas refineries), Ms. Redford said she could use some moral support from other provinces. The 0’sands are “a resource that matters to the rest [of Canada],” she explained. The project generates economic spin-offs in nearly every region. So, she added, perhaps someone like the Premier of Ontario could chime in with a few words of encouragement.
Mr. McGuinty has two problems: He is obsessed with green energy, and he has almost no clue how jobs are created. Indeed, the Ontario Premier suffers from magic-wand syndrome. He seems to believe that if his government merely waves a wand (and billions of tax dollars) over his province, it will enjoy a fairytale switch from fossil fuels to wind turbines, solar panels and algae ponds to power its factories and cars. Never mind the real-world economic, scientific and infrastructure impediments that stand in the way: Goodwill and pixie dust will be enough to employ everyone in the new “green” economy.
For the rest of this column, please go to the National Post website: http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/02/29/lorne-gunter-for-alberta-dalton-mcguinty-becomes-a-fresh-bogeyman/