Dear Prime Minister Trudeau:
It has been refreshing to watch your willingness to address Canadians face-to-face in town hall meetings, but it is perhaps best if you keep a few things in mind when you come to the Prairies.
You were scheduled to be in Calgary Jan. 24. Hope all went well. You likely had some explaining to do, what with your comment about the oilsands earlier this month at an Ontario town hall that, “we need to phase them out. We need to manage the transition off of our dependence on fossil fuels.”
Westerners didn’t care much for that.
Yes, we also understand that former Prime Minister Stephen Harper had committed to phasing out fossil fuels by 2100, but no one really believed him.
However, Mr. Prime Minister, your statement on the matter is more authentic, and hence, is cause for concern in Alberta and Saskatchewan. (We tried not to mention your father’s national energy program, which alienated many prairie folks for generations, but we couldn’t help ourselves. We are not one to visit the father’s decisions on the son, but, heck, you really can’t miss it.)
Still, you carried into Calgary a pseudo-ally in Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, who much appreciates your decision to approve two pipelines to carry Alberta’s oil to the coast, making marketing overseas easier and the oilsands more viable in the longer term.
If you choose to come to Saskatchewan, and we sincerely hope you do, you may not find many allies as you face the people. Ralph Goodale, Wascana Liberal MP, is a fine man and a key cabinet member, but you’re pretty much on your own as you explain to farmers and oil producers in this province some of your latest musings.
Premier Brad Wall, et al., remain very upset with your machinations last October, when you announced the national carbon tax in the House while provincial environment ministers were in another room chatting with your environment minister about the subject. That wasn’t a splendid move, Mr. Prime Minister.
Then there is the mere existence of the carbon tax. Premier Wall thinks it will cost the average family in Saskatchewan $1,250 a year. You have assured us that some of that can be returned to Saskatchewan residents, but along the way you chose the unfortunate wording that “if Brad Wall is worried about the cost on his farmers or the cost on a particular industry, he can return to them all the money from the carbon tax.”
The premier has been energetic about his opposition to the tax (see Facebook), but he quickly pointed out that “they aren’t my farmers … they are Canada’s farmers who are literally feeding Canada and the world, and creating thousands of Canadian jobs in the process. And their national government should be working with the Saskatchewan government, not against it.”
Not an us-and-them thing, you see.
Mr. Prime Minister, you must remember that in the West, some folks remember your father’s rhetorical question, back in 1969, “why should I sell your wheat?” He then went on to address the obstacles of the Canadian government doing such a thing, but the seeds of suspicion about a Trudeau government’s respect for farmers remain in western soil, ready to sprout with the wrong type of fertilizer.
So, Mr. Prime Minister, if you do choose to visit the POW province — you’re certain to know that’s potash, oil and wheat — it’s best that you address those underlying suspicions carefully and convincingly.
We await your arrival.
The Western Producer
Editor’s note: Prime Minister Trudeau visited Saskatoon Wednesday January 25, 2016. You can read the WP’s coverage of that visit here.
Bruce Dyck, Barb Glen, Brian MacLeod, D’Arce McMillan and Michael Raine collaborate in the writing of Western Producer editorials.