EDITORIAL – Trudeau in the hot seat with NDP premiers

Saturday, April 14 ~ NATIONAL.


In the hot seat this Sunday will be Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. On Thursday he had headed off to Lima, Peru for a long-planned trip to represent Canada at the Summit of the Americas. But brewing here at home is a calamity that is ready to boil over.

BC and Alberta are at loggerheads over the twinning of the Trans Mountain pipeline (project activity now suspended to May 31 by its corporate owner Kinder Morgan), and their political positions seem immovable now.

The remarkable people skills that Trudeau has exhibited in other high profile situations (e.g. the much-noted in-control handshake with Trump at the White House last year) will probably be put to their greatest test yet in this, his first term in office. How does one get two NDP Premiers to capitulate even an inch from their understandably entrenched positions that are essential for political survival past their own first terms in office — John Horgan to protect the natural environment that is the soul of BC, and Rachel Notley to resurrect the oil-rich economy of Alberta.

The private meeting on Sunday April 15 at 10 am EDT in Trudeau’s office at Parliament Hill will be relatively short, as media will be addressed by Premier Horgan at 11 am EDT (8 am Pacific) and by Trudeau at 1 pm EDT, followed by Trudeau’s departure to Paris, France at 2 pm.

The fact that Trudeau announced the relatively awkward shift in his itinerary literally moments before he boarded the plane in Ottawa on his way to South America on Thursday, somehow indicates the difficulty he had in making a decision about how to finally step into the pipeline issue boxing ring. Trudeau has been criticized of late for remaining passive while Alberta and BC duked it out in Alberta’s brief trade war tactics and BC’s sidestep move to let the courts decide.

Among media who follow the PM’s daily itinerary, there was puzzled chatter about why he took a ‘personal day’ off mid-week, ahead of his trip. Given Trudeau’s load, a day off ahead of a long international trip for contemplation about larger issues is not unreasonable. In fact, it shows good judgement and a deeper awareness of how significant the BC-Alberta issue is, than people give him credit for.

The BC-Alberta crisis leans close to being a constitutional one, over and above the significant impacts for politics in BC and Alberta and for the Canadian economy (jobs and investor confidence). That’s enough of a challenge to tackle. But Canadians may also witness the ‘Ottawa summit’ of western NDP premiers with their prime minister as a moment in which Trudeau demonstrates his most masterful problem-solving yet.

These are tough times for leading Canada — NAFTA negotiations with the Trump-led USA, taking a bit of a back seat in the USA-led attack on Syria Friday night, legalizing cannabis in a somewhat frenzied hurry, and a true housing affordability crisis. On top of this, brokering a successful outcome from his meeting with Horgan and Notley would be a helpful shining star in Trudeau’s leadership cap.


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[as first published in the April 13, 2018 print/PDF issue of West Shore Voice News]