David McGuinty And The Roots Of Alberta Alienation

Jared Milne

November 21, 2012 | 50 Comments

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.

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.

Comments

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