There’s a certain amount of irony in the fact that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau embarked on a whirlwind mission down south to tout the benefits to NAFTA while B.C. and Alberta appear to be headed for an even nastier trade war.
In case you missed it, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has announced a ban on B.C. wines entering that province as retaliation for the B.C. government’s decision to not allow an increase in bitumen flowing through B.C. ports. There’s also talk of banning craft beer imports into Alberta.
It was interesting watching Trudeau channel his inner high school teacher when he was being heckled at a townhall in Nanaimo last week.
He needs to channel his inner high school teacher again and take Notley and B.C. Premier John Horgan by the ears, march them down to the principal’s office, and not let them come out until they resolve to stop fighting in the playground and get along.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, in much more diplomatic terms than I, have suggested just that.
“The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is deeply concerned about the negative impact an interprovincial trade war would have on the economies of Alberta, British Columbia and, ultimately, Canada,” according to a statement on its website. “The announced escalation of retaliatory trade measures will leave businesses of all sizes, their owners and their employees caught in the crossfire.
“Boycotts between businesses in two provinces will not resolve an issue that is ultimately our federal government’s responsibility.”
However, the chamber takes Alberta’s side and says Trudeau should be “engaging directly” with B.C. to ensure the TransMountain pipeline goes ahead.
I’d prefer if Trudeau simply engaged with B.C. and Alberta without taking sides.
When all this started to bubble a week or so ago, Trudeau said the pipeline was in the “national interest,” (a phrase that Stephen Harper liked to use without defining national interest any further than being something he wanted), but Trudeau really didn’t enter the fray.
Now that the pot has been left to boil over and people are about to get burned, he continues to prattle on about doing what’s in the national interest.
I would suggest that keeping two provinces from erecting border checkpoints and a demilitarized zone is higher up on the ‘national interest’ scale than a pipeline. This needs his attention.
Trudeau has a chance to show that he is a leader. The best way to do that is to summon Notley and Horgan to a sit-down in Ottawa and once the doors are closed, read them the riot act.