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What to do with the Alberta problem

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe backed a horse that lost but still want to be in the winner’s circle.

Everyone who bets on the races will tell you that’s not how it works.

Kenney, and to a lesser extent Moe, actively campaigned for the Conservatives in federal election and are now miffed that the two provinces didn’t elect a single Liberal which means the provinces won’t have a seat at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet table. What did they expect? We shudder for all the NDP-held ridings in Alberta because Kenney has made it clear he doesn’t believe a government should, or can, represent areas without a representative on the government side of the house. Isn’t total representation by one party the communist model of governance?

However, we suspect Alberta and Saskatchewan could have gone completely red instead of blue and the belligerent, bellicose bellowing from Edmonton and Regina would likely be the same.

Kenney’s dictate this week that Trudeau replace Environment Minister Catherine McKenna … or else, takes the cake. Maybe Kenney should move into Stornoway (of course he has to armwrestle Peter MacKay for the keys). His end game likely involves more Ottawa and less Edmonton.

And, of course, all this has re-ignited a separation movement in Alberta. It’s incredulous, especially in Alberta where free enterprise and capitalism rule the day, that anyone believes economic nirvana lies in becoming smaller. Do they not watch what the oil companies do? Or Russia? Or China? Or the U.S.?

The question remains of how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government will adequately represent the two Prairie provinces which chose not to elect a Liberal MP. Or, more aptly, the question of how Trudeau will appease the growing anger in Alberta and Saskatchewan remains, which is the real problem.

It would help if Kenney and Moe toned down the rhetoric and stopped acting like Confederation revolved around them, instead of the other way around.

But it would also help if Trudeau spent some time in the two provinces, and B.C. for that matter. He spent precious little time in the provinces during the campaign. However, it should also be noted that none of the federal leaders spent much time in Alberta and Saskatchewan during the campaign, including Conservative leader Andrew Scheer. They all focused most of their time in the Lower Mainland, Greater Toronto Area, Montreal, and Ottawa.

It would also help if Trudeau indicated he would be willing to take a look at the equalization program which has, for decades, seen western provinces’ economic success carry other parts of the country. Of all the gripes coming from Kenney and Moe, it is the only legitimate one. We don’t need to scrap the plan, but we do need to examine whether it is fair and/or how it can be improved.

That will take courage and guts on Trudeau’s part because it requires a Constitutional change … a proven quagmire for any prime minister who has ventured into those waters. However, wading through a Constitutional quagmire is preferable to running the country aground and having her split in two.

This is an opportunity for Trudeau.

Alberta and Saskatchewan voters chose to shun the Liberals in the last election. Trudeau has the opportunity to show that he is a leader, unlike his foils in the Prairies, who can govern areas that don’t have a government MP. That doesn’t mean caving in to loudmouths. But it does mean listening, understanding, and governing all of the country, not just the areas that voted red.

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