Justin Trudeau started by campaigning on ‘sunny ways.’ He’s since devolved into the most divisive Prime Minister in a very long time.
There are two ways for a leader to be unpopular.
They can be unpopular in a general sense, with people opposing aspects of their personality and brand, or they can be unpopular in a way that puts the unity of a country at risk.
Often, the two kinds of unpopularity go together, but not always.
For example, Stephen Harper ended his time in office as a relatively unpopular PM, but national unity concerns continued to fade while he was in power.
Support for Quebec separation declined and the old-line federalist vs sovereigntist division in the province broke down.
Harper understood his role as a national leader, and refused to pit one region against another or campaign against one region to win votes elsewhere in the country.
While Harper had some personal spats with Premiers and local leaders, he also ensured that no province felt singularly targeted or left out, and he thus starved separatists of their support.
After a decade in power, Harper was nonetheless unable to overcome his personal unpopularity, yet even in defeat he left his successor a unified country with a balanced budget.
By contrast, Justin Trudeau is unpopular in a different way.
Sure, his personal brand and policies are heavily-disliked by many Canadians, but it his targeting of specific regions that has led to truly nation-risking levels of division.
Placing personal political interests above the good of the nation
In the 2021 election, Justin Trudeau started to fear that he was going to lose.
Despite then-CPC Leader Erin O’Toole’s struggles, Trudeau’s unpopularity was weighing down his party.
In order to give himself a wedge-issue, Trudeau imposed a vaccine mandate on truckers, and then campaigned against unvaccinated Canadians during the election.
Like many cynical political moves, it worked – barely – in the short-term, with the Liberals retaining a narrow hold on power despite losing the popular vote for the second election in a row.
But the long-term consequences are still being felt, with the level of anger, distrust, and division in the country rising.
Now, with vaccine mandates and pandemic issues beginning to recede into the past, Trudeau is looking for a new way to divide the country for his benefit.
And it seems he’s decided to campaign against Alberta.
In recent remarks, Trudeau decided to tell Alberta what they should invest their budget surplus in, and criticized the province:
“We’ve seen for a while Alberta hesitating around investing in anything related to climate change. But CCUS is one of those tangible things,” Trudeau told Reuters in an interview.
“I think there’s a role for provinces with surpluses, with the capacity to be investing in their future and their workers’ future,” he said in his first media interview of 2023.”
“Alberta has committed $1.24 billion through 2025 to two commercial-scale carbon capture, utilization and storage projects. Both projects will help reduce the CO2 emissions from the oil sands and fertilizer sectors and reduce GHG emissions by up to 2.76 million tonnes each year. This is equivalent to the yearly emissions of 600,000 vehicles. Both projects must submit annual reports to the knowledge sharing program to ensure public access to the technical information and project learnings.”
And, Alberta also invests heavily in oil sands reclamation. Here are some facts compiled by CanadaAction:
“Canadian oil sands development is subject to some of the strictest environmental regulatory standards globally that require 100% land reclamation after operations cease. (Natural Resources Canada – NRC)
Reclamation in Canada’s oil sands starts long before operations begin; operators are required to submit detailed reclamation plans as part of their request for project approval. (Government of Alberta – GoA)
According to the latest data from the Alberta government (2016), the active footprint of various stages of oilsands reclamation and disturbance was:
> Total active footprint – 95,301.5 hectares
> Ready for reclamation – 376.5 hectares
> Soils placed (terrestrial & wetlands & aquatics) – 1,450.2 hectares
> Permanent reclamation – 5,063.3 hectares
> Permanent reclamation (wetlands & aquatics) – 1,275.5 hectares
> Temporary reclamation – 1,896.3 hectares
> Certified reclamation – 104 hectares
The Government of Alberta has committed to conserving and protecting more than 2 million hectares (20,000 square kilometres [km2] or 7,722 square miles [mi2]) (GoA)
There is almost 4.5 million hectares (44,800 km2 or 17,300 mi2) of federally protected land – Wood Buffalo National Park of Canada – located just north of the oil sands. (NRC)”
The thing is, none of this matters to Trudeau.
To admit that Canada would benefit from more Alberta oil & gas production, and to admit that Alberta has a strong environmental record would clash with his narrative, so he’ll stick to the narrative.
He and his advisors likely believe the tactic of demonizing Alberta will work, and in some parts of the country it might.
But the mere fact that he is going down this route tells you all you need to know:
Justin Trudeau is willing to put Canada’s national unity at risk for his own political interests, and that makes him manifestly unfit for a position of national leadership.
Photo – YouTube