In search of Canadian Liberalism .. was the second last week of November 2012 really all that bad?

Nov 24th, 2012 | By | Category: In Brief

First there was “David McGuinty quits for telling Tory MPs to ‘go back to Alberta’.”  Then there was : “Trudeau and Grits suffer blows with anti-Alberta comments”; “Justin Trudeau faces uproar for alleged anti-Alberta comments in 2010 interview” ; and “Trudeau campaign forced to address 2010 comments on Alberta.”

Yet just how devastating all this will prove to both the cause of a seriously revived search for Canadian Liberalism, and the charismatic cause of Justin Trudeau, seems to us not at all clear.

First there is Andrew Coyne’s (somewhat meandering) point that “Context is everything when considering the controversial remarks on Alberta by Justin Trudeau and David McGuinty.”

Then there is the fact that the remarks some are taking Justin Trudeau to task for were originally in French. As best we can make out, if you listen carefully, eg, what has been translated by the conservative media as “Canada belongs to us”  just means “Canada is us.” And the two meanings are quite arguably quite different.

The “us” here, to our ears, also clearly means Quebec and not the Liberal Party. And surely, in the best of all possible worlds (certainly as understood on the northern shores of the lower Great Lakes), all provinces ought to be saying — and even deeply believing —  that “Canada is us”!

Then again there is the question of just how well Justin Trudeau has handled this sudden patch of hot water. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder of course. But when we watch such Canadian Press videos as “Meant Harper not Alberta: Justin Trudeau apologizes,” Pierre Trudeau’s oldest son seems to us to be handling both himself and the heat well enough, or better. Close enough for jazz, at the very least.

* * * *

As Trudeau the Younger himself urges in this “Meant Harper not Alberta: Justin Trudeau apologizes” video, a lot of the “anti-Alberta”critique both he and the federal Liberals are currently facing can reasonably be read (by some at any rate) as just the usual Harper Conservative hate mongering, in a tougher-than-expected Calgary Centre by-election this coming Monday, November 26,2012..

And then again there are such recent headlines as : “Tories target Trudeau as poll suggests his popularity keeps growing”; “Justin Trudeau-led Liberals would win election backed by women, middle-aged Canadians, poll suggests”; and “Poll: Liberals win Majority if Trudeau is Leader.”

And then ultimately there is the question that rests quietly at the bottom of all the sound and fury here. It is still not quite polite to ask this question out loud, no doubt. And there is also no doubt that the one great Canadian nation-building achievement of Stephen Harper has been to bring Western Canada into the corridors of power in Ottawa at last.

And that is very important indeed. Canada certainly is more than Ontario and Quebec (even with Atlantic Canada, Yellowknife, and Nunavut tacked on), and all that.

Yet many Canadians in other provinces are nonetheless almost certainly now pondering another kind of question, in the free and democratic privacy of their own minds.

Since when, that is to say, did Alberta acquire immunity from the sometimes quite aggressive criticism that virtually every other province in our rising northern North American confederation must intermittently put up with?

Moreover, setting the abstract symbolism of the current Calgary Centre by-election aside, it still seems a more than likely guess that no one but the Harper Conservatives will stand much of a chance in Alberta in the next federal election.

And, remember, you don’t actually need to win many or even any seats in Alberta to win a majority in the Canadian House of Commons. (As we now also understand, in the rather different but strangely parallel case of Quebec!)

So finally, who knows? As we in Ontario have a long if at least somewhat fading history of living with, doing well in your own province can breed a lot of resentment in other provinces.

As unpopular as anti-Alberta sentiment no doubt is in Alberta, it may actually win quite a few federal seats in other parts of the country. No ????

In any event, it is more than a little disingenuous for the still arch-regionalist apostles of Alberta provincial rights to complain about such things. It is similarly the Harper Conservatives themselves who have done so much to make such sordid calculations an increasingly important part of our Canadian practical politics. Those who live by the sword, etc, etc, etc…

(And time will tell just how much damage the alleged “anti-Alberta” vicissitudes of this past week have done to both the cause of a seriously revived search for Canadian Liberalism, and the charismatic cause of Justin Trudeau — beyond the borders of the rising wild rose province itself, in such other regions as BC, Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada. Canada is not just Alberta and Saskatchewan either. Even if you add Manitoba too.)

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