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A house divided

Rex Murphy
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Rex Murphy: The Prime Minister has quite explicitly and deliberately set one region of this country against another. The ramifications will be felt for years to come.

Anti-energy is anti-industry and anti-industry is anti-employment. I’m tempted to go with the frail poet Keats here and cite “that is all/ Ye know on earth, and that is all you need to know” – with Canada for earth. A bit too wide for general application, it is though a useful thought for the election we are now having/enduring and praying to end.

The realities of Prime Minister Trudeau’s competence are much more clear now that the haze of the halo of his much-cited “charm” have evaporated. Evaporated successively by the SNC Lavalin mess, the expulsions of Wilson-Raybould and Philpott from the Liberal caucus, the famous musical “My Trip to India” and of course the revival of blackface as a triple idiom in Trudeau’s younger and prankish days.

He walks among us now not as the avatar of Sunny Days but as one politician among all the rest – just as ready to do a turnaround, seek a political advantage, scorn his opposition, and cut a deal as any other. Which has brought this election (at this point) to something of a dead heat between the Liberals and the Conservatives.

He walks among us now not as the avatar of Sunny Days but as one politician among all the rest.

That has served to clarify, what otherwise has been obscured for so long – that his loving embrace of green ideology and its ferocious, unappeasable hostility to the Western provinces’ oil industry that is its corollary, has real political implications for Confederation.

What was somewhat behind a veil is now open for all to see. And worry about.

Mr. Trudeau has embraced, as an end-of-campaign political tactic, setting one region of the country against another. He has explicitly set the oil industry up as a target when, as noted in a happily widely-read column by Don Braid of the Calgary Herald, he wrote “To score climate-change brownies, they’re (Trudeau Liberals) pushing the country down a dangerous, divisive road.”

Mr. Braid cites from the second Quebec debate this remarkable statement: “It’s necessary to have a strong government, full of Quebecers, full of francophones, who are going to be able to continue the fight” against conservatives who, in his view, “wouldn’t do anything.” The conservatives here are Alberta premier Kenney and Ontario premier Ford, both of whom are to be seen as servants, instruments of “big oil.”

For my own part I’ve long maintained that the eager, wild-eyed, oh-so-virtuous global warming obsession, the embrace of doom-saying prophetics from one-issue fanatics, has always been superficially analyzed. Its theses are not challenged; the press accepts every press release like an epistle from St. Paul; it has hypnotized centre-road politicians and a good pack of Conservatives as well.

But most of all it has had, and has, real costs never tabulated. The greatest of these, for us Canadians, as shown by that statement from a Prime Minister of all Canada, is that it has re-awoken dormant fractures in our Confederation. And in the last days of this election make explicit, that to pose at home and on the world stage as a global warming champion he is willing to put the whole province of Alberta into play as a political tactic.

That statement from a Prime Minister of all Canada has re-awoken dormant fractures in our Confederation.

What other can be the meaning of these words: “It’s necessary to have a strong government, full of Quebecers, full of francophones, who are going to be able to continue the fight.” The “fight” here is the spurious idea that Canada has any significant role at all in reducing the dread global emissions of the entire planet. And who are these Quebecers, these francophones going to be fighting – why the oil-addicted menaces in Alberta.

But to maintain the pose, and gather the plaudits of the politically correct, he explicitly summons Quebecers to over-balance Conservative provincial administrations who are in thrall to the “oil barons” of Alberta. He has set one region against another – which is – politically I hasten to emphasize – the only mortal sin in Canadian politics. A Prime Minister of Canada has, when it goes to essence, only one real responsibility: to maintain the Confederation, to strengthen its bonds; to bring regions into accord with each other. And NEVER to suggest or advocate that one region has to vote a certain way in order to protect the Confederation from darker elements in another.

He has set one region against another – which is – politically I hasten to emphasize – the only mortal sin in Canadian politics.

This is where the intellectually lazy embrace of fashionable Greenism can lead, and now has led. This is one of those costs never talked about on all the grim, boring panels, when Canada’s “commitments to the Paris agreement” are so reverently discussed. Is it worth messing up our Confederation to subscribe to an internationalist campaign for a perfectly nebulous insanely overhyped cause?

Seen from the vantage of the Prime Minister’s rhetoric in the Quebec debate one purpose of electing a Liberal government is to “tame” or “override” another province. Nor should it pass notice that now that slackness on the federal scene has revived the Bloc, and the revival on the Bloc will only sharpen the already dangerous – to Confederation – sentiments towards separatism in the West.

Albertans do not want separation. But if they see that there are different rules for Quebec, that Quebec can have a Quebec nationalist party represent it in Ottawa, then why should Alberta not follow the same road? Set up its own equivalent to a Bloc party – one whose interests are only to serve the province, without reference, or even hostile to, the notion of a true national parliament.

Finally, the Liberals are not alone in this recklessness. The Greens are utterly opposed to Alberta’s interests, economy and jobs. Elizabeth May’s trite talk of finding jobs for all those who are now actually employed, painlessly “transitioning” a hundred thousand to building windmills or some such fantasy, is insolent in its simplistic arrogance. Mr. Singh’s pledges on no pipelines puts him in the same place.

Scheer isn’t in this group, but neither is he anywhere near bold or clear enough on this issue. He treads far too cautiously in declaring what’s at stake. This is a kind of carefulness that is close to cowardice.

Scheer isn’t in this group, but neither is he anywhere near bold or clear enough on this issue.

To be “committed to the fight against climate change” is to be committed to efforts to shut down Canada’s primary industry. It is to be committed to a deep fracturing of the Confederation. It is anti-employment. However our various leaders slide around this point, and waste their time on so-called wedge-issues – abortion being a principal one, again – in this election, the unity of the country is at stake.

We can thank the great global warming crusade for bringing us to this point.

Rex Murphy has been one of Canada’s most familiar, trusted, and insightful political commentators since the 1970s. 

A former Rhodes Scholar, Murphy built a reputation as a quick-witted broadcaster and reporter in his native Newfoundland, and later throughout Canada on CBC’s The National and host of CBC Radio’s Cross Country Checkup. 

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