Politics of Canada
2 min

Dredging up ghosts of the past

While Parliament is on break week, it doesn’t mean that everyone is back in their ridings, helping constituents with passport applications and immigration complaints. Some of them are out travelling the country.

NDP leader Jack Layton was in Halifax and then Fredericton today, “checking in” with leaders around the country, like mayors and community people, and so on. Apparently he decided that since he wasn’t going to be able to hang around Ottawa in order to try and get a little love from his man-crush of Barack Obama, that he was better off trying to get a sense of how the people are doing during the economic slowdown. Which is great – except that Ignatieff did a similar tour a month ago, so Layton does come across as a little too late.

Speaking of Ignatieff, he was out west this past weekend, offering mea culpas for the Liberal party’s past sins. In Regina, he acknowledged that the party had made mistakes with the relationship in the past.

“The dumbest thing you can do is run against Western Canada. The dumbest thing you can do is run against the energy sectors in Western Canada,” he said.

Which is all well and good, but I don’t expect that it’ll actually have much of an effect. Speaking as a former Albertan, I don’t see that this acknowledgement will mean that Albertans will suddenly have a change of heart and give up their pathological hatred of anything with the name “Liberal” attached to it. I also object to the fact that it also ignores some of the history and the economic realities of the era, when spiking fuel prices mean there a series of energy crises during the seventies, and it was designed to promote investment in Canada. Granted, the National Energy Program didn’t do it all very well, but it certainly wasn’t simply Trudeau rubbing his hands and ordering Alberta to be bent across a barrel – but that’s the way they tell it. (No seriously – I've heard this before from people).

It also doesn’t acknowledge that the dominant thought in the province also has developed a particular Quebecophobia as part of their blaming the NEP for all of their woes. Albertans yell and swear about how “entitled” Quebec is in their view – and yet, they fail to recognise the very same sense of entitlement when they look in the mirror. (And trust me – it’s there in spades). Indeed, back in December when talk of a coalition was all over the air, the sentiment you heard out of Alberta was this wailing and gnashing of teeth that Quebec would once again be calling the shots – as though all the ways that Harper has been trying to appease Quebec voters right up until the last election were somehow an exception to their usual objections.

Now, I don’t exactly have any particular advice on how better Ignatieff could reach out to the west – especially in an era where they’re dredging up the ghost of the NEP every time people talk about the need to actually be environmentally conscious with the energy industry. I mean, this was probably a better tactic than simply telling them that the NEP was almost thirty years ago and that they need to get over it already because they’re starting to embarrass themselves. Then again, it’s hard to kill off a myth that a people have built up for themselves, no matter how skewed it really is from reality.