BY ALAN HOLMAN
It was one of those damned if they do, damned if don’t moves. But,
the Trudeau government’s decision to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline could be politically damaging for the Liberals.
There is serious opposition to the expansion of the pipeline from environmentalists and First Nations in British Columbia. Eighteen of B.C.’s 42 MPs are Liberals and it’s doubtful many of them see any great political payoff from the government’s decision.
Even in Alberta, where the decision is a demonstration of support for the oil industry, it’s doubtful that will translate into any extra seats. Ever since Trudeau-The-Elder’s National Energy Program, the Liberals have been out of favour in Alberta. They only hold three of Alberta’s 34 seats.
At the other end of the country the decision was met with disbelief and incredulity.
“The feds are saying Trans Mountain is in the national interest, it’s about job creation and the economy,” Saint John Mayor Don Darling told the Telegraph-Journal. “These are the exact same arguments we made for Energy East, yet we couldn’t get any traction.”
Saint John is home to the largest refinery on the east coast of North America and it would likely have been expanded had Energy East gone ahead. The project died, mainly because of opposition in the province of Quebec.
All 25 Maritime seats are held by the Liberals, including 10 from New Brunswick. Justin Trudeau, and those around him, shouldn’t take these seats for granted.
The bloom’s coming off Mr. Trudeau’s rose, he’s no longer the pop-star he once was. The glitz and glamour are fading, it seems he’s just another politician. He needs to be reminded that much of his political success stemmed from people voting against Stephen Harper more than they were voting for Justin Trudeau.
If the Liberals think they can convince Canadians that the Trans Mountain deal is good for them, they might want to consider how they are going to do this. They don’t have any credible sales people in the cabinet.
Mr. Trudeau may have many talents, but delivering a political speech isn’t one of them. He looks and sounds like an actor playing the role of a politician. There’s an un-authenticity to his delivery. In contrast, Jean Chretien, who mangled the language, always sounded real.
Governments begin their demise the day they are sworn into office. In making decisions it’s impossible to please everyone and gradually the displeased become too numerous. If not handled properly, decisions like Trans Mountain or the issuing of an additional licence for the snow clam fishery can become flash points and expand beyond those directly affected.
The Liberals won’t hold all 32 Atlantic seats after the next election. Some of those seats are Tory ridings that would be difficult to hold under the best of circumstances. Ridings like Fundy-Royal and Saint John-Rothesay in New Brunswick; Cumberland-Colchester and Central Nova in Nova Scotia.
And there are the ridings where people may be stepping down after a long service as an MP. In Nova Scotia, Roger Cuzner has been elected five times in Cape Breton-Canso, if he doesn’t run again that could be an open seat.
Similarly, on Prince Edward Island; Lawrence MacAulay, first elected in 1988, has been elected nine times and Wayne Easter has been elected eight times. If either, or both, decide to retire, their ridings would be up for grabs.
Having been an MP for nearly 30 years, Cardigan is more Mr. MacAulay’s riding, than a Liberal riding. Much the same can be said of Wayne Easter’s hold on Malpeque. In 2019 neither riding can be automatically counted as Liberal if they aren’t running.
Though not dynamic as Mr. Trudeau, Andrew Scheer, the Conservative leader, has been steadily gaining in the polls. The Liberals have been trying to paint him as Stephen Harper with a smile. But, without Mr. Harper to campaign against, Mr. Trudeau will be hard pressed to get another majority.
- Alan Holman is a freelance journalist living in Charlottetown. He can be reached at: email@example.com