CanadaJustin Trudeau Isn’t on the Ballot, but He’s the Talk of a Province’s Vote
Trudeau broke law by kicking former ministers out of caucus, Philpott says
OTTAWA — Former cabinet minister Jane Philpott says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau violated the law when he expelled her and Jody Wilson-Raybould from the Liberal caucus. In the House of Commons, Philpott says the Parliament of Canada Act says MPs can't be kicked out of their party groups without a vote and Trudeau ejected them on his own. She's asking Speaker Geoff Regan to declare that their privileges were violated. A set of amendments in 2015 was meant to make it more difficult to remove MPs from their caucuses, to shift power away from party leaders and toward rank-and-file legislators.
CALGARY, Alberta — Jason Kenney may have quit national politics to lead the Conservatives in his native Alberta, but that hasn’t stopped him from consistently bringing up an old nemesis from his days in Parliament as he campaigns in the oil-rich province.
After roaring up to a group of oil storage tanks in Valleyview, Alberta, in his Ram 1500 pickup truck on Saturday, Mr. Kenney told a crowd that the oil industry’s prolonged slump was the fault of “a leader who says he wants to phase out the oil sands.”
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“You know who that leader is — Justin Trudeau,” Mr. Kenney said. His supporters jeered at the prime minster’s name.
Alberta is holding its provincial election on Tuesday, and for the past month Mr. Kenney, the leader of the United Conservative Party, has tried to turn the vote into a referendum on Prime Minister Trudeau’s carbon tax. He has slammed Mr. Trudeau for not reversing an oil industry slump that has cost the province thousands of jobs over the last four years.
Mr. Trudeau’s name, as it happens, is not actually on the ballot.
Mr. Kenney is campaigning against another center-left politician who, like Mr. Trudeau, surprised Canadians with a come-from-behind victory in 2015. That spring, Rachel Notley, the leader of Alberta’s New Democrats — the furthest left of mainstream parties in Canada — ended a 44-year Conservative dynasty in a province whose politics are usually, if not entirely accurately, compared to those of Texas.
Decision day in Alberta: Voters head to polls in provincial election
EDMONTON — Voters are heading to the polls in the Alberta election today and advance turnouts suggest it could be busy at the ballot boxes. Almost 700,000 people voted early in malls, airports, recreation centres, public buildings and an Ikea store. That was well ahead of the 235,000 who came out early in the 2015 election that saw Rachel Notley's NDP deliver a surprise to the 44-year run of the Progressive Conservatives. This time around, the
Still, Mr. Trudeau may have good reason to watch the Alberta vote closely.
For the prime minister, who has been caught up in political turmoil over allegations that he improperly intervened in a criminal corruption case, Ms. Notley’s fate may provide a glimpse of what awaits him in the national vote expected in October.
If she can secure a second term in Canada’s traditional Conservative stronghold, it may be read as an endorsement of Mr. Trudeau’s approach to climate change, an issue that will again be central to his campaign platform.
But if Mr. Kenney brings the Conservatives back to their traditional place of power in Alberta, five of Canada’s 10 provinces will be led by premiers determined to end the national carbon pricing plan. They have already allied against the prime minister’s re-election effort.
Elections Alberta says a whopping 140,000 Albertans cast a ballot on Day 1 of advance polling
Many political pundits have said the 2019 Alberta election will be a battle the likes of which the province hasn't seen in ages and if numbers from the first day of advance polling are any indication, voter engagement is heightened as well. On Tuesday night, Elections Alberta posted the figures, showing a staggering 140,000 (approximate number) Albertans turned out to cast ballots on the first day they were able to. For context, on the first day of advance polling in 2015, about 58,000 Albertans voted.
“The Trudeau name has never been super-popular in parts of Alberta,” said Melanee Thomas, a professor of political science at the University of Calgary. “But to say that no Albertans support the Liberals or don’t react negatively to Trudeau would be incorrect.”
While much of Canada has prospered over the last five years, Alberta has gone through a dramatic reversal of fortune.
Before oil prices tumbled, rapid expansion of its oil sands industry had made labor shortages the order of the day, and workers with little or no training poured into the province for high-paying, if tough and unglamorous, work. Fort McMurray, the oil sands city, became known as “Fort McMoney.”
Today the province finds itself in its biggest slump since an industry collapse in the 1980s.
It is an unusual kind of a crash. Although oil industry groups estimate that over 100,000 oil industry jobs have vanished, Alberta remains the province with Canada’s highest after-tax income, and retail sales remain strong.
Yet the view from the downtown Calgary offices of CBRE, the multinational commercial real estate company, reveals one unmistakable effect of the downturn. Nearby is a 56-story office tower that opened last year. Only five floors of the building are occupied.
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Unofficial results of Tuesday's provincial election were released Friday afternoon and show the United Conservative Party with 63 seats and Alberta's NDP with 24 seats. While most of Alberta's 87 ridings were declared on Tuesday night, some of them remained too close to call until all of the out-of-district advance poll results were reported. READ MORE: Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party wins majority government The 2019 Alberta election was the first time the province used a "vote-anywhere" system during the advance polls.
Greg Kwong, the company’s regional managing director for Alberta, said there was about 11 million square feet of empty office space in the city’s core. In a grim coincidence, that figure is roughly the total amount of office space that existed in downtown Calgary during the 1980s slump.
“The vacancy in the office space is a symptom of the disease, and the disease is unemployment,” Mr. Kwong said. “We understand that we have an oil-based economy and that oil is a commodity. But please let the rise and fall of the price of oil be dictated by market forces, not political forces.”
Some of what makes Mr. Trudeau a handy political foil for Mr. Kenney has nothing to do with the prime minister. When his father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, was prime minister, he introduced sweeping changes to Canada’s energy policies that still provoke strong reactions even from Albertans who were children at the time, or not even born.
The lingering grievances over the long-dismantled energy program provide a receptive audience for Mr. Kenney’s claims that the rest of Canada ignores Alberta’s wishes while benefiting from the wealth created by its energy industry.
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Jason Kenney has publicly attacked Trudeau's Liberals numerous times over issues such as pipelines and the federally imposed carbon tax. He has even vowed to a legal challenge against the tax if elected.
Mr. Kenney’s oft-repeated claim that the younger Mr. Trudeau is out to shut down the oil sands, however, is inaccurate. The prime minister says that to pay for an eventual zero-carbon-emission future, Canada’s economy needs a strong oil industry.
Indeed, when an American company gave up on plans to expand a pipeline that carries oil from the oil sands to a port near Vancouver and the northwestern United States, Mr. Trudeau stepped in. The government bought the line and committed to finish the project.
But Mr. Trudeau gets little or no credit for the 4.5-billion-Canadian-dollar purchase, which was widely seen as a response to Ms. Notley’s agreeing to carbon pricing in Alberta — something Mr. Kenney promises to immediately cancel if he takes power.
Brendan McDonald, a 26-year-old logger, declined to say whom he had cast his advance ballot for on Friday evening at the Elks Hall in the town of Sundre, a longtime rural Conservative stronghold. But it was clearly not for the local New Democrat.
“Well, the oil field is the huge thing so far,” he said. “This province is quite dependent on oil fields for the economy, and they’re just not taking that into very much consideration.”
While polls suggest that Mr. Kenney is likely to emerge as premier on Tuesday, they also show that voters prefer Ms. Notley over him as leader. A social Conservative, Mr. Kenney has alienated some Conservative voters with a platform that includes measures like informing parents when high school students join gay-straight alliances.
Naresh Bhardwaj, a former Conservative lawmaker from Edmonton, said that because of those policies, many Conservatives would “hold their nose” as they vote for the party.
Unlike the national Conservative leader, Andrew Scheer, Mr. Trudeau has carefully stayed out of Alberta’s vote. But his government has made clear that if Mr. Kenney takes power and cancels provincial carbon pricing, the national government will immediately impose its own tax system.
Over the weekend, Mr. Kenney expanded his range of targets, promising to establish a “war room to respond in real time to the lies and myths told about Alberta’s energy industry,” to ban foreign funding for environmentalists and to hold hearings into the charitable status of environmental organizations.
In a Calgary theater where the Samuel Beckett play “Waiting for Godot” was being staged, Ms. Notley speculated on Friday about why Mr. Kenney seems to have focused almost as much on Mr. Trudeau’s record as on that of her government.
“I sometimes wonder if Mr. Kenney is actually interested in standing up for Albertans, or whether he’s interested in getting back into the ring in Ottawa for its own political purposes,” she said.
Follow Ian Austen on Twitter: @ianrausten
Justin Trudeau now faces conservative provincial governments from the Rockies to the Maritimes.
Justin Trudeau's carbon tax could face a stronger challenge from the provinces with Jason Kenney in charge of Alberta.
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