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COMMENTARY: If Trudeau is serious about allaying western frustration, there are steps he can take

COMMENTARY: If Trudeau is serious about allaying western frustration, there are steps he can take
Canada
Firstly, Trudeau needs to stop sounding like he’s ashamed of Canada’s oil and gas industry. It’s all well and good to talk about being leaders when it comes to climate change, but it’s not a conflict to also promote Canada as an energy superpower.

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Undoubtedly the Liberals would point to their approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion (TMX) and the LNG Canada project as proof of their support for this industry, and they do indeed deserve praise for that.

But think for a moment how the Liberals have framed the federal Conservative leader and various premiers as “not caring” about climate change or “not doing anything” about it. They all have, or have proposed, emissions-reduction policies. But when they seem so half-hearted about it, when they fail to articulate the need to tackle climate change, they lack credibility. They don’t really seem like they care all that much.

That’s precisely the Liberals’ problem here.

So it’s not just about steering TMX and LNG Canada through to completion — which is crucial, obviously — it’s also about demonstrating the same sort of urgency for these projects that Trudeau has shown himself capable of demonstrating on other issues. As a politician who values symbolism and the ability to show that certain issues matter deeply to him, he should understand better than anyone the sorts of messages he’s conveyed to Western Canada in recent years.

Economic stagnation is politically damaging on its own, but perceived indifference to those struggles is what contributes to much deeper feelings of resentment and alienation. Why, for example, was Trudeau so silent on Encana’s planned departure from Canada ? Isn’t he the one who vowed to “?” Folks in Western Canada wouldn’t mind some of that sort of attention.

That doesn’t have to mean ignoring the climate change issue or abandoning policies aimed at enhancing environmental protection. The Canadian Global Affairs Institute this past week released an important paper on how we can unleash Canada’s LNG potential and by factoring in the environmental impact of displacing coal in certain parts of Asia, such a strategy can fit in nicely to the government’s agenda.

Confederation hasn’t been a barrier to the west thriving in the past, but there’s a real danger if the perception starts to take hold that the economic prospects of the west are completely at the mercy of the east and that confederation is broken. In other words, don’t be a part of the problem.

There are probably all sorts of other conversations to be had with regard to strengthening confederation. Internal trade remains a problem, and there’s an argument to be made for reviewing whether western provinces are underrepresented in the House of Commons.

But there are meaningful ways in which the prime minister can alleviate some of the alienation and frustration in the west without having to dramatically alter course. He has to first decide it’s a priority, though.
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