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Unity starts at the top


”In this election, Parliamentarians received a mandate from the people of Canada which ministers will carry out. It is a mandate to fight climate change, strengthen the middle class, walk the road of reconciliation, keep Canadians safe and healthy, and position Canada for success in an uncertain world.”
– Gov. Gen. Julie Payette

If Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thinks we’re all in this together, he clearly hasn’t taken to heart the sentiment of Western alienation springing up in Alberta
these days.

Canada’s leader waxed poetic in this year’s throne speech about the need for Canadians to come together as a community. But his speech demonstrated a lack of vision on how to get there and a lack of willingness to acknowledge the deep divisions currently existing between Alberta and Ottawa.

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette delivered the speech Thursday on behalf of the Trudeau government, expounding on the government’s apparently good economic record over the past four years. The news may have come as a surprise to Albertans who have lost their jobs, who have struggled to find work and who have seen their businesses go under. Canada as a whole may be doing alright economically, but Alberta isn’t.

What’s more, the worst for Alberta may not be over yet. As the province’s newly elected UCP government struggles to rekindle the ailing oil industry, recent months haven’t been kind to residents. Many of us are bracing ourselves for increased municipal taxes, increased insurance and power bills, higher education fees and lower paying jobs. Despite this throne speech’s flowery commitment to working together, a growing segment of Albertans feel increasingly abandoned.
It’s those people who are fuelling anti-Ottawa sentiment, and they ought to be taken seriously. While the mandate Trudeau believes he has received from Canada’s public includes many noble goals, none of them are achievable without a strong economy to drive us forward.

Of interest is the fact fighting climate change led the throne speech. That’s no surprise, and is no small goal. It also pits the federal government against Alberta’s provincial government, given how the bogeyman of Alberta’s oil industry has been the end-all and be-all for the conversation around climate change up until this point.

And yes, we’re exaggerating, but not by much. If climate change is the centrepiece of Trudeau’s government, without regard for the economies of Alberta and Saskatchewan (and the obvious hypocrisy we face from B.C. and eastern Canada), we are facing years of ongoing recession. Let’s be honest. Albertans care about the environment as much as the next guy does. We don’t want to see a changing climate go unchecked, either. But that battle cannot be waged on the backs of Alberta workers who’ve had their faces ground in the dirt for the past five years.

Alberta doesn’t need platitudes about unity or community – we need help. We need a federal government willing to take a hard look at the problems our province faces and find ways to help us through. Unity starts at the top. But it looks like we shouldn’t hold out hope for this government to tackle that challenge.