Notley decision to skip Western premier’s meeting is correct call. Will it matter?

Poll shows Canadians in all provinces not happy with Prime Minister Trudeau’s inept handling of pipeline dispute

Another day, another public opinion poll about the Trans Mountain Expansion constitutional showdown. Meanwhile, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley refuses to attend the Western Premier’s Conference, hoping to put pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is back in the office after a vacation in Vermont and hopefully rested and ready to finally deliver on his promise to push the pipeline project over the finish line. According to polling data, Canadians aren’t optimistic he’s up to the job.

Notley had some harsh words for BC Premier John Horgan, her fellow New Democrat and an old colleague from the Glen Clark government days of the 1990s.

“It would be surreal and exceptionally tone deaf for anyone to think we could politely discuss pharmacare and cannabis when one of the players is hard at work trying to choke the economic lifeblood of the province and the country,” she tweeted on the holiday Monday.

She also tweeted that with 10 days remaining before Kinder Morgan’s May 31 deadline for a resolution to the inter-governmental conflict that has dogged the project since Horgan became premier last summer, “my only priority is to make sure the pipeline gets built.”

No word from Official Opposition Leader Jason Kenney about what he thinks of Notley’s decision, but Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel wasn’t shy expressing his displeasure on social media: “By skipping Western Premiers’ Conference, the Premier will miss a key chance to rally allies and advance Albertans’ interests. And BC will have the floor to itself. A disappointing development.”

Mandel has a point, I suppose, but the premiers of Saskatchewan and Manitoba aren’t even bit players in this political and constitutional drama, and there is no chance of budging Horgan from his entrenched position.

No, the message Notley is sending goes straight to Trudeau’s office on Parliament Hill.

The Prime Minister promised legislation, there are only three days left in the current sitting of the House of Commons, and he hasn’t delivered. Even if the Liberals tabled a bill today, there is no chance it would be passed in time.

Every day that passes makes Trudeau look more and more incompetent.

This is his file. Up until he decided to indemnify Kinder Morgan for losses caused by Horgan’s obstreperousness and Finance Minister Bill Morneau appeared on the scene, he has been the Canadian government’s main spokesperson on this issue.

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr, who used to have a fairly high public profile on pipeline issues and is responsible for stickhandling Bill C69, the federal reworking of the National Energy Board and the environment impact assessment for infrastructure like pipelines, has been AWOL for months.

Canadians have noticed.

An Innovative Research Group poll released on the weekend shows that Trudeau and the Liberals are alienating both sides of the issue.

On 22 per cent approve of the way in which Trudeau has managed the issue, while 36 per cent are opposed (25% neither support nor approve and 15% don’t know).

Only 38 per cent of federal Liberal voters approve of their leader’s handling of this file. Approval from supporters of other parties ranges from Green at 18 per cent to Conservatives at 24 per cent.

Trans Mountain Expansion opponents in British Columbia – including coastal First Nations, who believe their refusal to grant consent should be considered a veto – are mad at the Prime Minister because he continues to say the pipeline will be built.

Alberta is mad at him because his promised new legislation is nowhere to be seen. In fact, he’s even failed to hint at when he might deliver, if at all.

According to Innovative Research, pretty much anyone who is paying close attention to the issue is mad at him.

Probably including Rachel Notley, even though she will never say so publicly.

At her Tuesday press conference, she took square aim at Horgan: “The fact of the matter is this: one participant at the western premier table is working hard to take about $15 billion a year out of the Canadian economy.”

When it comes to inter-provincial relations, it’s not business as usual, she told reporters.

“My time is better spent here working with the federal government, working with Kinder Morgan, and making sure we get across the finish line before the May 31 deadline,” she said.

In response to a reporter’s question about why she couldn’t attend the premier’s meeting and simply work the pipeline issue by phone, she hinted that a Trans Mountain Expansion deal is imminent.

“Quite honestly right now, we’re very close to some very important decisions that have to be made. Very complex decisions with a lot of different moving parts and so, I need to be here,” she said.

According to public opinion polls, Notley appears to be doing a fine job winning the PR battle with Horgan, but unless the Canadian government gets the deal done soon and prevents Kinder Morgan from walking away from the project, she may lose the war over Trans Mountain Expansion.

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