By Nicole Walyshyn
Michael Ignatieff was once again out west this weekend, telling the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce all sorts of things he thought they wanted to hear: that they were prescient and progressive, having been the first CoC to admit women as members; that they were right to label Stephen Harper’s response to the economic crisis as “weak” and creating “a false sense of hope”; and that “Alberta has so much to offer — world-class universities, groundbreaking research, centres of excellence that attract talent from around the world, a true gateway to the North.”
Mr. Ignatieff sounded like a young suitor addressing his girlfriend’s father: “Gosh, Mr. Edmonton, I really respect your daughter and admire you for raising such a fine human being.” I can confidently suggest that the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce took him about as seriously as that young woman’s father would.
Mostly, he spoke about oil — about how important the oil sands are, and how all Alberta and he needed to do was find a way to harvest them that’s environmentally sound. But, as he did a few weeks ago in Regina, Mr. Ignatieff misses the point. He is so intent on proving that he’s not Pierre Trudeau that he hasn’t yet figured out Albertans aren’t all that worried about the oil sands. They know the world needs oil, and will need more of it tomorrow, and one way or another the oil sands are going continue to supply it. It doesn’t really have anything to do with whether Mr. Ignatieff says it’s okay or not.
Meanwhile, in BC, oil is something they put in their cars; BCers would rather hear what he intends to do about all the ex-timberworkers now twiddling their thumbs in various pubs around the province. But really, if Mr. Ignatieff wishes to connect with westerners, he is eventually going to have to address our real concerns: That the Senate should be either reformed or jettisoned; that Alberta and BC are seriously under-represented in parliament (Ontario is too, but we’ll leave that to them to take up); and that even when we manage to get one of our guys into the PM’s office, he’s subject to eviction at any moment by a coalition of Central Canadian politicos. None of which has anything to do with oil. It’s lovely of Mr. Ignatieff to drop by. But until he gets a bigger idea of us, it might be better if he just stayed home.