Could Alison Redford be the next Trudeau minister from Alberta?

Justin Trudeau has a problem on his hands. The Liberal caucus that formed a majority government in 2015 for Trudeau has been reduced to a minority. The new distribution of seats has exposed troublesome regional divisions in Canada. The separatist Bloc is back in Quebec, while Alberta and Saskatchewan formed its own block of Conservative seats, save one lone NDP MP.

The prime minister faces the prospect of forming cabinet without regional representation in either Western province. With such regional divides and alienation rising, this is an issue that Trudeau cannot ignore.

There are a few options that have been bandied about in the establishment press about how Trudeau can begin to address the resentment felt by these two Western provinces. Some have been tone-deaf, and most have been poor ideas. From opposition MPs, Senators, or even former Premiers, what will Trudeau do?

Floor crossing or outsourcing?

In the end, Mr. Trudeau will need lone Alberta NDP MP Heather McPherson to cross the floor, or he will need to appoint an unelected Canadian into his cabinet. The federal NDP agenda is antogonistic to Western Canadians who voted for the development of energy projects and thus would be a non-starter. Prime ministers have appointed unelected Canadians to serve in ministries before. Stephane Dion and Pierre Pettigrew were initially unelected members of cabinet in Paul Martin’s government.

Ralph Goodale’s name has been offered up. The stalwart Liberal who was a sure-thing for Liberal cabinet makers finally went down in defeat on October 21st. His appointment to cabinet would ignore the outright rejection of a Trudeau mandate on the prairies. Goodale’s appointment wouldn’t be a surprise, however his presence would do little to stem the tide of resentment in this part of Canada.

Surely, not the non-partisan Senate!

Trudeau will also find it difficult to appoint a Senator to his cabinet. Though Stephen Harper appointed Senator Michael Fortier to the 28th ministry in order to reflect Montreal representation in his government, Trudeau has made a large show of the ‘non-partisan’ nature of the Senate. An appointment from the Upper Chamber to the government would shred the rest of his credibility on this file.

That brings us to an uncoventional appointment which would satisfy regional representation and complicate matters advantageously for Trudeau.

Red, Redder, Redford

Allison Redford is the former Premier of Alberta. She is seen by the central Canadian establishment as a ‘Tolerable Tory’ and the kind of ‘Conservative’ that Albertans should be sending to Ottawa. Of course, Albertans disagree. Redford’s popularity in that province plumetted to 18% after a series of entitlement and travel scandals, before she faced a caucus revolt and was forced to resign.

However, to those that matter to Trudeau, the prime minister would sell such an appointment as ‘reaching across the aisle’ and to bridge the divide between Ottawa and the West.

Redford would jump at the chance

For Redford’s part, she would say yes to such an appointment. Having felt unceremoniously spurned by a province that rejected her, Redford has been re-emerging in media and has been spotted testing the waters on re-establishing the esteemed reputation of an ’eminent Canadian’ among the Laurentian consensus.

Alison Redford during governing times

Redford has indicated that she is willing to help the Trudeau government in an advisory capacity. Redford told CTV News, “I am happy to help in any way. This is something Canadians have been thinking about for a long time and I think the key is that there has to be a lot of voices at the table.” She added, “If there’s something I can do, I’m happy to help.”

Kenney conundrum

Redford’s appointment would be a fly in the ointment to the current Premier, Jason Kenney. Though 95% of PC and Wildrose members voted for merger that Kenney orchestrated, many saw the outcome as a Wildrose takeover by the PC party.

Kenney is wildly popular in the province, especially as the province wars against another Trudeau. As a former PC Premier, Redford could be a complicating factor for Kenney. This would be especially true if Redford were appointed to the post of Minister of Natural Resources.

Despite her reputational damage, the gravitas of a former Premier in Trudeau’s cabinet would put up an Albertan dissenter and appellative equal versus Mr. Kenney.

The 44th General election

Let’s not forget that with this minority Parliament, we could be back into an election soon. The longer that western alienation is left to fester, the more the ballot question will become about who is best suited to address regional anger and unite the country.

Liberals have had poor showings in Alberta for so long that we can easily say that they are traditionally unpopular in that province. A party cannot credibly govern a country if it has a deep-rooted antagonistic relationship with a significant portion of it.

For the Liberal Party of Canada, either the future looks like more of the same with an aloof attitude toward the West, or that party’s unsustainable track is addressed and they finally produce a plan for allowing Alberta to play to its economic strengths.

Would Alison Redford be the awkward beginning of such outreach to the West? We remain highly skeptical of her benefit to Alberta and to Canadian unity, but it certainly would do more for Trudeau’s cabinet recalculation than adding with zeroes.

Big news day

First, SUN NEWS is coming to Canada and is launching January 1st, 2011. Expect the CRTC to approve the channel to maintain its relevance (cabinet would likely overturn the CRTC if it objects). Though at the presser today it was suggested that Category 2 application will proceed if Category 1 fails.

Here’s a video of the press conference courtesy of Dr. Roy:

Detainee Docs
Next, the NDP has withdrawn from negotiations with the four parties on the release of the so-called Afghan detainee documents. The NDP says that the Liberals aren’t negotiating in good faith. The Liberals call the deal (sans NDP) a “surrender” for the government allowing Parliamentary review without government veto over sensitive information.

CBC News has the tape (and uploads to twitvid — fitting for covering politics?)

MP audits
More Parliamentary news has Sheila Fraser conducting a future global audit of MP expenses meaning that she will report on how MPs in general spend but will not delve into individual MP expenses. I heard of a poll suggesting that 98% of Canadians want the AG to look into MP expenses whereas 2% are opposed. Who knew that 1 out of 50 Canadians have contracts with the House of Commons?

Trudeau steps in it
Trudeau the Younger “wows ’em” at a local community college stop in the Ottawa region and gets himself into a bit of hot water. He told the students,

“A productive member of society is someone who creates … is someone who has things to offer that go beyond the products that we have to sell or buy.”

This was news to, well, those that produce.

Ignatieff not election ready
In more Liberal news, Michael Ignatieff is trying to keep to his goal of making it into the obscurity of summer while dodging rebukes from his own caucus. Take, for instance that three Liberal candidates have resigned in the past month. Never a good omen for a leader of a political party.

Prince Edward Hastings
Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale
Kootenay-Columbia

The candidate for Kootenay-Columbia dropped citing his displeasure in Ignatieff for whipping the gun-registry vote. If the gun registry survives, Ignatieff plans on registering the nation’s daggers (or at least those within his own party)

Liberal reboot

Yesterday, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff announced that his party will no longer support the Conservative government in the House of Commons, thereby ramping up speculation of what would seem to be an imminent election.

But for Mr. Ignatieff, an election is his least-preferred outcome and I’d argue that the latest rhetoric isn’t indicative of a future powerplay for the Liberal leader, but rather of move to reset the Liberal message.

Michael Ignatieff hasn’t had a particularly eventful summer. In fact, the highly respected Chantal Hebert has noted that the Liberal leader was this summer season’s political loser as the man found it difficult to connect with average everyday Canadians on the hamburger circuit — despite liberal helpings of Grey Poupon.

After backing down terribly from his ultimatum without conditions in the spring on the immediate changes to employment insurance, Mr. Ignatieff declared victory when a study group was unveiled to look into the issue. But as anyone who has observed Ottawa political cynically knows, a commitment to study, is rather a move to defer and to delay. The highly partisan panel included known agitators Pierre Poilievre and Marlene Jennings, and these MPs rounded out by Minister Diane Finley and Liberal MP Michael Savage seemed more like headliners for a summer cage-match to entertain reporters looking for a story rather than a sincere effort by either party to move in any direction on EI. In a move which must have been highly disappointing for Liberal supporters, within the last week Ignatieff telegraphed his move away from his EI casus belli via Ralph Goodale.

Yesterday’s move seeks to remove the onus from the Liberals to “make Parliament work” — as the saying goes. Instead, that onus now rests upon the shoulders of the NDP and Michael Ignatieff surely expects that they will find a way to support the government. Indeed, much of the experience of being an opposition leader in a minority parliament is figuring out who is left holding the bag.

Michael Ignatieff — despite his academic credentials and reputation as a deep thinker — has underwhelmed on the policy front since he became leader of his party a few short months ago. Canadians — short of those in the Lesser Evil book club — aren’t familiar with the man and what he stands for and have only had the benefit of introduction courtesy of the Conservative Party’s Just Visiting ad spots. In politics, it is easy to differentiate oneself… by differentiating. And for Mr. Ignatieff, that will mean by opposing this government he is not likely seeking election, but rather something to put into the window for one in the future.

Today, the NDP indicated that yes, they are willing to “make Parliament work” and they submitted their list of demands.  Predictably, the Conservatives responded with a firm “no” to a wholly incompatible agenda and threw the NDP lot back with that of the Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois.

Were Ignatieff’s musings yesterday a gamechanger? Of course, that’s unclear at this point.  Pollster Nik Nanos stated that there are too many “moving parts” at this point to avoid an election.  But, if there is any lesson to be learned from Canadian politics in politics, there is no orthodoxy and a week — let alone a month — is a long time in politics.

If the Liberal objective is to reset their message, we await for the coming weeks with interest to see what the modern Liberal Party of Canada is all about.

No eventuality can be solely manipulated by Michael Ignatieff however, and the Conservatives will take this opportunity to craft their message as well.  As Michael Ignatieff is now perceived to be the instigator of a future election, the Conservatives have and will continue to cite Ignatieff’s arrogance (it’s all about him).  Further, if we do go to an election this fall it will be because all three opposition parties voted to defeat the government.  This will only serve to underline the Conservative message that minority parliaments are the cause of political instability and that a majority government is the only solution.  Conservatives will then ask Canadians to consider two options: a majority Conservative government versus a coalition of socialists, separatists and Ignatieffs.