Liberal minority could be an opportunity for Alberta, if played right

A Trudeau-led Liberal party won government, but Alberta didn’t send a single Liberal MP to Ottawa. The year? 1972. Or 1974. Or 1980. Or 2019. Take your pick.

Former Alberta premier Alison Redford said her reaction to the “stark regionalism” represented in Monday’s election results was a bit of déjà vu.

But, she said the position this leaves the re-elected Justin Trudeau in is one of opportunity — to address Alberta’s concerns and work to heal those regional divides.

“A minority government is an opportunity for government to do things differently,” she told CBC News. “There is an opportunity to do things on a completely non-regional and non-partisan basis.

“I actually think the number of young people that voted sent a message that that’s what they want us to do.”

How Trudeau can accomplish that is another question.

In 1980, then prime minister Pierre Trudeau attempted to tackle the problem by appointing western senators to cabinet.

That option isn’t really there for his son, who has implemented reforms to make the senate non-partisan, according to Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt.

“He’s in a really difficult spot,” said Bratt.

Bratt suggested that one move would be to give opposition MPs the chance to play a bigger role in parliamentary committees. 

“You’re not going to see Liberal majorities on every committee. That’s an opportunity for voice,” he said. 

Redford said another approach could be to ensure issues like climate change, First Nations reconciliation, or even pipelines are no longer treated as partisan problems, instead creating citizen forums by reaching out to groups like industry, workers and students.

“It really is about trying to come together in a different way to solve these problems,” she said. “People may not get everything they want, but it is an opportunity to have a different conversation.”

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau addresses Calgary supporters during a rally in the city late Saturday night. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said wherever the prime minister goes from here, his biggest role will be to listen.

“It’s really important that those Alberta voices get heard in the centre,” he said.

The province’s biggest voice could be a complicating factor.

Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party urged supporters to protest Trudeau when he made a last-minute campaign stop in Calgary, days before the election. 

On Tuesday, the premier wrote a five-page letter to Trudeau outlining ways he can support the province with “more than words.”

Nenshi said “there are always opportunities to build bridges,” but he’s not sure how that will play out.

“Maybe there’ll be a grand alliance between Premier [Jason] Kenney and the prime minister to get stuff done. But in these political times, I’m not sure that that will happen.”