There is an art to diplomacy, and the way tact can be used to mediate two sides in a dispute between countries — and it is no coincidence that a former minister of international trade is now being deployed to talk to the “alienated West”, particularly the premiers of Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Among the definitions of diplomacy, other than in an international sense, is that it is the art of dealing with people in a sensitive and effective way, or as the Merriam Webster dictionary states, “the skill of handling affairs without arousing hostility”.
On Monday and Tuesday, deputy prime minister and Intergovernmental Affairs minister Chrystia Freeland had meetings in Alberta and Saskatchewan respectively, first meeting the mayor of Edmonton and Premier Jason Kenney, and then in Regina, meeting Mayor Michael Fougere of Regina and Premier Scott Moe.
The task is a major one for Freeland and for the Trudeau government, as she seeks to deal with the very real sense of alienation that the two provinces have, demonstrated by the federal election results where no Liberal MP was elected, not even the formerly untouchable veteran Ralph Goodale.
The open hostility of the Trudeau government to the oil and gas sector has helped to severely impact that industry in both Alberta and Saskatchewan, the top two producers of oil and gas in Canada, and the sense of alienation was not helped by the CN Rail strike. The strike did reach an end on Tuesday with operations back underway today, Nov. 27, but not before much economic harm was done to farmers and businesses across Canada, including here in the West.
Clearly Freeland cannot change things on her own, as she is only a single representative of the Trudeau government, but what she can do is listen to the very real concerns and wishes of the Western provinces and take it back to Ottawa, and ensure those messages are getting through to the government.
Trudeau is not in a position of strength in Parliament with a minority government, as this means there is a need to work with others. Some of those who are capable of ensuring the government does not fall are the same parties who also openly oppose the oil and gas industry and have no interest in helping the Western economy recover. In particular, the Quebec-centred Bloc Quebecois does not care about anybody outside of their borders. The government faces an uphill battle, but they need to show they care about all Canadians, not just easterners.