Alberta Politics

The rise and fall of (Pierre) Trudeaumania in Alberta

Trudeau's Tango Alberta Darryl Raymaker
Trudeau’s Tango

There is perhaps no greater myth in Alberta politics than that the National Energy Program, which all Albertans are told to believe brought untold devastation to the oil sector and salted the earth for the federal Liberals in this province for decades to come.

Looking beyond the myth, most Albertans might be surprised to learn that by the time the NEP was launched, it had already been twelve years since the (Pierre) Trudeau Liberals had last elected an MP in Alberta.

Long-time Calgary Liberal Darryl Raymaker does his share of myth-busting as he delves into a period of political optimism, generational changes and missed opportunities that swept through Alberta in the late 1960s and early 1970s in his new book, Trudeau’s Tango. Alberta Meets Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

An active member of the Liberal Party of Canada at the time, Raymaker’s book is rich with stories and anecdotes from the offices of party insiders and the trenches of the campaign trail during the Trudeaumania election of 1968. That election saw a federal Liberals breakthrough in Alberta, with four MPs elected, but a long-string of missteps and mistakes led to the party being shut out in the province four years later (and not electing another MP from Alberta until 1993).

Raymaker provides useful insight into the fraught relationship between the four Alberta Liberal MPs and their Ottawa masters, between Trudeau and Calgary’s nouveau rich oil industry, as well as the federal party’s reaction to the shifting ground that led Peter Lougheed‘s Progressive Conservatives to unseat the long-governing Social Credit Party in 1971.

One of the most fascinating stories Raymaker includes in his book is about the failed attempt to negotiate a political coalition between the federal Liberals and the provincial Social Credit Party. The political coalition was an attempt to solidify federal Liberal gains and keep Lougheed’s Tories at bay. The marriage negotiations failed, and as Raymaker argues, helped drive many traditional federal and provincial Liberals into Lougheed’s big-tent PC Party.

The institutional memory that Raymaker shares in this book is invaluable to anyone wanting to understand the politics of a period that had a significant impact on Alberta’s politics in the following decades.

While the context may be different, the book provides some parallels to today’s Alberta politics –  the electoral breakthrough by the (Justin) Trudeau Liberals in 2015, Trudeau’s friendly relationship with the government of NDP Premier Rachel Notley, and the ongoing political battles over oil pipelines and climate change.

Darryl Raymaker will be launching Trudeau’s Tango in Edmonton on Tuesday, at a free event open to the public at Audreys Books on Jasper Avenue. Edmonton-Centre Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault will be sharing a few words at the event and facilitating a discussion after Raymaker’s talk.

Edmonton Book Launch of Trudeau’s Tango
Audreys Books, 10702 Jasper Avenue
Tuesday, October 10, 2017
7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

2 replies on “The rise and fall of (Pierre) Trudeaumania in Alberta”

Its good to look at the past, as there are some similarities, but there are also some differences. I don’t think history always will necessarily repeat itself. One difference, is Justin’s outlook and approach. He has lived in the west and I think has a broader Canadian experience than his father did. He has often tried to be friendly and conciliatory to the west, perhaps remembering his father’s experience. Also, in the 1970’s it was easier to form a government with only Atlantic and Central Canadian support. Since then the west has grown a lot in population. It would be harder to govern now if shut out in the west.

While the old regional divides sometimes reassert themselves, sometimes suddenly and unexpectedly like on Energy East, I think a bigger divide now in Canada is between urban and rural. A lot of larger urban areas have moved on psychologically from being resource focused, while those jobs are still very important to smaller communities. Google or Amazon is not likely to locate an office in Swan Hills.

The Liberals would do well to remember the lessons of the past, but so too would Albertans. It is not good to put your eggs all in one basket and being mostly a one party state doesn’t work well when that party is out of power Federally for most of 15 years. We need to have strong voices at the Federal table that the Government will listen too and respect, someone like past Edmonton Liberal MP Anne McLellan. One step to something like the NEP happening was that there was no one respected or powerful enough there at the time to say, hey this isn’t such a good idea before the idea left the train station. Hopefully some of our current Liberal MP’s will become strong and respected enough, rather repeat what happened in the 1970’s when there were no elected Alberta voices at the Federal table for many years.

What Trudeau did with the NEP is what Norway did and they have over a trillion dollars in their fund while Alberta has a few billion. Didn’t he also have plans to build a pipeline to eastern Canada, which is hat Alberta always wanted.

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