Alberta Politics

Alberta NDP win the Fake Trade War on the Prairies

In one of his final acts as Premier of Saskatchewan, Brad Wall ended the brief and bizarre fake trade war his government launched against Alberta.

Deron Bilous Edmonton Alberta MLA Minister
Deron Bilous

The ban on vehicles with Alberta license plates on Saskatchewan road worksites was initially framed as a retaliation for similar actions by the Alberta government. But when no evidence could be found that this was actually happening in Alberta, the ban was soon framed as a retaliation for the Alberta Government’s support of the province’s booming craft beer industry.

Anyone who pays attention to Alberta politics will know the New Democratic Party has been enthusiastic supporters of the province’s craft beer industry. Out-of-province brewers claim changes that have helped distilleries in Alberta triple from 18 in 2014 to 54 in 2017 are unconstitutional. The government does not appear to have any intention of stepping back, and Finance Minister Joe Ceci, in particular, has spent a considerable amount of time showing his support for Alberta craft beer.

While Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous tried to make sense of the Saskatchewan government’s insistence on meeting in Medicine Hat rather than Lloydminster, at lot of Albertans couldn’t help but think we might be getting punk’d. Bilous was about to inform the New West Partnership trade secretariat of the dispute when the Saskatchewan Government blinked, or backed down.

The fake trade war was seen by some political watchers as a strategic failure or a distraction from scandals and unpopular decisions that plagued Wall’s Government in its final year. But it was also consistent with Wall’s ongoing adversarial relationship with Premier Rachel Notley, and the NDP in general.

Joe Ceci Calgary NDP
Joe Ceci

A decade ago, Wall was the fresh face for conservatism on the prairies after he led his party to unseat a 16-year old NDP government. But after ten years in office, Wall has assumed the role as the leading voice of grumpy conservatism in Western Canada.

Wall, who continues to enjoy incredible popularity in his province and among Conservative partisans in Alberta, raised the white flag days before he is set to retire as Premier.

While New Democrats in the Alberta Legislature will be pleased to see Wall ride into the political sunset, it remains unclear whether his successor will be open to a more cordial relationship with their provincial neighbours.

Alberta’s NDP should enjoy their quick victory in the fake trade war on the prairies, but they should not lose focus as the real political battle continues to brew to the west – and that fight is about oil pipelines, not licence plates or beer.

The Saskatchewan Party will choose its next leader on Jan. 27, 2018. Candidates include former cabinet ministers Tina Beaudry-Mellor, Ken Cheveldayoff, Scott Moe, Gordon Wyant and former senior public servant Alanna Koch.

2 replies on “Alberta NDP win the Fake Trade War on the Prairies”

I suppose a fake war is better than a real one. However, I would not underestimate the importance of this, as some in the media have, even though the outrage and other things were somewhat manufactured. It put the UCP and Kenney who had previously been cheerleaders for Wall and his government in an awkward position. I am sure he is glad Wall backed down, however I doubt Wall did it for his benefit. More likely it became too much of an embarrassment for Wall and his potential successors pleaded with him not to leave them this mess.

However, the bigger picture is an Alberta Government that has had some knocks in how it deals with other governments shown to be standing up for Alberta successfully. Also, with a new Premier in Saskatchewan soon, it might be a chance to end the bickering between the two provinces that Wall seemed at times to encourage and relish in. The Wall era is sort of over and it ended with a whimper not a bang.

Brad Wall waited one year too long to leave. He could have ridden off into the sunset after the last SK election, the much beloved savior of SK Tory politics for all time. Instead, his legacy is now that of an austerity hawking goon who taxed childrens clothing and destroyed the STC, all while trying to provide his corporate friends with a tax break. This fake trade war is the final bit of rank hypocrisy, putting the lie to the right’s rhetoric about how much they love free trade and open economic borders.

I’m glad he wasn’t astute enough to leave when he should have. It’s too bad this license plate issue got resolved outside of the AB Legislature being in session though, I would have loved to see an AB NDP MLA shout “Invite Wall! Invite Wall!” at Fildebrandt’s lonely desk in Independents Alley.

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