Its hardly a newsflash that Premier Rachel Notley does not think highly of President Donald Trump. Trump is a wealthy, bombastic capitalist who represents everything that the soft-socialist New Democratic Party of Alberta opposes. It would be shocking to hear that Notley admired Trump in any way as a matter of fact.
All that said, it was outright reckless for Premier Notley to use President Trump negatively as a prop in order to attack Jason Kenney in a CTV interview with Evan Solomon last weekend.
As the leader of Alberta, Notley holds a position of responsibility that should transcend her partisan ideology at times, particularly in matters of diplomacy with our major trading partners.
Whether Notley likes it or not, the United States is by far Alberta’s largest trading partner. In 2016, the USA accounted for 86% of Alberta’s exports as they purchased $68 billion in goods. In 2014, that number was well over $100 billion. As Alberta struggles towards a shaky economic recovery, it is nothing less than foolhardy for our Premier to antagonize the President of the nation that we are so deeply dependent on in order to export our products.
Notley’s carbon tax failed to garner Alberta the “social license” apparently required to get the Energy East project off the ground. The Northern Gateway pipeline is not going to happen and with Petronas and Aurora pulling out of coastal LNG projects, the prospect of exporting our natural gas off of the continent has all but vanished. Whether we like it or not, we dearly need to keep our best customer happy and a good first step would be to quit insulting their President.
The Keystone XL pipeline approval is the only positive development in Alberta’s ongoing battle to get product out of the province. Ironically, that is a pipeline that Notley has long opposed. Perhaps Notley’s petulance is based on the reality that President Trump has done more to aid Alberta’s beleaguered energy sector than she has managed to do in her two and a half years in office. Whether Notley finds Trump’s progress irksome or not, it is imprudent to provoke the President in light of it.
Diplomacy is an art form and as an export dependent province the diplomatic actions of our leadership are critical to our economic well being. Diplomacy is tough. It means biting your tongue even when another leader so dearly deserves critique. It means smiling and dealing with some of the most odious souls at times as the benefit of the state you represent is more important than your own personal dislikes. Notley is more than free to knock and critique Trump within her private social circles and I don’t doubt that she does so. When speaking publicly though, Notley is obliged to become a diplomat. Notley is not just speaking for herself in these circumstances. She is representing all of Alberta.
While Notley may never respect Donald Trump, it is incumbent upon her to respect his office as the President of the United States. There is way too much to lose in alienating the United States right now and while many Americans may not be fond of Trump, they take respect for their President very seriously.
Calgary still leads the nation in unemployment and still boasts a 30% downtown office vacancy rate. Alberta is slowly starting to recover economically but that recovery is very tenuous to say the least. The irresponsibility displayed by Notley in insulting Trump can’t be overstated. Trump is thin skinned and impetuous (I can say this as I don’t lead a province). That makes it even more important not to pointlessly provoke him. Whether Notley likes it or not, Trump leads the nation that buys 86% of Alberta’s goods and she had better keep it in mind the next time she considers insulting him. Alberta has too much to lose.