“This is what 5 years of out of touch leadership can do to the country,” said Erin O’Toole after visiting Calgary over the last week.
O’Toole wrapped up a few speaking engagements by participating in UCP AGM 2020 webcast Saturday, but it was clear in his messaging that he was not only speaking to party members but to all Albertans and Canadians.
He assessed the state of affairs in Alberta and Canada, citing economic destruction, disaffection, disillusionment, and separatist inclinations as critical challenges to be resolved by leaders who need to help get Alberta back in the driver seat on the road back to economic prosperity after the pandemic and after five years of lost leadership under the current Federal government.
He identified the road traveled in the last five years as a contrast between outcomes from unity to division due to political ideology.
According to O’Toole, “Five years ago, we had a Prime Minister from Calgary. The Bloc Quebecois – the separatist party from Québec – was down to just a couple of seats in parliament and was inconsequential. Five years ago, if you said the word Wexit, people would have looked at you funny. Today the Bloc Quebecois is back in force and is the third-largest party in the House of Commons. They have more seats than the NDP and there are more people signed up for the Wexit newsletter than there are members of the Liberal Party of Canada. Justin Trudeau in his safe Ottawa bubble keeps saying that everything is fine.
“This is what five years of out of touch leadership can do to a country – divide east versus west, sector versus sector, blue-collar families versus white-collar families, connected elites versus the average hardworking Canadian. We have a Prime Minister right now who prefers photo ops of himself over prosperity for Canadian families. Five years of ideological liberal leadership has caused over $160 billion of investment to leave Canada.”
He identified negative trends in Canadian leadership that are hampering recovery. He pointed out the party ideologies that professed to support working families are now co-opted by national activists that have become the voices against the energy sector, which O’Toole identified as the lifeblood of Alberta.
He is of the opinion they are the same activists pushing for change in agricultural policy and food guides to hurt the beef and other aspects of the agriculture sector in Alberta and across the country. He notes some parties have become more like a social justice movement – listening to voices on Twitter more than the voices of concern at the dinner tables around the country and ultimately do not effectively support workers anymore.
He encouraged Albertans to not give in to divisive frustration because it will only enable political parties that will exacerbate the economic situation for Canadian families and businesses. O’Toole identified the slogan “Build Back Better” employed in reference to a post-Covid recovery plan as code language to leave Canadian workers out of the economic recovery.
In answering a question about cancel culture and the failings of identity politics, O’Toole replied that identity politics achieves the opposite of its intentions. Instead of advancing minorities, it creates conflict and sets all Canadians back. He mentioned that Prime Minister Trudeau seems to be leading a small coalition of Canadians rather than representing the majority of Canadians interests.
As for cancel culture, O’Toole questioned the psychology of social media, asking why we react and fear the wrath of a Twitter mob and end up avoiding deeper conversations and free speech. O’Toole is also laser-focused on getting pipelines to tidewater saying, “I think it’s a national travesty what Mr. Trudeau has done with Bill C -69. His cancellation of Northern Gateway killed two pipeline options and then he had to buy and nationalize a third pipeline (TMX) because if Canada doesn’t get our resources to tidewater, we’re sacrificing billions of dollars for a finite resource we’ll never get that back.
“Just think what we could do coming out of Covid 19. Just think what we could do across our country for health and well-being if we were not sacrificing billions of dollars in the (WCS) discount for our energy every year. We’re looking to develop innovative policies for energy, pipelines, and the environment. I want to show Canadians that Canadian energy, Canadian softwood, and Canadian rare earth minerals are the top in the world from an environmental and social governance perspective. We are the only country in the world that has transparent regulations at all levels. We have the highest levels of Indigenous engagement projects like the Tech Frontier project which would have had the lowest carbon intensity for that type of project in North America. We care about environmental mitigation of water usage and other things so the free world should be buying Canadian resources.”
In terms of economic recovery, O’Toole pointed out that global trade will have to change post-Covid 19. He calls for a review of global trade approaches – standing up to China and other countries with poor human rights and environmental records and says,
“I am advocating for a rebalancing of global trade. No longer can the countries that follow the rules and have high standards on ESG allow the bad actors of the world to ignore them and exploit the benefits of global trade while exploiting the rules. Remember that all of our main competitors are bad actor countries like Venezuela, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. There are only two democracies that are major energy exporters that’s Canada and the United States. We should do more domestic energy independence work on a North American basis and then start looking at ways to either tariff or change the flow of resource trade around the world. Of the democratic countries that care about human rights, the environment, engaging responsibly with indigenous communities, and more – we are the leading country. Energy is going to be used for the next century and it should be our energy.”
O’Toole also had an interesting insight into public opinion in the province of Québec. He identified an urban or Montreal-specific perspective and a group of values that is antithetical to rural and suburban opinions and values, debunking the idea that Quebec voters form a single, monolithic block. He pointed out that the Saguenay region has connections to and intense interest in developing Canadian natural gas for LNG.
“There is a very Montreal-specific media definition of what Québec wants and then there’s wider Québec. That is why I talk a lot about the (Energie Saguenay LNG) natural gas project and its potential in the Saguenay region of Québec – supported in large numbers by that region. You know, the aluminum that built aircraft for Canada and the US in WWII was smelted and developed in the Saguenay region so there are large parts of Québec where there’s a language difference, but they get out of their truck and they go to work and work hard. There are more connections between Alberta and Québec than people might think. Like every province, there tends to be a slightly different voting pattern in the urban centers as there is in suburban and rural areas, so we are reaching out.”
Erin O’Toole certainly seems to be the opposite of the type of leadership we are currently seeing in Ottawa. He was definitely in touch with Albertan’s sensibilities and is informed regarding the concerns of differing Canadian regions. He is a welcome voice campaigning for Canada’s energy resources in Ottawa.
Maureen McCall is an energy professional who writes on issues affecting the energy industry.