Trudeau forgets Alberta; Alberta flips out

Canada is a special place; but Alberta is a little prickly.

The Soapbox family celebrated Canada Day at Olympic Plaza trying to dislodge a Big Red Ball wedged between some girders, admiring children’s art work (our favourite was a mask made by a second grader who said it represented her love of dogs and money), and clapping wildly when a street performer performed the Walk of Death (twirling machetes, a volunteer from the audience, safety glasses, very exciting).

It wasn’t until we returned home that we learned the Prime Minister forgot to mention Alberta in his Canada Day speech.  He quickly apologized but his “Sorry Alberta, I love you.” wasn’t good enough for the Wildrose party.

Brian Jean tweeted “Our country is stronger because of Alberta, and unlike our Prime Minister, I won’t ever forget that.”

Derek Fildebrandt tweeted a map of Trudeau’s Canada.  Alberta is labelled “Not Canada”, Saskatchewan is “Sort of Canada” and the other provinces and territories are “Canada”.




While the rest of Canada celebrated Canada’s successes and acknowledge the need to do better to address its shortcomings, the Wildrose threw a hissy fit.  Why?

Jason Stanley, a philosophy professor at Yale, would say it’s propaganda.

Stanley says we usually think of propaganda in the context of totalitarian regimes but it is equally dangerous to democracies.

His definition of propaganda and how it works sheds some light on the Wildrose’s reaction to Trudeau’s mistake.

Propaganda doesn’t always start with a lie: 

Trudeau did forget to name Alberta when he listed the provinces and territories in his speech but Brian Jean’s assertion that Trudeau also “forgot” Alberta’s contribution to Confederation is false.  Derek Fildebrandt’s insinuation that Trudeau doesn’t acknowledge or respect Alberta because it’s not a part of Trudeau’s Canada is equally false.  And yet their supporters gobbled it up.

Propaganda attempts to redefine reality in order to switch voters’ values to the leader’s values:

It is true that Peter Lougheed battled Ottawa to protect Alberta’s right to control its own resources.  It is also true that Pierre Elliot Trudeau exacerbated the economic downturn in Alberta by introducing the National Energy Program, however, all that is ancient history.

Last November Justin Trudeau approved two oilsands pipelines.  This May he reaffirmed his support for the Trans Mountain pipeline notwithstanding the impending change in the BC government.  Rather than give Trudeau credit for these actions, the WR prefer to rehash policies made by his father over 30 years ago.

Propaganda prevents people from seeing what’s in their own best interest by appealing to their emotions, creating an insider/outsider dynamic, and eroding standards of reasonableness that depend on mutual respect and accountability:

It is in Alberta’s best interests to support Rachel Notley’s Climate Leadership Plan because it was instrumental in getting Justin Trudeau to approve two oilsands pipelines but the Wildrose oppose the CLP because it regulates emissions and introduced a carbon tax, both of which are anathema.

It is also in Alberta’s best interests to support Justin Trudeau so he will use federal  power to bring BC’s new government into line if it tries to block the Trans Mountain pipeline.  And yet, the Wildrose rail against Trudeau’s government without offering an alternative plan to bring BC on board.

Attempts at civil discourse go up in smoke and the Prime Minister’s honest mistake is transformed into a heinous slur.

Propaganda is used by tyrants who sow fear among the people, then present themselves as the people’s protector with the intention of exploiting them: 

The Wildrose have rolled Trudeau’s mistake into a broader propaganda campaign that can be summarized as follows:

  • Ottawa hates Alberta because Alberta is rich in resources. Us against them.  
  • Conservative leaders like Peter Lougheed defended Alberta against Ottawa. We need a protector.
  • NDP leader Rachel Notley does not engage in vitriolic attacks on Justin Trudeau. Notley won’t protect us.       
  • Brian Jean, Jason Kenney and Derek Fildebrandt attack Justin Trudeau on everything from his socks to his slip up on Canada Day. They will protect us. 
  • Unless Notley is unseated in 2019, the abuse of Alberta by Ottawa will continue. Vote UCP.
  • Brian Jean, Derek Fildebrandt, Jason Kenney (pick one) is the only person who can unseat Notley, protect Alberta and make Alberta great again. Vote for [fill in the blank].

Sadly, this propaganda has taken hold in some parts of Alberta.

Either that or Albertans are a bunch of big babies who are easily offended.

Sources: How Propaganda Works by Jason Stanley

This entry was posted in Economy, Energy & Natural Resources, Environment, Politics and Government, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to Trudeau forgets Alberta; Alberta flips out

  1. Douglas Taylor says:

    The hubris hissy fit by Billy Jean, Derek Demigod is so absurd as to go into Guiness Book in the vitriol scale. They must have a secret lair staffed 24/7 by ravenous propaganda jackals in need of some red meat. All the more reason to ensure these clowns never get any closer to power.

    • Ed Henderson says:

      Douglas…the clowns are in power..Justin, Rachel, now John boy in BC…etc etc. All happily following orders from their parties and wondering who are all these people who don’t think they are 7th wonders..

      • Douglas Taylor says:

        How are the seats in the clown car, bubba? Now that your boyo Derek wants to ride shotgun.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        I am with Ed with this political system.
        Justin is now at his happiest in Europe telling everyone to do what he does not do at home. He is now the master Jester of the new spin game for younger politicians. It is amazing what this man says when abroad and even here except we have already caught the style so he is not that effective anymore. Talk about cynicism.

  2. Ruben Nelson says:

    Well said. Sadly, it needed to be said. The “war” path the right is on will not lead to a “greater” Alberta, but to a diminished, fractured and bitter society. We in Alberta need leaders who challenge us to grow up and show up. Otherwise, we shall only be known for our crass pursuit of increased cash flows. The folks who strain to lead the right know only how to seek partisan advantage, no matter the cost to us, our character and our future.

    • Douglas Taylor says:

      With the current government we’ve got what you want in leadership. Smart, competent, showing up to fix the mess from the decades past. The cut off their nose to spite their face crowd are letting their seething anger, racism and mysogeny cloud practical rationalty.

      • Douglas: I too have great respect for Rachel Notley and her team. One needs only to pop into Twitter or Facebook periodically to see the vitriol they’re exposed to on a daily basis. The fact they haven’t blown a collective gasket is truly remarkable.

    • Ruben, I agree with your comment about our “crass pursuit of increased cash flows”. It’s not clear to me how or when it happened but somewhere along the line “good” government became equated with “efficient” government, and the public service was expected to operate like a private corporation. This is bizarre because as Jason Stanley points out, efficiency may be a value, but it’s not a democratic value. There’s a world of difference between a managerial society focused on the bottom line and a democratic society striving to give its citizens the freedom to achieve their full potential.

  3. If the rest of the world knows anything about today’s Albertans, it’s that we are among the most fortunate people in the history of human civilization.

    To imply that our Prime Minister or federal government is treating us unfairly is to insult the intelligence of every self-respecting person who knows better – including most Albertans.

    We don’t believe we are victims and we aren’t that easily offended, unlike young Mr. Fildebrandt.

    Perhaps we should expect nothing better of a cynical opportunist born and raised in the Alberta hinterlands around… Ottawa?

    • Joseph Emond says:

      This article hits the nail on the knot-head. All I add is… Preaching to a growing portion of the Alberta choir. Trump has options for filling his top spots (as he likes to surround himself with whiny yes men, like Filderbrandt, Kenny and Jean…). Waaa, waa, waaa, ya big babies.

      • James and Joseph: I’m trying to figure out whether Kenney, Jean and Fildebrandt are intentionally adopting Trump’s strategy or it comes naturally to politicians who share similar beliefs. In any case it appears to work on a significant segment of the population…and that is terrifically concerning. So I take heart at Joseph’s comment that we’re preaching to a “growing portion of the Alberta choir”. On a related note, a friend of mine recently attended a unity meeting held by Brian Jean. She said Jean was surprised to discover that the Calgary conservatives didn’t respond to some of the hot button UCP issues the same way as rural conservatives. That’s promising.

  4. Hazen Golder says:

    Read your column every week. Love it !

    BTW we are heading for Quebec City and want to see the fountain in the picture.

    Can you tell me where it is?

    • Thanks Hazen! You’re heading for Quebec City, how nice for you! I loved every minute of our stay there. The fountain is at the side entrance of the Hotel Auberge Saint-Antoine which is in the old town at 8 Saint-Antoine St. That’s very close to the Museum of Civilization. The fountain is only about 4 feet by 4 feet, very small, but very cool. Bon Voyage!

      • Brent McFadyen says:

        Quebec City one of the most interesting places in Canada. Well worth it to plan your visit so you don’t miss a lot of it.
        Also great food can be had there.

  5. dopinicus says:

    And how would Quebec have reacted if they were ommitted by a Prime Minister on Canada Day???

  6. tom mcpherson says:

    Right on dopinicus, and I am 86 years young and that was not a innocent mistake by any stretch of the imagination. I am not a born in Alberta citizen but I sympathize with Albertans for being slighted as the inhabitants of no where. And to bring the wild rose politicians into the scene is humorous to say the least as all Albertans know the games they play and are about the equivalent of Justins political ploys. U rattled of a lot of political untruths in this session Susan and for that I am not with you on this subject, sorry.

    • jvanl says:

      I was born in Alberta to economic migrants from Holland (father) and England (mother).

      I have lived in Alberta for 54 years, and travelled the world for business and pleasure.

      Quebec City and the Magdalen Islands are among my favourite places to visit in Canada.

      My three very Canadian children (30, 26, 13) have also travelled a lot, and they are sick and tired of the silly east-west identity politics perpetuated by older Canadians.

      If they weren’t so polite, they would tell us all to grow up and get over ourselves.

      • jvanl: your children are wise beyond their years. I suspect their upbringing and opportunity to travel has a lot to do with their mature perspective.

      • carlosbeca says:

        I am glad your children have that view and so do mine. I also have the same view but that is because I did not get the brainwashing older Canadians got from past politicians. I was brainwashed by other garbage that thank God is not useful here in Canada. I still remember when I arrived in Edmonton and witnessed the fight against learning French. I was astounded. I was taught English and French along with my mother language and one could also learn other languages at University level. Languages enrich us in many different ways.
        We are now going through the same type of propaganda with politicians like Brian Jean and Fildebrandt that cannot talk about anything constructive and use their malicious minds to turn everything into crap. We should all ignore them and they will disappear.

      • Carlos and Jvanl: your comments about learning French are important because they point to Canadians’ understanding of their history and their tolerance for diversity. Unfortunately many Albertans still hold anti-French views. Recently I was talking with a friend who enrolled her son in French immersion. Her boss was very critical of her decision, in his opinion French was a waste of time. As you both point out, the more Canadians can do to enrich their understanding of their own culture, let alone the world, the better.
        Carlos, I’m not sure we can simply ignore Brian Jean, et al and hope they’ll go away. On Monday Jean and Kenney held a “unite the right” townhall in Cochrane. Kenney referred to Trudeau’s slip saying as far as Trudeau was concerned Canada’s 150 was only about “diversity” but Trudeau’s diversity does not include Alberta. This is propaganda–its point is to paint Alberta out as the “picked on” province that only the authoritarian Kenney can protect. I have little patience for Albertans who rode the boom like there’s no tomorrow and then blame someone else when it stopped. It’s time we grew up.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Susan I have to agree with you. Ignoring Brian Jean is not the solution. I think when I wrote that I was in one of my hopeful moments. 🙂
        I get so upset about the lies and statements like the one you mentioned that I just want sometimes to believe that they are a terrible nightmare. It is so irresponsible and so intentionally false that I doubt they believe what they are saying. It is pure propaganda.

    • No problem Tom. You and I have been engaged in this dialogue for quite some time, it’s okay if we disagree from time to time.

  7. Jeremy says:

    As always, well thought out and well written. The biggest problem for Trudeau in making this mistake, was that he happened to do it to Canada’s most insecure province. Not that P.E.I wouldn’t have been upset if it had been them, but it’s the TONE of the response that reflects this insecurity.

    • carlosbeca says:

      I fully agree with you Jeremy – we got into this bad habit of being against the Federal government just because we are different and we are tough. We were blessed with oil all over the place and we were lucky to be able to get rich without much effort. We have lots of talent and great people in this province and we should start doing a better job of using it for the future or our kids rather than getting on this bandwagon of people that have nothing but attitudes that are completely useless and think of nothing but their egos and power. Jason Kenney will do nothing but be a bully. That is what he is good at. I am glad Peter Lougheed is not around to witness this disgrace.

  8. Jeremy, that’s an excellent point. The TONE of the reaction, particularly in some of the tweets that piled on to the Jean/Fildebrandt tweets, was over the top. If you didn’t know what had happened you’d have thought Trudeau sold us to the Russians!

  9. jvanl says:

    Kind words Susan, thank you.

    As Ruben might put it, our future will not look like our past because it cannot look like our past.

    Perhaps the most salient reality of our society today is the widening gulf of identity and perspective between our youngest and oldest citizens.

    This gulf is most conspicuous across urban/rural lines, because decades of urban drift have hollowed out rural demographics.

    Rural communities are to a society as roots are to a tree.

    Alberta’s roots are growing older, weaker and more brittle, leaving all of Alberta increasingly vulnerable to the growing and gusting winds of social, economic and environmental change.

    What concerns me most is the depth and breadth of indifference and even contempt towards the legitimate needs and concerns of our rural communities, especially our indigenous communities.

    To overcome the parochialism afflicting our present politics, we could do no better than to genuinely start listening to our rural communities – and to our youth.

    All three of my children are helping to build a future of Canadian citizenship that is rooted and relevant in local impact, while increasingly mobile and universal in experience and outlook.

    They see this less as a lifestyle choice than as a matter of necessity – as a matter of protecting their own futures.

    Like many of their digitally native generational peers, they have come to understand themselves and their world in a much broader and more interconnected way than their grandparents – all migrants and refugees from 1950s Europe – can even begin to comprehend.

    We know we are going to need their help, so we had damned well better start asking for it.

    James Van Leeuwen
    Pincher Creek, AB

    “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”
    Franklin Delano Roosevelt

    • James, you’ve raised a critical point here–our indifference, perhaps even contempt, for others. This concerns me a great deal. Some politicians work hard to separate people into “us” and “them” in order to further their agendas. Trump is a classic example, however there are many Canadian examples as well. We’ll need more FDRs and fewer Trumps if we expect to get through the challenges ahead.

  10. Michelle Stirling says:

    Alberta and Saskatchewan are the drivers of the Canadian economy. We have the largest self-financing SuperCluster right here – perhaps the largest oil+gas supercluster of talent in the world. The world runs on 81% fossil fuels…and 1.4% wind/solar (both of which are made from fossil fuels and need conventional power 24/7 to operate on the grid). PM Trudeau is dismissive of Alberta at all times – and his advisers are leading him and the country down the garden path.

  11. Neil Fleming says:

    We Albertans pride ourselves on our toughness and resiliency in the face of hardship. Surely we are not so thin skinned that we can’t see a simple oversight for what it is/was.

    • anonymous says:

      Alberta snowflakes fall high above the azure July skies high above the Calgary Stampede. Delicate, but at the same time, so beautiful before they melt.

    • Neil and Anonymous: Mayor Nenshi had a word for it “fragile”; and suggested they should focus on real issues, like transit, infrastructure and water services, instead of worrying about “perceived insults on a beautiful day.”

  12. Elaine Fleming says:

    A simple slip. It could have been New Brunswick, for Pete’s sake. The Wildrose are just trying to may hay and draw attention to themselves because they are so desperate. Fugget about it.

  13. John Willis says:

    Trudeau despises Alberta. It’s plainly obvious. His actions have consequences & omitting Alberta from his speech wasn’t just a slip of the tongue. It was a knife in the back. Know your enemy.

  14. Larry Grams says:

    sorry but his father cut us to the bone. Yes this was just a slip of the tongue come on Albertans I despise this guy too but a slip of the tongue is just that, save your anger about real slights.

  15. Larry, I hear you but I think Justin should be judged by his actions not those of his father. I do agree with your comment that people who don’t like the son should save their anger for real slights, not slips of the tongue.

  16. Susan Bright says:

    All Alberta wants is to go back to work. Too many people are losing too much.

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