Ed Stelmach, the premier of Alberta, twice now has shot back at federal politicians attacking Alberta’s oil industry during the present federal election. Last year, the Stelmach government took a full page add in the Washington Post to defend the oil sands in the US, but the general impression was that he was not doing enough.
Since the late 1990s, federal politicians freely attacked Alberta and its energy industry during elections for the sake of attracting votes in Eastern Canada. Systematically, from Jean Chretien onwards, Alberta–and sometimes Albertans–regularly became a kind of federal punching bag during elections.
After the November 2000 Election, five prominent Albertans wrote to then Premier Ralph Klein calling for a robust provincial defence expressed in policy. It was the Alberta Agenda Letter, which hostile media defined as the Firewall letter. For fear of inserting himself into federal contests, Ralph Klein often held his tongue during such attacks–a monumental accomplishment in self-discipline.
The wind has changed. Stelmach’s latest denouncing of gratuitous political attacks on the energy industry of the province sends a clear signal. It seems that no longer will attacking Alberta be met with silence but there will be a cost to pay. Stelmach pushing back raises the political cost to those used to attacking the oil sands without any consequences.
With a price to pay, such attacks might diminish. Premier Stelmach should be commended.
Stelmach’s remarks are found here.