Game changer

Game Changer – How Premier Notley is Approaching Leaders in #elxn42

A pressing issue that has driven the discourse of each campaign has been the economy – and no jurisdiction across the country has felt the pressure from the drop in oil prices and a weakened economy more than Alberta. Dealing with these issues is a key point of intersection between the federal and provincial governments, and the results of October 19 will have a significant impact on this relationship.

Of course, Alberta made history in May by electing its first NDP Premier in Rachel Notley, putting an end to 44 years of Progressive Conservative government. Whoever is declared victorious on E-Day will not be dealing with the same old Alberta when looking at the policy makers and fiscal environment.

Additionally, with the various levels of support amongst the federal party leaders and Premier Notley for pipeline and energy infrastructure projects, the alignment, or lack thereof, on which projects should move forward could be a bone of contention for collaboration between the Prime Minister and Premier.

In terms of provincial and federal relations, we will explore how Justin Trudeau, Stephen Harper and Tom Mulcair have interacted with Canada’s newest Premier thus far.

Harper and Notley – Conflicted Views

The dynamic between Notley and Calgarian Harper has been treacherous since the NDP was first elected back in May. While their political affiliations point towards an obvious conflict, the two Albertans have had little common ground in the four months since the Alberta election. Just this week, Notley criticized the Prime Minister for being “out of touch” with the voters in his own hometown, declaring that he has been a step behind the “21st century values” that voters want.

Harper, on the other hand, has been just as aggressive, calling the NDP government a “disaster” and blaming its decision to hike corporate taxes and conduct a royalty review in a time of depressed oil prices as exacerbating the recession.

While the rhetoric would no doubt be dialed down after the election, a Conservative victory would clearly set up a period of tension between the two levels of government with very different philosophies.

Mulcair and Notley – Tug of War

The Notley-Mulcair relationship has been an interesting one, to say the least. Notley and her government have been notably quiet while the federal NDP roadshow has rolled through the province on more than one occasion during the campaign. While it is clear that the silence is strategic, the impetus is up for consideration.

One theory presented in the media has been that Premier Notley has remained silent in an effort to disassociate the provincial party from the federal one. The thinking being that if the Alberta NDP were to introduce bold policy or cause a stir during the federal election, voters could potentially be turned off by the idea of an NDP government in Ottawa. The fact that Mulcair has positioned himself between the two opposing leaders, at least in terms of fiscal policy, lends support to the theory.

If, however, Mulcair were to emerge victorious, this dynamic would be one to watch. With the election behind them, Notley’s need to play provincial champion may be no less with a federal NDP government than it would with the Conservatives or Liberals, despite an expectation of alignment.  Inevitably points of conflict will arise, and sometimes it’s easier to have a natural enemy than be forced to wrestle with an ally.

Trudeau and Notley – A Mystery

Notley and Trudeau have had a few confirmed interactions since Alberta was engulfed by the orange wave in May. These were brief and it remains to be seen how these two governments would work in tandem.

Both have similar views in terms of spending during economic uncertainty, effectively planning to run deficits before returning to balance. The Liberals may provide Notley with the benefit of federal left-wing policy alongside the luxury of having a different party in power to differentiate views when deemed necessary.

For his part, Trudeau has emphasized his desire to work with the premiers and other levels of government if elected. A Liberal government would likely be keen to initially partner (or be seen to partner) with the province on critical issues like the economy and climate change.

Ultimately, whoever comes out victorious on October 19th will be faced with a difficult situation from the get go in Alberta. A clear economic vision for both the province and country as a whole, with the province and federal governments pulling in the same direction, is vital to succeed in the global economy.