Stop me if you've heard this before:
Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau said Monday he’s in favour of a pan-Canadian energy strategy to develop the country’s resources.
The Papineau MP joked with a Calgary crowd he “won’t use the words national, energy or program” — referring to the reviled National Energy Program of his father, former prime minister Pierre Trudeau.
But Trudeau said Alberta Premier Alison Redford was on the right track with her call for a Canadian energy strategy that would involve provinces co-operating in areas such as research and development, regulation and the opening of new markets.
Like I said, he's got his mother's brains and his father's modesty. Look, Justin, I know you think Albertans are knuckle draggers who regard electricity as dark magic, but they aren't actually. It takes a fair amount of intelligence to run the most successful economy in the country. People sharp enough to turn oily sand into sweet moolah are smart enough to see through phrases like "Canadian energy strategy." A large number of westerners will immediately think: "Son of NEP: Revenge of the Killer Energy Strategy." The Tory war room is going to be playing attack ads that will make what they did to Michael Ignatieff look like a sorority prank.
Justin, you are a foolish and arrogant clown. Going forward anything you say about rebuilding the Liberal brand out West is either insincere, or yet another example of your incredible tone deafness. Yes, Alison Redford did mumble something about a national energy strategy. Whatever that means. But you see Ms Redford can claim, somewhat tenuously, that she is leading the party of Peter Lougheed. You, dear Justin, are preparing to lead a shrunk version of the party of Pierre Trudeau. This is what your advisers, who were apparently too busy with their smart phones to kick you in the leg, would call optics. The optics are horrible. Your sad joke notwithstanding. If you'll excuse the phrasing.
Canada does not need a national energy strategy. Resource extraction is a provincial matter. The only role the federal government has to play is to enforce a national free trade zone. This means that when desperate politicians, like Christy Clark, try to interfere with national trade corridors, they are firmly but politely told to mind their own business. If there is unnecessary red tape that's still lingering around, then the feds should try to cut through that. This isn't so much a strategy as prudent non-intervention.
But you don't make headlines by doing nothing. One of the banes of human existence is people doing things for show rather than for results. If you happen to have a clever new idea, then go right ahead and try to make it happen. If you see a pressing problem and have a brilliant solution, take a swing at it. But a national energy program / strategy / press release is not a new idea, it's an old and very discredited idea. There is also no pressing problem. Clever people in the private sector are making money by turning sand into black gold. This is a modern day Canadian version of alchemy in action. What value added can the federal government provide?
The answer, as it so often is, is to get the hell out of the way. The provinces have a role in maintaining property and mineral rights, which includes making sure resource extraction companies clean up after themselves. Perhaps tweaking health and safety standards. Resolving the odd contract dispute might come up as well. But otherwise just leave the business people alone. That's the sensible approach and the one that generally works best. But like I said, you don't make headlines by doing nothing.
So Justin has dug up another bad idea from daddy's attic and is trying to pass it off on the locals. Since he is a progressive from Quebec he believes that non-progressives in the ROC are less savvy than himself. Nobody will remember and nobody will care. The spin doctors will handle the details. What's important is that Justin is saying something that sounds like substantive public policy, without having to actually think through anything resembling substantive public policy.
Through out his short political career Justin Trudeau has given the impression of being a ham actor auditioning for the role of a lifetime. Chewing the scenery worked for William Shatner. It may not works so well for the Dauphin.