After nearly a decade of a prime minister notorious for public tussles with premiers who challenged his policies, Canada’s provincial leaders reacted Tuesday to the electoral victory of a Liberal leader who has promised to work harmoniously to advance their interests.
During his time as prime minister, outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper was not shy about aggressively engaging premiers who spoke out against his government and displayed an outward contempt for first ministers’ meetings.
Perhaps most infamous was his battle with former Newfoundland and Labrador premier and fellow Tory Danny Williams, with whom Harper clashed almost immediately after assuming office in early 2006. At the core of their high-profile spat was Harper’s decision to incorporate non-renewable energy resources into the federal equalization formula.
More recently, Harper has sparred with Ontario’s Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne, particularly over her government’s proposed provincial pension plan, which Harper said would amount to tax grab and mean higher taxes for Ontarians.
He has also battled verbally with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, who led the NDP’s victorious charge in a province long considered an unbreachable Tory fortress. Her government opposes some energy projects championed by the federal and provincial Conservatives.
Just days after the 42nd federal election was called, Harper called Notley’s government “a disaster.” Notley quickly fired back, saying that the people of Alberta had roundly rejected and had “had enough” of the Alberta Conservatives.
On Tuesday, Notley said in a written statement that Albertans had demonstrated “the importance of democracy” by electing Justin Trudeau and the Liberals.
“I look forward to working collaboratively with him to build a strong Alberta within a strong Canada,” said Notley.
The surname Trudeau evokes varying reactions in Notley’s province, where the energy policies of former prime minister and Justin’s father Pierre Elliott Trudeau enraged voters. Many considered the National Energy Program a betrayal of the Canadian West in a bid to appease voters in the East.
Justin Trudeau visited Alberta multiple times on the campaign trail. In the days before the election, he openly acknowledged the unfavourable legacy of his father in the province, vowing that he wouldn’t sell western resources — namely oil and gas — to buy eastern votes.
Notley’s message was largely in line with that of Calgary Mayor Nasheed Nenshi, who said that his city has prospered under Liberal governments in the past. Nenshi is among the group of big city mayors that includes Toronto’s John Tory and Vancouver’s Gregor Robertson who have repeatedly called for greater support from the federal government for transit and infrastructure projects.