Tue. Feb 27th, 2024

Edmonton is thus making a “political gesture” to assert its autonomy, according to experts, while the list of differences between the province and the Trudeau government continues to grow. extend.

Alberta opens representative office ;feeling in Ottawa

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Alberta Premier Danielle Smith at the office inauguration representing his province in Ottawa

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    Quebec is no longer the only province in the country to have a representative office in Ottawa. Alberta launched its own “embassy” in the nation's capital on Monday.

    In what interest? Above all, it is about having a basis for advancing Alberta's priorities on the ground, in Ottawa, said Premier Danielle Smith during a press conference inaugurating the new office.

    In recent years, there has been no shortage of thorny issues between Ms. Smith's Conservative government and Justin Trudeau's federal Liberal Cabinet.

    In addition to environmental issues, such as the cap on oil and gas emissions that Alberta sees as a limitation on its oil production, the province recently threatened to withdraw from the Canadian pension plan and caused a stir, there a few days ago, by banning gender transition surgeries for minors.

    At the end of November, Alberta even invoked its Sovereignty Act, adopted a year ago, to counter the federal government's proposed regulations on clean electricity.

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    Under this project, all electricity produced in Canada must be carbon neutral by 2035. For the Alberta government, however, this will endanger the reliability of the province's electricity network, which relies heavily on natural gas, and will lead to a massive increase in electricity bills.

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    Alberta wants to have a “base” to advance its priorities in Ottawa, says the premier Danielle Smith.

    Despite these differences, Smith says Alberta's new representative office in Ottawa will aim to strengthen the province's relations with our partners on Parliament Hill. It will also allow Alberta to stay informed of new federal decisions that could impact the province.

    Our government is determined to defend Alberta within a united Canada. The creation of this office in Ottawa is one way of respecting this commitment and I look forward to seeing the positive effects.

    A quote from Danielle Smith, Premier of Alberta

    Ms. Smith says she was 100% inspired [by] the Quebec experience for the ;opening of such an office.

    She said she was challenged by the fact that Quebec felt the need to have an embassy in Ottawa despite the fact that Hull is just opposite and that the public service is largely bilingual and drawn from the Quebec population.

    Ms. Smith also said that the head of the new office, James Carpenter, is already in contact with the Quebec office to discuss how we could collaborate on certain issues.

    I hope that more provinces will follow our example, she added.

    You can talk to any prime minister and I don't think any of them currently have a very positive or constructive relationship with the federal government for the same reasons as us, regardless of their political allegiance. So if we could move the conversation forward with our provincial partners in Quebec, we would be more than happy to do so.

    A quote from Danielle Smith, Premier of Alberta

    Contacted by Radio-Canada, the head of the Quebec office in Ottawa, Mario Lavoie, said he was not surprised by Ms. Smith's comments.

    Ms. Smith's team has studied a lot of Quebec-Canada relations in terms of intergovernmental affairs, he said, claiming to have already met the head of the Alberta office in the federal capital.

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    The head of the Quebec office says he has already met his new Alberta counterpart in Ottawa .

    According to him, the advantages of having such a representative office in the national capital are numerous, including being much closer physically to federal actors [. ..] like parliamentarians, including senators and deputies, but also federal ministries, associations present in Ottawa and even lobbyists.

    This allows us to have direct contact, in person, instead of doing it by phone, he explains.

    The work of Mr. Lavoie takes place behind the scenes: You don't hear about me in public. The exchanges are private, we can tell each other the real facts, then we report the information to Quebec and, at that point, we see if there is a possibility of having an agreement [with Ottawa] or not.

    One of the latest examples that illustrates the work of his office is the modernization of the Official Languages ​​Act, which was amended in Quebec's direction, he said. It was teamwork, […] we were present here, we did a lot of performances.

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    Prime Ministers François Legault (left) and Justin Trudeau (right) (Archive photo)

    According to him, this is a way to maximize networking to advance the interests of Quebec, while ensuring parliamentary monitoring, government monitoring […] and presenting oneself in committees, because we cannot not do everything over the Internet, you have to be on site.

    Alberta has understood this, he adds.

    Asked whether other provinces should join Alberta and Quebec in Ottawa, Mr. Lavoie says it is up to each province to assess whether there is an interest for it to be present. . It is certain that it will make the positions of the provinces stronger, he said again, even if the governments do not agree on all the points.

    The Quebec government does not share all of Ms. Smith's political positions, but at the end of the day, Alberta has constitutional powers like Quebec and the federal government often encroaches on our areas of jurisdiction. We are able to share information and work together.

    A quote from Mario Lavoie, head of the Quebec office in Ottawa

    For the political scientist and director of the Institute of Studies Canadians from McGill University, Daniel Béland, the strategy of having a representative office in Ottawa is above all a political gesture to increase political presence in the federal ecosystem. This is all the more true for Alberta, which has tense relations with Ottawa.

    Danielle Smith has promised to strengthen the autonomy of her province and respond to what she describes as attacks by the federal government against Alberta, explains -he on Radio-Canada. The opening of a [representation] office is clearly part of this political strategy, which pleases the electoral base of Danielle Smith's party.

    The goal is certainly to assert the autonomy of the province. In this, Alberta is in some way imitating Quebec, which has used a similar strategy for a very long time.

    A quote from Daniel Béland, director of the Institute of Canadian Studies at the Institute of Canadian Studies. McGill University

    Mr. Béland also recalls that Alberta has been inspired by Quebec nationalism for decades, particularly since the Quiet Revolution in the 1960s. Alberta has often been the other province to campaign in favor of #x27;a more decentralized federation, affirmed Mr. Béland in an article entitled Quebec as a model of provincial autonomy in Alberta and beyond, published in November 2023 on the École supérieure website of public policy Johnson Shoyama.

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    Conservative activists during a session discussion dedicated to Alberta's place in the Canadian Federation, in November 2019.

    The political scientist particularly highlights the constant references to Quebec in public debates in Alberta, as was the case in the committee report on a fair agreement between Alberta and the federal government in 2021.

    In this document, Quebec is cited as an example of provincial autonomy from which Alberta could draw inspiration. Quebec is mentioned 56 times in the report. On the other hand, Canada's most populous province, Ontario, is only mentioned nine times, notes Mr. Béland.

    Duane Bratt, political scientist at Mount Royal University in Calgary, is also not surprised by Danielle Smith's desire to imitate the Quebec way of doing things.

    Ms. Smith has often said she wants everything Quebec has, except its high taxes and the French language.

    A quote from Duane Bratt, political scientist at the Mount Royal University

    However, he says he does not understand the logic of opening a representative office in his own country.

    < p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">I understand the importance of having a trade office in other countries, but I don't see the value of a separate office in Ottawa, he said, recalling that Alberta already had an office representation in the federal capital, which was closed under Jason Kenney in 2015 for budgetary issues.

    In Ottawa, the Quebec office also was closed between 2015 and 2019, under the government of Philippe Couillard, against a backdrop of budget cuts.

    Today, Quebec has a total of 35 representative offices around the world, recalls Mr. Lavoie, with a presence on the American, African and Asian continents.

    In Canada, Quebec has branches in Toronto, Moncton, Calgary and Vancouver, as well as a representative in Halifax, he said.

    The first Quebec office in Ottawa was opened… in 1908, recalls Mr. Lavoie.

    The Prime Minister at the time, Lomer Gouin, had appointed Arthur Globensky parliamentary agent for the province of Quebec in Ottawa, in order to establish relations with the federal government and to ensure that Quebec obtained its fair share of shipbuilding contracts following the creation of the Naval Service of Canada.

    Shows that history repeats itself all the time, believes Mr. Lavoie.

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