An Alberta pit stop on Trump’s bizarro road to the White House

Kellyanne Conway’s trip to the oil sands could set the tone for Canada-U.S. relations in the Trump era

Kellyanne Conway, campaign manager for President-elect Donald Trump, speaks to media at Trump Tower, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, in New York. (Carolyn Kaster/AP/CP)

Kellyanne Conway, campaign manager for President-elect Donald Trump, speaks to media at Trump Tower, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, in New York. (Carolyn Kaster/AP/CP)

Early on Tuesday afternoon, the Prime Minister’s Office announced in a news release that U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden will visit Ottawa during Justin Trudeau’s meeting with the premiers—and the Canadians will throw a dinner in the veep’s honour.

This was a quaint reminder of how foreign dignitary visits traditionally get announced and arranged. It came a few hours after a reminder of how deals and diplomacy will get done in Trumpworld—with all the pomp and circumstance of a couple of phone calls and back-slaps.

RELATED: The scene in Trump Tower as the president-elect assembles his team

Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump’s home-stretch campaign manager and senior adviser to his transition, will visit Calgary and the Fort McMurray-area oil sands in January, a week before the boss’s presidential inauguration. It was announced and will be hosted by Alberta Prosperity Fund, which calls itself a political “super PAC” and launched last year to unify Alberta conservatives in response to the NDP’s electoral victory. Conway will headline a private fundraising dinner for the group on Jan. 12.

On one hand, Conway holds no formal role with the Trump transition team and has not yet been named to his White House. She’s being invited as a private citizen, Prosperity Fund president Barry McNamar tells Maclean’s. Former or private U.S. politicos often travel north for lectures, meetings or private events; McNamar’s group held a fundraiser last year with influential anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist.

MORE: FAQs for the Trump era

But oh goodness, all that is on the other hand:

  • By mid-January, Conway could very well be named to a senior West Wing role, giving this visit much more prominence and significance as a diplomatic or proto-diplomatic trip by the Trump administration. For now, she is serving as a key adviser and daily presence at the president-elect’s side at Trump Tower, as well as one of the transition team’s key spokespeople.
  • This relatively obscure political group, perhaps in the interest of self-promotion, is giving the event an air of a formal Trump envoy visit. The Alberta group is billing the event as one by “an influential member of a U.S. administration” that “should send a strong signal to Canadians on the importance of this province to the United States.” McNamar will invite Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and other premiers, he says.
  • This is another signal of the backdoor diplomacy that Trump’s team has embraced during the transition—and may once he’s the Oval Office occupant. Argentina’s president’s go-between for arranging a post-election Trump phone call was the developer of a proposed Trump Tower in Buenos Aires. In the case of this Conway visit, McNamar says one of the group’s directors had a contact with someone on the Trump team and they helped secure Conway’s visit. McNamar wouldn’t say who was involved on either side: “This was strictly a conversation between friends. Can we do something to advance the cause of Canada-U.S. relations?”
  • This may serve as a pointy stick to U.S.-Alberta relations. Conway is meeting with a group that was founded to consolidate conservatives. In July, the group endorsed would-be premier Jason Kenney and his bid to merge the Alberta Tories and Wildrose parties, a cause the prosperity fund declared “essential to ensure the defeat of the NDP in the next election.” It is unclear Conway is aware that she is lending support to a group trying to knock out Alberta’s governing party; it is unclear whether Trump would be concerned about such political niceties.
  • Is Conway getting paid to attend a Canadian political action committee’s fundraiser? McNamar refused to answer this question. This would raise more red flags and conflict questions if she’s part of the administration. McNamar says the fundraiser will mostly be designed to defray costs of the visit, and any “residue” would fill the group’s coffers, but he doesn’t expect any.
  • This also demands the question: why is a top Trump aide taking time out of this mad rush toward taking over the White House to pay a visit to Alberta? After all, it’s already well-known that Trump supports construction of the Keystone XL pipeline that will ship oil sands crude.
  • The Trump administration’s penchant for secrecy and privacy will be on display here as well. This fundraising dinner will be private, and her hosts aren’t disclosing which oil sands operations she will visit. Though it will remain a secret what she tells Alberta business figures and conservative activists, Conway will make herself available to the media at some point during her visit, McNamar says.

By January, we’ll likely know if this is a private person lending support to a private advocacy group, or if it’s a senior White House official doing oil sands reconnaissance and lending support to a private advocacy group. We might even know by then how far Trump takes his climate change skepticism and environmental reforms. Either way, Jan. 12 will become some sort of eye-opening introduction to how Canada-U.S. relations get done in the Trump era.


An Alberta pit stop on Trump’s bizarro road to the White House

  1. This visit will pave the way to Alberta becoming the Fifty First State in 2019…

    • Oh gawd…I wish!

      • For sure, especially if we didn’t have to deal with the likes of you!

        • Well see, that’s your problem honey……you listen only to those in your bubble….and look at the mess you’re in.

  2. I hope Manitoba, Sask., AB and BC
    can become a part of the US. Then
    truedope and the East will sink by

    • LOL I’ll be happy to leave the white working class behind in their cowboy hats.

      • You have no working class in Ontario? My that must come as a surprise to all those who worked in factories such as the French’s Ketchup factory and the automobile factories unless you consider them white collar.

        • Keep up with the news

        • No Gage….like the recent studies showing that Dems have degrees and Repubs do not……and that Trump supporters are generally the poor white working class with no education and therefore no future.

          They expect Trump to fix that…..

          If you are going to spend your life traipsing around after me……then find out what the topic is.

      • Oh one of those boys could do you like you’ve never been done.

        • More of your mythology.

  3. Don’t bother with sinus meds for the heavy head you may have in Alberta. The problem is environmental not physical.

    They may leave you alone. They love vegetables. Don’t you Asian/Evangelical darlins’? Spreading manure is their specialty and they’re paid very well.

    • Living at the high elevation in Calgary with less oxygen, one tends to be more light headed but after a time, one’s hemoglobin level adapts. However, thanks for your concern. Nothing beats the fresh air of rocky mountains. Also composting is highly valued by us environmentalists and we do appreciate growing very high quality produce and food stuffs.

  4. As a native son of Alberta for more than seven decades I see the APF as no more than part of a Social Credit populist hangover that just bloody well won’t die.

    • I agree. I just don’t understand why an entire province is so…..backward

      Farming? Oil? Religion?

      • Hahaha. Producing our own food is backward? That is a fascinating outlook. I wonder if BC and Ontario fruit growers agree.


          If you check the stats, Albertans are less religious than people from Ontario. Also, Northwestern BC and Saskatchewan have oil as well. Only real cowboys and tourists such as our PM wear cowboy hats during the Calgary stampede. My guess is you rarely saw one on a person in Cold Lake, Alberta yet you perpetuate this myth. Meanwhile, there are farmers in pretty much every province in the country.

          • Whatever people say they are on a survey…..they don’ attend church.

            Empty churches litter the landscape.

            Most Canadians are secular. Sorry

            And people on an air force base wear air force issue clothing,,…civilians however play cowboy.

      • Xenophobia 5.0 – the new, edgy, urban model.

      • Gawd, just when you think you’ve said the most absolute stupid comment you go and out do yourself. You should see a doctor and get on some really good meds……Troll.

        • You guys just can’t stand free speech.

          Lot of things you can’t handle actually….reality for starters