With Danielle Smith stomping across Alberta in the boots of history (OK, lousy metaphor), Pauline Marois richly earning the most awkward political nickname in memory (she’s la dame du béton, the woman of concrete, but whatever: she seems on track to win 85 of 125 seats at the next election) and the British Columbia centre-right hopelessly divided, it’s time to ponder the mess Canada might be in in a year.
Or not. You know, polls are for dogs, these are tidings of Christmases which may be, not Christmases which must be, etc. etc. blah de frickin blah. But let’s pretend.
Smith is likely to be premier of Alberta in two weeks. This is in some ways the least problematic outcome for Stephen Harper, not just because Smith and Harper agree on most things but because Smith has shown no tendency to want to run against Ottawa. She was in Ottawa several weeks ago and delivered a perfect snoozer of a lunchtime speech. Which may even have been the goal.
But one of the things Smith and Harper agree on is that Enbridge good, oil sands good, Northern Gateway good. BC premier-in-waiting Adrian Dix is not so sure about any of that, and seems likely to get elected on a platform of opposition to the Northern Gateway pipelines to Kitimat. The Harper government is doing everything to get oil sands products to port at Kitimat, a question Joe Oliver called “an urgent matter of Canada’s national interest.” In the first place, I expect Harper to deploy rapidly-escalating feats of ingenuity to stop Dix in advance of a B.C. election, but if it doesn’t work, it’s reasonable to expect epic confrontations between Harper and a premier-elect Dix.
As for Quebec: oy. Harper got elected in 2006 on a Quebec platform of nearly unconditional support for “the most federalist Quebec premier of my lifetime,” Jean Charest. He has never had to fight a PQ premier. I have a crazy hunch he would not be delicate about it, and indeed I rather hope he wouldn’t. But that antagonistic dynamic would be amplified by the presence of 58 Quebec NDP MPs forming the power base for the federal opposition leader. And one aspect of that antagonism would be the same energy-environment bundle of issues that would form the basis for Harper’s trouble in B.C.
I offer no prediction about how these fights would turn out. Harper thrives on conflict, and more is coming, so he may even find a way to profit. But it all looks like a fascinating couple of years.