As much as the Calgary Stampede is about rodeos, drinking and fried everything, it’s also one of the biggest political glad-handing events of the year.
On Thursday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney kicked things off, standing side-by-side with Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, to flip pancakes. Saturday morning, it was federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s turn at the griddle, cowboy hat and all.
In the corporate heart of Canada’s energy sector, where the downturn in prices has hit hard, it’s no surprise the talk was almost exclusively oil and gas, with a sprinkling of attacks against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“I think the people of Alberta know Justin Trudeau’s attitude toward them and the energy sector,” said Scheer as he took questions from the media.
“He’s done everything he can to landlock Alberta’s natural resources and to phase out the energy sector.”
Liberals in Alberta
The Liberal government spent $4.5 billion to purchase the Trans Mountain Pipeline when it appeared the project would collapse under the weight of court challenges and regulatory reviews.
The project was recently approved by the federal cabinet.
Despite that, Trudeau’s government continues to have a troubled relationship with Alberta, a place where Liberals have historically struggled to win seats amidst a sea of conservative blue.
Kenney has been joined by Opposition Leader Rachel Notley to condemn Ottawa’s recently passed Bill C-69, which overhauls environmental reviews.
Visits from cabinet ministers and the prime minister are often met with pro oil and gas protestors, who blame the federal government for many of the sector’s woes.
It makes for safe politics in Calgary to hit Trudeau and to preach support for the province’s natural resources, particularly with a federal election looming.
Conservative carbon plan
Scheer also used the opportunity to talk up his party’s climate plan, which focuses on providing Canadian technology to other countries in order to reduce greenhouse gases, while attacking the federal carbon tax.
“We know that Canada can do much, much more by helping other countries reduce their emissions with technologies like carbon capture, rather than slapping a tax on everything that drives investments to those other countries where they don’t have the same standards,” he said.
Alberta, which had a provincial carbon tax in place until the United Conservative Party was elected and scrapped it, has issued a court challenge to the federal tax.
That federal levy will come into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.
Also in Calgary on Saturday was Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier, who narrowly lost the CPC leadership race to Scheer.
When asked about Bernier announcing his Alberta candidate later this week, Scheer said “who’s that? Sorry?”
“This election is going to be a choice between Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party and myself and the Conservative Party,” he said.
“I know the people of Alberta know what it’s like when the conservative movement is divided.”
It’s not known if Trudeau will make an appearance at this year’s Stampede, but the Prime Minister has traditionally shown up to don western wear, flip pancakes and shake hands.