The problems in Canada - with BC moving in on federal jurisdiction and Alberta putting a cork in the wine bottles India was supposed to be a slam dunk. Justin did get dunked.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

February 23rd, 2018



Come next year’s federal election Mr. Trudeau will be making a list of promises. Top of that list should be never taking another family holiday outside of Canada.

Rivers 23 - Trudeau family

The Trudeau family in India.

Oh sure, he is just doing what his father did, hauling the wife and kids along to see the sights, mixing with the locals and appropriating their traditional wear. It’s the classic Canadian charm offensive.

But the PM’s trip to India became way too offensive when he inadvertently brought along a convicted Sikh terrorist to an official function. Hello, how on earth could this character evade the PM’s security detail and end up in a photo-op with the PM’s wife? And what is it with this Sikh thing.

Rivers - Gregoire with convicted Sikh

Jaspal Atwal was convicted of attempting to murder Malkiat Singh Sidhu three decades ago. Here he is shown with the Prime Minister’s wife, Sophie Gregoire while on a tour in India.

Sikhs make up a solid political block in places like Surrey B.C. and Brampton. But we are all Canadians first, something the PM and the novice NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh need to remember as they watch over all these potential multi-cultural divides. Singh has been known to waffle on the Air India bombing (a couple of decades ago) and Sikh terrorism generally.

And all politicians need to take a deep breath before musing on the recent decision of the Quebec court of appeal to uphold the ban on Sikh ceremonial daggers (Kirpans). As in everything, there are limits to what can be stuffed under the umbrella of religious freedom. One only has to look south of the border where the NRA (National Rifle Association) is preaching that ownership of assault rifles is now God’s will, and

The PM did get to announce a billion dollar trade deal and did finally have an official meeting with the Indian PM, which apparently went well. But this was anything but the well organized state-to-state courtship it was intended to be with the world’s fourth largest economy and largest democracy. Nobody was singing ‘When Irish Eyes are Smiling’. Unlike his ill-conceived trip to visit the Aga Khan a Christmas ago, at least there were no major personal conflicts.

But somebody needs to figure out why one of his MP’s would set him up by inviting along a former terrorist, and how this character actually got through Indian immigration in the first place. And the PM would do well to ensure his official travel is more necessary than just nice. Most pundits are still wondering why Trudeau took that trip at all and whether he was even invited.

And it’s not that his presence wasn’t requested back home as Alberta and B.C. went at it over oil and wine. B.C.’s new premier Horgan, governing with an NDP/Green Party coalition sparked the conflict with his eastern neighbour. Obviously he was getting grief from the Greens for approving the environmentally destructive Site C massive hydro project, opposed by farmers, indigenous communities and the usual crowd of environmentalists.

So to appease his coaltion partner, Horgan announced he was going to slow down or stop the Kinder Morgan pipeline which Alberta desperately needs to keep its oil sands operations competitive, and to get the product to markets. Alberta’s premier Notley then took on her fellow NDP’er by banning BC wine in her province.

Rivers 23 Notley fingers pointing

When my oil goes THAT way – your wine can come THIS way. Rachel Notley, Premier of Alberta.

And in a most ironic moment for both of these governments, Notley also cancelled a power purchase agreement from B.C.’s Site C which would have helped Alberta get off coal-fired electricity. That was a key component of helping the province meet its carbon emissions targets – something very near and dear to every Green Party member’s heart, and the key to winning federal approval for the pipeline in the first place.

Make no mistake that this was pure politics on the part of the new B.C. premier. He might have been hoping that by showing strength he’d win a timely by-election to replace former premier Clark – which he didn’t. Though nothing raises a political leader’s poll count better that going to war; even if it’s only a war over oil and wine. And then there was this thing about mollifying his Green Party partner and keeping the coalition together.

But everyone knows that the inter-provincial pipelines fall largely under federal jurisdiction and the feds had already green-lit Kinder Morgan. And that was Notley’s point as she pleaded for the PM to shut down Horgan. Perhaps he was too busy picking his wardrobe for the India visit but he had little to say about the matter – other than the obvious.

Alberta is the biggest export market for B.C. wines, and Albertans love their wines. So it didn’t take much for Notley to drop the ban and let the wine flow once Horgan announced he was not going to shut down Kinder Morgan. Rather he was going to ask the courts about the limits of his authority. A case of much-ado-about-nothing in the end, though Notley comes out a hero and Albertans get to savour their favourite wines again.

It is pure speculation whether this issue would have been better solved had the PM barged in and demanded Horgan put his guns back in their holsters. In hindsight, whether intentional or not, Trudeau’s calm and low profile approach – letting the situation evolve pretty much on its own or behind the scenes with his officials – was the best thing he could have done. And that also makes him a winner in this. Now about that trip to India?

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.     Tweet @rayzrivers



Background links:

India Trip –   Kirpans –     Jagmeet

NRA and God –     Blessing the AR-15 –     B.C. Challenges

B.C. Wine –     Site C –     Pipeline Tensions

A Way Forward –     Test for Trudeau

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5 comments to The problems in Canada – with BC moving in on federal jurisdiction and Alberta putting a cork in the wine bottles – India was supposed to be a slam dunk. Justin did get dunked.

  • Stephen White

    Not since Joe Clark’s ill-fated trip to Africa during his brief tenure as Prime Minister has there ever been an official trip to another country so filled with errors, mis-steps and screw-ups. This was embarrassing on so many levels. Dressing up in native Indian attire was unnecessary and disrespectful.

    Trudeau’s capacity for sophomoric behaviour seems to have no limits. You can say what you like about Harper but at least he looked and acted like a Prime Minister and didn’t make me want to cringe with embarrassment every time he travelled abroad.

  • Penny

    I found it very condescending that the Trudeau family would dress in Indian attire and stand at the door of the aircraft on arrival with their hands together in “namaste”. Forget the fact that they invited a convicted criminal to a state dinner, and Justin met with Indian Officials in Indian attire. The press in India commented that they don’t dress like that every day – even in Bollywood.

    I have to ask – Who thought this was a good idea????

  • D.Duck

    How many trips (Personal and Gov’t) has this PM taken since being in office compared to prior PMs??

    Why does he bring a world renowned Chef from Vancouver with him on the tax payers dime? Hopefully, this time he is paying his family’s travel expenses.

    The federal government is responsible for the management of energy resources on federal and frontier lands and it regulates the international and interprovincial movement of energy and energy goods. It is also involved in energy matters to the extent of its interest in economic development and energy security.

    Given the above, perhaps Trudeau should take more onus instead of promising, as in his Pre-election platform, that Provinces will have all the say. You have to PERSONUP!!

    PS: the PM’s gaffe about CDN just celebrating its 100yrs of confederation was priceless. I wonder who wears the Dhoti in Trudeau’s family?

  • Hans

    Thank you Ray, for another great article.

  • Susie

    How wonderful for a PM to be so patriotic to everyone else’s culture in their country. Guess we have no culture here for anyone to have to follow when they arrive here on our soil. What a shame!