Where are the premiers? Most provincial leaders mum on federal campaign
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe laughs as Alberta Premier Jason Kenney looks on during a joint panel discussion held in the Weyburn Curling Rink at the Saskatchewan Oil & Gas Show in Weyburn, Sask. on Wednesday June 5, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Michael Bell)
TORONTO -- Usually among the first to say how things should be done in Ottawa, Canada’s premiers are largely staying quiet when it comes to the federal election.
Even the few premiers who have chimed in during the first week of the campaign have been noticeably muted in their enthusiasm for any one particular party. As of Wednesday afternoon, no premier had publicly appeared with any federal leader.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney told CTV’s Power Play last week that he expected to “pitch in” with the federal Conservative campaign from time to time because he had been asked to by several candidates.
Kenney is currently on a week-long trip to New York, Ohio and New Brunswick, where he is promoting Alberta – and, at times, Canada – to the business community. His tour is reminiscent of one then-premier Rachel Notley took during the 2015 federal campaign, although Notley did campaign with the federal NDP as voting day drew closer.
The current Alberta premier has stayed out of the federal fray since leaving the country. In the early days of the campaign, though, he targeted Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and his party for driving investment out of Alberta.
Before he became premier, Kenney was a high-profile cabinet minister in the last Conservative government, under then-prime minister Stephen Harper. He was renowned for his ability to attract new members to the party, particularly by appealing to immigrant and new Canadian voters who traditionally supported the Liberals.
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister was a Conservative MP during the early Harper years. He did not appear with Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer during any of the federal leader’s opening-week events in Winnipeg, but did endorse him Wednesday.
“I’m a federal Conservative, so there’s no secret about that. My personal choice would be Andrew Scheer,” he said at a press conference, after being asked about his views on the federal election.
Kenney and Pallister are two members of a group of conservative-minded premiers who have vocally opposed Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau on a number of his proposals, most notably the creation of a carbon tax.
Other premiers in that club have been more circumspect about the federal election. Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Tuesday that he has not been in touch with Scheer’s campaign and has no plans to attend events with him because his premiership leaves him with a full schedule. Former Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne was a frequent campaigner for Trudeau during the 2015 campaign.
Scheer was asked Wednesday at an event in Hamilton why no conservative-minded premiers had appeared with him and if he plans to campaign with any of them. He did not directly answer, responding instead that the Conservatives have “volunteers from every walk of life” and expect to win seats in every part of the country.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe has slammed the federal Liberals and NDP via social media since the campaign began, but has not specifically mentioned Scheer or his party. He again avoided mentioning the Conservatives while speaking Tuesday at a Regina Chamber of Commerce event.
In a half-hour address, Moe praised various former Conservative and Liberal prime ministers while pointedly panning Trudeau’s government for creating “barriers to growth” by implementing the carbon tax, as well as bills to strengthen environmental assessments and ban oil tankers north of Vancouver Island.
The Saskatchewan premier described the election as a choice between “a loose association of parochial interests where every province is simply out for themselves” and “a strong and prosperous nation where we work together.” He never said which party, if any, might fit the latter category, although he did find several minutes to talk up the contributions industry groups have made to decreasing their impact on the environment.
“Let’s choose Canada first,” he concluded.
Brad Wall, the former Saskatchewan Party premier whom Moe replaced, largely stayed out of the electoral fray during the 2015 campaign. He broke his silence in the final week before voting day, saying that NDP policy proposals would be bad for Saskatchewan.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault doesn’t seem likely to go out of his way to praise any party leader either. He released a wish list for the new federal government on Tuesday, as then-premier Philippe Couillard did in 2015.
The wish list includes expanded powers over immigration and income tax, as well as federal respect for Quebec’s controversial secularism bill and an extension of the province’s language laws – a group of policies that federalist parties are unlikely to support. This would make seem to make the chances of Legault campaigning with any federalist leader remote at best.
B.C. Premier John Horgan, all premiers in Atlantic Canada and all territorial premiers have publicly stayed silent about federal politics since the campaign began. A spokesperson for Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King told CTVNews.ca that King “will not be actively engaging in the federal election” and hopes to work well with whoever becomes prime minister post-Oct. 21.