The Weekly Writ for May 31: What Danielle Smith's win means for Justin Trudeau
Full analysis of the Alberta results, plus news and polls from across the country.
Welcome to the Weekly Writ, a round-up of the latest federal and provincial polls, election news and political history that lands in your inbox every Wednesday morning.
Now that Danielle Smith and the United Conservatives have been re-elected, much of the talk — at least outside of Alberta — is about what the national political implications will be.
It might not be the hottest of takes. But my view is that not much will change.
Smith and the UCP were the incumbents, after all. The relationship between Jason Kenney and Justin Trudeau was hardly rosy. The relationship between Smith and Trudeau is no better and will likely stay that way. Alberta fighting with the feds — what else is new?
New squabbles could erupt over the next few years if Smith decides to flex some provincial muscles, be it with a provincial pension plan, recourse to the Sovereignty Act or something else that might raise the hackles of constitutional experts. Now that the Liberals don’t need to worry about getting in the way of Rachel Notley’s electoral strategy, the federal government might be more willing to flex its (bigger) muscles in return. But it’s just the same old fight as before.
The Conservative opposition wants to cast the country as broken under the Trudeau Liberals and will do what it can to stoke that view whenever Smith and Trudeau disagree. Had the New Democrats won, I’ve no doubt that Pierre Poilievre would have gone just as hard against the “Notley-Trudeau-Singh coalition” for ignoring the needs and aspirations of ‘real’ Albertans.
Smith could provide Trudeau with a useful political opponent if she does anything particularly outrageous. But, again, that’s nothing new. The Liberals were effective in campaigning against Doug Ford in Ontario when he was unpopular. They did the same with Jason Kenney in the later stages of the 2021 campaign when the COVID-19 situation worsened under his leadership, providing a good contrast to Trudeau’s handling of the pandemic.
But Smith’s use as a political target is limited for the Liberals. Ontario is an electoral battleground, so using Ford as a punching bag helped the Liberals win seats. The pandemic was still a live issue in 2021, so Kenney served as a proxy for how the federal Conservatives couldn’t be trusted to manage the crisis. But any dust-up between Trudeau and Smith is likely to be Alberta-centric. The Liberals have few electoral prospects in Alberta while Canadians in Quebec, the Greater Toronto Area and the Lower Mainland are unlikely to be moved all that much by some constitutional debate over jurisdiction that involves people in another province.
There’s a degree of toxicity to Smith’s brand (note the Abacus Data poll which suggested the UCP would win far more comfortably if someone other than her was at the head of the party) that could be problematic for Poilievre, but he hasn’t exactly shied away from controversial topics or incendiary political rhetoric of his own.
In short, the victory of the incumbent means the status quo both in Alberta and at the national level. Maybe interprovincial relations will be a bit more unpredictable in terms of what flares up — I didn’t foresee discussion of Smith’s views of Albertans-as-Nazis to become an election issue — but I don’t think this changes the calculations of Justin Trudeau, Pierre Poilievre or Jagmeet Singh all that much.
Now, to what is in this week’s instalment of the Weekly Writ:
News out of Alberta, byelections in B.C. and an update to the Prediction Contest.
How the polls did in Alberta and where things stand in Atlantic Canada and the Toronto mayoral race.
Some shifts on the east coast if the election were held today.
The Calgary riding that turned out to be Monday’s tipping point.
Jean Lesage makes the jump to provincial politics in the #EveryElectionProject.