Minister’s video has porkies on premiers, prime ministers and petroleum

Why did Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides choose or approve a nano-clip of prime minister Pierre Trudeau saying “just watch me” to illustrate a cringeworthy social media video justifying Premier Danielle Smith’s unconstitutional Sovereignty Act

As an educated person, Nicolaides should know what the elder Trudeau was talking about when he uttered those famous words in the midst of the October Crisis of 1970

Despite the obvious intention of Nicolaides’ video Monday to deceive its viewers, Trudeau’s blunt remark, delivered with tightly controlled fury, had absolutely nothing to do with Alberta, natural resources, or disputes with Ottawa about constitutional jurisdiction. 

It was on October 13, 1970, members of the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) had kidnapped the British Trade Commissioner in Montreal and the labour minister in Quebec when Trudeau was confronted on Parliament Hill by CBC reporter Tim Ralfe with questions for the PM about “people with guns” guarding Canadian streets. 

When Ralfe suggested the PM had better choices about how to respond to the crisis in Quebec, Trudeau famously shot back: 

“Yeah, well there’s a lot of bleeding hearts around who just don’t like to see people with helmets and guns. All I can say is, go on and bleed, but it’s more important to keep law and order in this society than to be worried about weak-kneed people who don’t like the looks of a soldier’s helmet.”

Ralfe responded: “At any cost? How far would you go with that? How far would you extend that?”

Trudeau: “Well, just watch me.”

Three days later, he invoked the War Measures Act

I can tell you that most Canadians admired Trudeau intensely at that moment, even if they were among the few who didn’t think he was on the right track. History suggests he was.

Regardless, surely Dr. Nicolaides (PhD, Political Science, University of Cyprus, 2013) knows this was a crude deception. If he didn’t, well, that makes one wonder what a PhD from the University of Cyprus is worth, anyway. 

This part was bad enough I had to watch the rest of the video, an interminable seven minutes and 38 seconds of Nicolaides wandering through the premiers’ picture gallery on the Legislature Building’s third floor, flicking his fingers nervously at portraits of some of the premiers, and delivering a tendentious potted ahistorical lecture about “those who began the fight against the federal government over a century ago.” (Eyeroll.) 

With presumably unintentional hilarity, the minister tries to paint Alberta’s first premier, Alexander Rutherford, as some kind of conservative revolutionary in the manner of the Founding Fathers of the United States. 

Rutherford was a lawyer, advocate for creation of a University of Alberta (he would be appalled at what Nicolaides has done to that fine institution), strong supporter of public education, and founder of a public telephone company. He was also an avowed Liberal, but never mind that – Nicolaides certainly did.

The United Conservative Party (UCP) minister strolls on past a few more premiers’ portraits, complaining along the way that British Columbia entered Confederation with its rights to resource ownership but the Prairie provinces did not – omitting to mention that this was because when they were made provinces in 1905 they had just been carved out of the Northwest Territories and did not, like B.C., already have their own colonial government. 

He pauses in front of the portrait of John Brownlee, fifth premier of Alberta, on whose watch the Canadian government handed the ownership of resources, peaceably enough and better late than never, to the three Prairie provinces in 1930. The minister described that premier as a hero, as if he’d just won a war with Ontario. 

He did not mention that the United Farmers of Alberta premier was driven from office in a sex scandal, but in fairness, he only had seven and a half minutes for this drivel. 

It’s after that the porkies really start in earnest, and I’ll just leave readers who would like to be spared the agony with some key points: 

–       Pierre Trudeau’s Liberal government did not attempt to nationalize Canada’s energy sector, as Nicolaides falsely states. Its National Energy Program did, however, try to make Canada self-sufficient in energy and encourage Canadians to invest in our energy sector. 

–       Nor has the federal government “made it clear” it wants to phase out the oil sands – it bought and built a pipeline to keep them running, for heaven’s sake. It has acknowledged, though, that eventually they will be phased out, just like the western Canadian beaver pelt trade. One way or another, this will happen whether we plan for it or not. 

–       It is also false to state, as Nicolaides does, that federal environmental laws, whatever one thinks of them, “serve no purpose” but to infringe Alberta’s rights. 

–       As for the claim that Justin Trudeau’s government is “once again infringing on our rights,” Nicolaides has a right to his opinion, but that is for Canada’s courts to settle, not the Alberta Legislature acting as a constitutional kangaroo court. 

Once can only hope that the quality of Nicolaides’ lectures at the Asper School of Business in Winnipeg and the Edwards School of Business in Saskatoon was better than this!

Danielle Smith utters another inappropriate analogy …

Meanwhile, Premier Danielle Smith, famous for calling the unvaccinated “the most discriminated group” she’s witnessed in her lifetime, got up on her hind legs in the Legislature yesterday to compare Alberta’s relationship with the federal government to that of First Nations under the Indian Act

“The way I’ve described it to the chiefs I have spoken with is that they have fought a battle over the last number of years to get sovereignty respected and to extract themselves from the paternalistic Indian Act,” she told the House. “We get treated the exact same way from Ottawa.” 

Needless to say, the reaction has not been positive.

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