Editorial: Blue tide awaits return

Published on September 23, 2016

P.E.I. Conservative Gail Shea signs torn out of ground and dumped.

©Russell Wangersky

Federal Conservatives face a huge task to win back support in Atlantic Canada. With the Liberals holding all 32 seats in the region, it is a self-evident truth.

The national Conservative caucus met in Halifax last week with nowhere to go but up. It served as a preparation for this week's return of Parliament and a performance review of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.

As soon as meetings wrapped up, MPs fanned out across the region to wave the blue flag and stump with the battered remnants of the party faithful.

Conservative MPs are twinning with Atlantic ridings. It’s a good way to hold MPs accountable and raise issues which might embarrass the government. The Conservatives are signaling they have a genuine interest in raising their profile in Atlantic Canada following the election night massacre last October.

It’s a timely return for the Tories because there are urgent issues facing Atlantic Canada, such as the vacancy on the Supreme Court of Canada. East Coast lawyers are doing what Atlantic MPs and premiers were unwilling or unable to do – take on Mr. Trudeau with a legal challenge.

The PM won't commit to ensuring the country's top court has a judge from Atlantic Canada so the Atlantic Provinces Trial Lawyers Association is going to court. The Conservative Opposition was quick to show support. Thursday, the party introduced a motion calling on the PM to respect 141 years of Atlantic Canadian representation on the Supreme Court.

Mr. Trudeau is well advised to select an Atlantic Canadian – and soon – to avert a crisis and nip any Atlantic rebellion in the bud.

The Energy East project is stalled – a pipeline widely supported by this region for the jobs and economic opportunities it will bring. Panel members, who had already started hearings, were forced to resign after allegations of conflict of interest.

Ottawa must act quickly to get this project back on the rails. New panel members must be appointed without delay and hearings rescheduled.

Liberal ministers also face a dilemma over Newfoundland and Labrador-supported offshore drilling exploration efforts in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Fishing and environmental groups are strongly opposed so it will be a controversial decision no matter which way the government decides – jobs versus oil spill concerns.

Ottawa is moving ahead with a national climate change strategy that puts a price on carbon as part of the deal. It raises questions for coal and oil-fired electricity generating provinces such as Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and, indirectly, P.E.I.

Then there is a new national health accord that Ottawa and the provinces are negotiating – all largely based on more federal funding. And there are many other key issues, electoral reform among them.

The warm honeymoon is starting to cool between Prime Minister Trudeau and Canadians at large. It was inevitable after almost a year in office.

Even though the latest poll numbers still produced stunning levels of support for the federal Liberals – especially in Atlantic Canada – cracks and fissures are starting to show.