CALGARY (660 NEWS) — The federal government’s special representative for the Prairies paid his first visit to Calgary Tuesday.
Jim Carr spoke at a Calgary Chamber luncheon at the Fairmont Palliser, where he promised there is a road forward to repair relations between Alberta and Ottawa.
“I want to make you happy,” Carr told the crowd during his fireside chat with Chamber President Sandip Lalli.
Carr answered numerous questions from the audience, ranging from the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion, Premier Jason Kenney’s Fair Deal Panel, and the perception of the Canadian government in the province.
Carr said that he knows his government and the Liberal Party are not popular in Alberta.
“You don’t need to be a genius to figure that out,” he said, eliciting some laughter from the attendees.
But even though the Liberals were totally wiped out of Alberta in the October election, he believes there is a chance to find common ground in the future.
“I think that’s the spirit of goodwill that leads us to Alberta,” he told reporters following his chat. “That is going to be the sense of nation-building that will mean that the governments of Alberta and Canada — and the municipalities — will take full advantage.”
Carr wanted to make it clear that despite some grumbling from certain factions in Alberta, the federal government does look at the provincial problems with great concern.
“We care deeply, first of all, of the economic downturn and the consequence it is having on families,” Carr said. “It creates anxiety and, in some cases, anger, and we understand that. And what we offer is partnership to look at the resources we have — natural and human — together to build a stronger Alberta economy and a united Canada.”
There have already been several discussions between the Alberta and federal governments, including when Premier Jason Kenney met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and several cabinet ministers following the October election.
Carr is already encouraged by these talks and sees a path forward that focuses on respect and open-mindedness.
“There’s a spirit of goodwill, and when Premier Kenney phoned me to congratulate me on my responsibilities, the first sentence that he said was that ‘I am a federalist.’ Well, that’s a good place to start.”
Mayor Naheed Nenshi also had a chat with Carr during his Calgary visit and added that he sees some positive signs already after conversations with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, and others.
“I think the sense of urgency is there. The question for me is, how do we channel that urgency into stuff that makes a difference?”
Carr also made the point that the government needs to focus on “plain-speak” when dealing with these sorts of negotiations, and Nenshi agreed this is not the time for platitudes.
“I’m not interested in the posturing or the ‘haha you lost all your seats here,’ I’m interested in the very concrete things we need to do to make sure that the province is doing well,” said Nenshi.
There were indications that there’s room to move on federal transfer payments and equalization, although maybe Albertans will need to practice a bit of patience in these early days.
“Not everything will be paced according to how everybody would want things to be paced. It’s too fast for some, too slow for others,” he said.
Carr also promised to visit Edmonton, Saskatchewan and his home province of Manitoba soon enough.