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Editor’s Comment: Chretien, Collenette, We Barely Knew Ya

It's always exciting to usher in a new year, as it symbolizes a fresh beginning and the opportunity for change. This year, Western Canada was able to collectively celebrate the New Year with the hope ...


It’s always exciting to usher in a new year, as it symbolizes a fresh beginning and the opportunity for change. This year, Western Canada was able to collectively celebrate the New Year with the hope that a new-look Parliament Hill will benefit westerners.

It’s too soon to be handing out accolades to our newly minted Prime Minister Paul Martin, but he certainly wasted no time in assuring Western Canada that he is serious about improving relations and creating national solidarity.

If Martin takes the following two pieces of advice to heart, then Western Canadians may finally embrace the Liberal party – or at least be more tolerant of it:

a) Don’t alienate the West;

b) Don’t alienate our largest trading partner, the U.S.

The advice seems simple enough to follow, but Martin’s predecessor was never able to pass up the opportunity to take a poke at the U.S. As for the West – well, he largely ignored us but that alone spoke volumes.

Kudos to Martin for sending an immediate message to us that he won’t make the same mistakes as the self-described “little guy from Shawinigan.”

Two senior level government posts went to Western Canadians. Ralph Goodale of Saskatchewan is Finance Minister and Alberta’s Anne McLellan is Deputy Prime Minister.

Also, Martin wasted no time on overhauling his Cabinet. Gone is much-maligned former Transport Minister, David Collenette. In his place is Tony Valeri.

Although he hails from Ontario, all reports suggest he is sensitive to the west’s needs and will be a worthy replacement. Western officials are genuinely excited about working with him.

Personally, I never got to meet Collenette.

Our paths were on the same course several times over the past few years at transportation-related events in Western Canada.

But on each and every occasion, the moderator was forced to stand up on the day of the event and apologize for his absence.

“Something important has come up in Ottawa, and instead David has sent (insert underling’s name here) to come in his place.” It was a line I heard at every event I attended where Collenette was scheduled to speak.

I guess he wasn’t as foolish as some people accused him of being. At several of these events there were a handful of western trucking reps chomping at the bit to challenge him on key issues.

“Not too surprising, after all we don’t vote for them out here,” an observer grumbled at one such event, after the familiar announcement was made.

Chretien made the mandatory rounds (often just prior to an election) but his conspicuous absence in the West at all other times was an insult to many.

Yes, change is good. And with 2004 now underway, let’s hope that everyone in Ottawa made fostering a better relationship with the West their New Year’s resolution.

My New Year’s resolution is to stop bashing Jean Chretien and David Collenette. Should be a lot easier this year!

– James Menzies can be reached by phone at 403-275-3160 or by e-mail at jamesmenzies@shaw.ca.


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