Federal-provincial relations are moving in the right direction according to local MP Brent Rathgeber and he credits Alberta Premier Alison Redford for the change of tone.
Rathgeber said that under Premier Ed Stelmach, politicians in Alberta were too happy to blame Ottawa for any of the problems the province faced.
“The Stelmach administration, especially towards the end, sadly in my view, was marked by worsening relations between Edmonton and Ottawa,” he said. “We saw that in the last two years of the previous administration where we were constantly hearing about health care transfers and equalization that discriminated against richer provinces.”
Rathgeber, who was an MLA when the current agreement over health care was negotiated in 2004, said the idea Alberta was getting the short end of the stick is a mistaken one.
He said while Ontario got a side agreement at those meetings, the same agreement would not have helped Alberta, because it was based on the province moving to have-not status.
“Even if Alberta had gotten the same deal as Ontario, which they didn’t because the premier (Ralph Klein) decided not to attend the last meeting, it wouldn’t have meant an extra nickel to Alberta’s coffers.”
In contrast Rathgeber said Redford has made it clear she doesn’t intend to constantly beat up on the federal government simply to score political points.
“I think Premier Redford is genuine in her desire to restore more functional and more positive relationships with her government and the government in Ottawa.”
For her part Redford said she is not interested in blaming Ottawa for Alberta’s problems. The premier was in Quebec City and Toronto this week, the second time she has travelled to central Canada since she became premier.
“What I want to do is build relationships with my premier colleagues across the country. I want to make sure that Canadians understand who we are as Albertans and what we are doing and that we are strong partners in confederation.”
She said there are lots of opportunities to work with the federal government as well. On the national stage she has been warmly received for putting the province back into the mix.
“I would say that a lot of people are pleased that Alberta is taking more of a role on the national policy stage right now.”
Redford has pushing a Canadian energy strategy in her meetings with the federal government and other premiers. She said that strategy is about bringing together Canada’s significant resources in energy.
“The principal behind the Canadian energy strategy is that we know we can benefit as Canadians if we work together as provinces to build an energy economy.”
Rathgeber said he wouldn’t want to see a strategy that interferes with the energy market like the National Energy Program did, but if the strategy is about working together he thinks it has merit.
He also said however, that putting one together wouldn’t be easy.
“I think it is going to be a challenging task to develop a national energy strategy even if you limit it to just the 11 first ministers.”