Federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair spoke to the media after a meeting with deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk at the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton, Alberta on Friday, May 31, 2012.
Credits: IAN KUCERAK/QMI AGENCY
EDMONTON -- Alberta is the place with the bull's-eye painted on it. For some sorts it's where you go to score cheap political points.
Albertans can show these folks what's up. Albertans can tell them the truth.
But if it's really all about the play for power, we're just the backdrop. We're the stage. Their script is for elsewhere.
It's not for here.
Enter Thomas Mulcair, leader of the Opposition in Ottawa, the NDP boss, a man who wants to be PM and a guy saying nasty stuff about the oilsands.
Mulcair says oilsands wealth pushes up the loonie, hurting factories down east trying to sell their stuff.
Mulcair also believes the oilsands has to do much more and pay far more to clean up its act with Mother Earth.
He may use a nicer tone in Alberta. Makes sense. But Mulcair isn't backing down. Nobody is changing his mind.
On Thursday, Thomas (The Hair) Lukaszuk, Alberta's deputy premier with a flair, gets to meet Mulcair The Beard.
Mulcair is greeted with less ceremony than a rural reeve showing up to see their MLA about funding the extension to the local curling rink.
He gets into an elevator with workers hauling boxes. He heads to Lukaszuk's office. A few seconds over 15 minutes and he leaves.
Lukaszuk speaks to the waiting microphones and cameras.
Lukaszuk is running the show since the premier is stateside at a top-secret meeting of mucky mucks known as Bilderberg.
After the compulsory chinwag with Mulcair, Redford's No. 2 says "the pointing of any fingers at this province will not be accepted."
Lukaszuk says, when it comes to the idea Alberta is hurting the Canadian economy and wrecking the environment, "attacks against this province will not be accepted and are not welcome."
The deputy preem also tells us he makes clear the expectation Albertans "do not want to be used in any political games."
The Hair believes The Beard "heard that well."
"Has he internalized it? You would have to ask him.
"He listened and he took it under advisement."
However, Lukaszuk does admit he feels Mulcair came to this province with "preconceived notions."
Lukaszuk says he doesn't feel Mulcair has any valid points and his understanding of the impact of Alberta on Canada's economy is "somewhat surprising."
But, of course, he doesn't find it surprising at all.
"He's a seasoned politician," says Lukaszuk.
"I don't fully accept the fact he doesn't understand how important Alberta's economy is to the rest of the country.
"Politics is at play." Eureka!
It's "old-style" politics since it's "pitting one part of the country against another part of the country."
And possible seats for the NDP aren't growing on trees in this part of the country.
Lukaszuk provides Mulcair with "essential reading materials" showing how much Alberta contributes to Canada and how Mulcair's brainwave about oilsands prosperity ruining central Canadian manufacturing is "creating more harm than good."
Lukaszuk does what he can. He knows his part.
Mulcair is with us 40 minutes. We attend at his soapbox.
He says his problem is with the feds. Harper should enforce environmental regulations.
But he also brings up his support for what amounts to a carbon tax.
He stands by his position that by "allowing a bit of a free ride in terms of the use of the air and the soil and the water" in the oilsands, the drive of dollars has driven up the loonie, hurting anybody wanting to sell their products elsewhere.
The Beard chuckles about not saying "tarsands" anymore because it's a "linguistic impediment" in talking to people.
But he adds his cleanup of language is nothing compared to the real cleanup needed.
And there's all the usual. Lukaszuk is an "extraordinary gentleman" and the sitdown was "cordial."
"We're not going to agree on everything," says Mulcair. They agree on almost nothing.
Nobody in the press asks what Mulcair has to say to those who believe his musings divide the country, attack the province and are unfair and inaccurate.
Finally, a certain scribbler does.
"You'd be hard-pressed to find a single reference in anything I've ever said that resembles anything of that," he says with a straight face.
How could we believe such a thing? Mulcair speaks of being in the trenches "fighting the separatists."
"I always find it a little bit galling to be told I'm somehow a divisive figure in Canada."
Danielle Smith, Wildrose leader, finds Mulcair's lingo "far more conciliatory."
"When you stand up to a bully, the bully backs down," she says.
The lingo is softer but the bully does no such thing. Mulcair walks away with a smile, saying he'll read through the reading materials Lukaszuk gave him.