If you ever had any doubt where the North stood in the big picture of Canadian politics, you should have an answer now.
And that answer – more like confirmation, really – is the North barely registers on the radar in Ottawa.
That might be a bit harsh, but it’s true.
On Nov. 20, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named his new cabinet.
It was a well-choreographed event for television. One after another, the returning and new ministers walked up a long lane in Ottawa to where they would be officially named to the new cabinet. They were accompanied by their spouses and often one or two of their kids to make the politicians look a bit more human (because it is hard to be sure sometimes).
In hindsight, we admit to being foolishly optimistic. We were expecting to see Michael McLeod – the MP for the Northwest Territories – join the parade. Certainly, not at the head of said parade, but somewhere. We didn’t expect that McLeod would go from the Liberal backbenches to a high-profile portfolio. But we were hoping that maybe he could squeeze into the cabinet in one of the portfolios of lesser clout.
Yet, McLeod was nowhere to be seen.
Not even when the West is in near revolt over the results of the recent election could Justin Trudeau bring himself to name McLeod to his cabinet.
Here was an opportunity for Trudeau to appoint some representation from the Mountain Time Zone. McLeod is the closest thing that Trudeau has as a representative of Alberta. McLeod’s riding even borders Alberta.
Trudeau could have then claimed that he had a cabinet minister from our region of the West. The word ‘west’ is even in the name of McLeod’s riding – the Northwest Territories.
And it wasn’t like Trudeau would have had to appoint a political novice to his cabinet. McLeod is now into his second term as an MP and had experience as a cabinet minister in the territorial government.
Yet, all that was not enough.
While we waited in vain for McLeod to make that walk into cabinet, we were treated to a parade of politicians that showed once again where the real power lies in Canada.
There was a deluge of MPs – some well-known cabinet ministers and some newcomers – from Ontario (particularly the Toronto area) and Quebec.
In one sense, that shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Ontario and Quebec are the population centres of Canada, and you would expect them to be well-represented in cabinet. (And, of course, Alberta and Saskatchewan can’t really moan – although they will – about not being represented if they don’t elect candidates from the winning party.)
But the NWT elected a Liberal, and we got nothing for it, even in a time when a cabinet minister from the northwest would be good for us, good for the Liberal Party and good for the country.
Trudeau was obviously more interested in shoring up Liberal support in Quebec and Ontario with an eye to winning a majority in the next election.
Western alienation, national unity, northern representation, doing the right thing and all that inconsequential stuff come far behind winning elections.