Premiers flip over each other but Trudeau hasn’t flopped yet

The brief get-together of five conservative-minded premiers last week was meant to highlight the divide.

Alberta’s Jason Kenney, Ontario’s Doug Ford, Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe and New Brunswick’s Blaine Higgs all gathered before the cameras to flip pancakes at the Calgary Stampede.

They were joined by Northwest Territories Premier Bob McLeod who, while technically non-partisan, shares the Conservative critique of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s energy policy.

The symbolism was supposed to be obvious: The Liberals may rule in Ottawa for now. But conservative parties control all but three of the provinces. When Trudeau goes to the polls in October, he will face an electorate that over the last four years appears to have become considerably more right-wing.

If Canada were a simple country, the symbolism of the pancake breakfast might reflect reality. But Canada is not simple. It is complicated. Provincial and federal politics influence one another. But they do so in ways that are difficult to predict.

Even a seemingly monolithic province like Alberta can produce surprises, as it did in 2015 when Rachel Notley’s New Democrats won power provincially.

Tellingly, her victory did nothing to bolster the fortunes of Alberta’s NDP in the federal election that took place a few months later.

In most cases, provincial election results say little about federal preferences. Ontarians, for instance, often elect one of the two major parties provincially and the other federally. But they don’t do so in every instance.

Conversely, there is no reason to assume that just because Ontarians voted for Ford’s Progressive Conservatives provincially last year, they will do the same for Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives federally this October.

Indeed, given the current unpopularity of the Ford government, there is every reason to believe the opposite will occur.

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