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Alberta premier meets rich and powerful guys in New York, feels right at home

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Harvard Club of New York

Premier Jim Prentice popped into the Harvard Club of New York on Friday and -- who knows? -- he may even have impressed the club's well-heeled and well-connected members.

Prentice certainly seems to have managed to impress the hell out of one of the Canadian reporters who accompanied him to the august society's discreet premises on West 44th Street in lower Manhattan.

So much so, indeed, that while the scribe was hyperventilating about the décor and atmosphere of power and privilege inside the club, he didn't actually manage to tell readers very much at all about what the premier had to say while he was there. Apparently, however, Prentice acted right at home.

Anyway, according to the Calgary Herald's breathless 1,088-word account of the visit, Prentice gave a speech. What he said in the speech -- other than a little joke prompting a few "appreciative chuckles" about how he could so easily been one of their Harvard Club confreres if he had only wished -- we readers were offered very few hints. (I’m not making this up! Read the story for yourself.)

In fairness, the story does contain some very nice quotes about Prentice from folks the premier encountered along the way during his just-ended U.S. tour, including the Canadian Ambassador to Washington, who could hardly be expected to badmouth the guy even if the envoy did used to be a New Democrat.

The CBC provided us with a few lines more of the substance of Prentice's speech, although not all that many, and perhaps the Premier's Office will be so kind as to provide us Albertans this week with a transcript as they did last week of Prentice's remarks to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

In that one, he quoted neoliberal economist Milton Friedman, claimed inspiration from Theodore Roosevelt (who graduated from Harvard in 1880), called for "deeper economic integration" between Canada and the United States, touted the carbon capture fairy tale, and praised free markets "when they are allowed to work" -- which presumably means when they allow pipelines to be built that are not wanted by the people who live alongside their path and make little economic sense as a result of the prices their contents will fetch, never mind the environmental implications.

If that is indeed what Prentice said in New York, I'm sure it went down just fine with the well-heeled luncheon crowd at the Harvard Club.

Regardless, we were advised that after the Harvard Club bunfest, Prentice told Albertans through the medium of the gathered Canadian reporters that "the biggest problem we've had in the past is an inability to get our message out as Albertans."

If your blogger may be so bold, I'm not sure this really is the problem. It's not so much that we've been having a problem disseminating our message -- which seems to be, We will pump dilbit, by God, through your territory, whether you like it or not! -- but that a lot of people south of the Medicine Line, apparently including the President of the United States, are not particularly enthusiastic about it.

Nevertheless, said Premier Prentice, "I intend to make sure that the voices of Albertans are heard, in Washington, in New York. They haven't been heard in the past always, and I'm going to ensure that that happens."

He seems to be ensuring it happens by only talking with people who agree with him. And how is that different, pray, from Alberta's old management?

For his part, meanwhile, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is on record telling U.S. President Barack Obama that he's not going to take "no" for an answer either.

As for Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer, the former New Democrat mentioned above, he tells us it's OK for Alberta politicians like Prentice and Harper to speak only to rich Republicans and slam Obama whenever they feel like it because "they're not a cupcake in the White House."

No, they're not, actually. They're a bunch of tough operators from Chicago who remember who their friends are. They won't be happy on a number of fronts if they think powerful Canadians are pushing for a Republican in the White House in 2016.

Is it just me, or is there something wrong with this approach?

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

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