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Opinion

Trolls have no place in the offices of our premiers

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Shortly after Independent Senators voted down a report from the Senate Transport Committee calling on them to kill the tanker ban bill, C-48, last Thursday, the government’s representative in the Chamber, Sen. Peter Harder, tweeted about the vote, calling it an example of “sober second thought.”

About an hour later, the Twitter account for Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s office retweeted Sen. Harder’s message, with the sort of agitated language more commonly used by the trolls who cruise the social media platform for opportunities to disparage and demean.

“Justin Trudeau’s ‘independent’ senators just slapped Alberta in the face and betrayed the national interest of Canada by ignoring the Senate’s own committee which studied this toxic legislation in depth, and voted to kill it. This is a bad day for all of Canada,” screeched the premier’s account.

The tone was markedly different from the tweets from Mr. Kenney’s personal Twitter account after the Senate gave a lifeline to the controversial tanker ban bill, which many big and small-C conservatives and natural resource executives say would do major damage to the oilsands economy in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

“Very disappointed that the Senate has just voted to reject the recommendation of the Transport Committee to kill Bill C-48, the ban on Alberta oil exports from the NW Coast. I urge the Senate to reconsider its decision at third reading,” Mr. Kenney tweeted, later adding, “This discriminatory ban on Alberta energy is unacceptable, and we will oppose it at every opportunity.”

Mr. Kenney, a veteran of years of fierce political and rhetorical battles—or, whomever crafted the tweets from his personal account—clearly understands how to balance a forceful denunciation with the dignity required of a provincial premier. He ought to give more thought to how the messaging from his own office compares to that standard.

Several Independent Senators, including some who voted against the committee’s report, are opposed to Bill C-48 as it was written by the government, but that’s beside the point. The debate over the bill and the report by the Transport Committee is complex: the committee’s vice-chair, Sen. Julie Miville-Dechêne, slammed the report as “biased” and “partisan,” and Senators very rarely kill government bills. They still may, if the government rejects all Senate amendments to C-48, as there is an argument to be made that the bill unfairly marginalizes Alberta’s economy and ought to be put down.

There is no room for the premier of Alberta’s office to accuse Senators balancing these and other considerations of having “betrayed the national interest of Canada,” or of slapping Alberta in the face.

That language is discriminatory and divisive, the very words the Transport Committee’s report used to describe C-48. Mr. Kenney should make sure the staff handling his office’s twitter account show some class while speaking on his behalf in the future, instead of trying to stoke Western alienation for short-term political gain.

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