For Calgary Grits it was a sight to behold - 300 or so Calgarians, old and young, men and women, oil patchers, business people, all crowded into the foyer of the Jack Singer Theatre in downtown Calgary to cheer on a Ontario Grit MP.
On Thursday at noon hour, John McCallum Ontario Liberal MP and Opposition Finance critic, with gusto, tore into the Conservative plan to tax income trusts and offered up a plan of his own. McCallum, clearly pleased with and invigorated by his reception and knowing he was among friends, referred to the Conservatives' income trust policy as not only a broken promise, but also a policy of 'stupidity' that was 'idiotic' and concocted by a bunch of 'morons.' He said that the Tory policy made the energy trust sector 'sitting ducks' to acquisitive foreign companies. He promised that a Liberal government would make the trust issue a priority and would set a 10% tax on the sector which would be refundable to Canadians - in contrast to the Conservatives' 31% corporate tax rate. To all of which the crowd cheered mightily.
Questioners who were longtime Conservatives repeatedly accused the Harper Government of betrayal and arrogance, with several stating that they had cast their last Conservative ballot. Both McCallum and the Liberals in attendance were all smiles at the end of the session knowing that he'd struck a solid chord with a growing number of disenchanted former life long Tories.
By contrast, on Saturday Calgary Conservative MP and Secretary of State for Multiculturalism Jason Kenney took a pasting from many of his 350 or so of his constituents at an open house meeting at Sam Livingstone School. There, former loyal and faithful Conservatives accused Kenney and the Conservatives of betrayal and playing games, and called him a liar during discussions about the income trust issue, equalization, the war in Afghanistan, immigration and the environment. The most wilting attack came in discussions about the income trust issue. Kenney said later that he found the experience 'humbling.'
What does all this mean? It means that a helluva lot of people in the area - and elsewhere - lost 20 billion or so of savings with the Bush's pal Harper's flip-flop on the income trusts. Most of those hurt in Alberta were dyed in the wool Conservatives and many of those were relying on income trusts to take them through their twilight retirement years. Many westerners were also appalled at Harper's billions of dollars kow-towing to Quebec to correct a mythical fiscal imbalance. They feel they were stabbed in the back and now realize that their loyalty was taken for granted.
All of which will help the Liberals in Alberta in the next Federal election. More so than even imagined in Bush's pal Steve Harper's worst nightmares.