07/26/2012 11:41 EDT | Updated 09/25/2012 05:12 EDT

Don't Call it a Cat Fight Just Because They Are Women


We need more women in politics, they said. Our discourse will be more collaborative and conciliatory, they said. Well, the feisty dust-up between she-premiers Christy Clark of British Columbia and Allison Redford of Alberta has been a lot of things, but a feminine puff of perfumed air into our muddy phallocracy isn't one of them.

B.C.'s boss has been waffling all over the place lately regarding the proposed construction of a giant pipe through her province that will make it easier for the Albertans to sell their oil to our pals in Red China. Premier Redford is like, "think of the big picture, Christy!" and Premier Clark is like, "maybe a cut of some sweet oil royalties would help me decide."

When writing about a high-profile disagreement between two powerful women, one should always  be sensitive, and avoid lapsing into lazy, sexist cliches. Unless, of course, you're a female writer. Then you can be like Licia Corbella at the Calgary Herald, and have lots of fun talking about "catfights" and "hissing matches."

Like a good Albertan, Licia obviously sides with her premier, and thinks Christy's worries about exploding pipes are just "akin to a cat hissing, raising it's hackles and baring its teeth." The pipe-building Enbridge corporation has already promised to mop up any oil it spills, geez! That's no reason to demand payouts from Alberta, unless you're into creating "a tit-for-tat mess that would damage Canada."

"Damaging Canada" is a popular line indeed with the Albertan pundit brigade. The Calgary Sun outright accuses Premier Clark of "putting Canada last" in a lead editorial on the matter, while good ol' Ezra Levant calls the gang of tree-huggers running B.C. downright "un-Canadian."

Obviously the "greater good of Canada" is served when Albertans can sell their oil all over the world, they say. Sure, the greater good of Alberta might be served a little more, but that's no reason to get uppity.

You'd imagine the tone to be quite different over here in British Columbia, but alas, we are a fickle  people, and B.C. pundits don't seem any more in love with our greedy Canada-hating premier than our Alberta brethren.

Since British Columbians are familiar with how polls work, our media-folk have a hard time interpreting Clark's foot-dragging as anything but political. Which is kind of annoying, because her actions don't really make a whole lotta political sense.

For those just joining us now, in British Columbia, Clark's Liberals are supposed to be the "free-market" party, in contrast to the opposition NDP, who want to shift to a tank parade-based economy or something. But is insulting big business, pandering to environmentalists, and leeching royalties from other provinces really the most capitalisty thing to do?

Stephen Hume at the Vancouver Sun says "no," and thinks the Premier is looking "like a chameleon trying to blend with the background on a black- and-white checkerboard." Michael Symth at the Province agrees, and notes that far from assembling a rainbow coalition under her neutral fence-sitting, she's actually getting bashed from "both the right and the left for being weak and indecisive."

Vaughn Palmer says the only guys actually satisfied are the anti-pipe Dippers, who are laughing all the way to the organic bike co-op at the prospect Clark's shenanigans will ultimately  "stall the project or make it so costly to go ahead that the company gives up on it."

So yes, the nation is clearly doomed unless someone can find a way to break the tension between these two uptight women. Anyone have any ideas?

Well, I'm sure Licia Corbella does, but this is a family column.


Speaking of horrible inaction on issues of national importance, how about Omar Khadr? You may remember him as the Toronto-born child soldier/terrorist/brainwash victim/Shakespeare aficionado who has been lounging in Gitmo for a decade or so as the federal government assembles ever-more convoluted reasons to dodge their obligation to repatriate him to Canada. Well, this week Minister Toews became the latest government guy to say he needs just a little more time to think, thus triggering a fresh round of Khadr editorials.

Khadr editorials are one of the dullest staples of Canadian journalism, since almost every major opinionator (except ol'-what's-his-face) is of the opinion that Khadr's treatment has been a due process abortion, and that there's no good reason to keep him in Cuba. The only real challenge at this point is rearranging those stale talking-points in a fresh bouquet (though it's a bit easier if you work at the Ottawa Citizen, where Kate Heartfield has assembled a handy little index of her paper's last 32 weigh-ins on the matter).

At the National Post, Jon Kay says the longer we delay Khadr's extradition the more we damage our relationship with the USA, and thus, ironically, our safety from terrorists. Janet Bagnell at the Gazette thinks Omar's the slippery slope on which all of our human rights take a slide. In the Globe, Amnesty International prez Alex Neve spares no synonyms in calling the whole episode a "disgrace," "travesty," and "Kafkaesque injustice."

They make a convincing case, but I'm still concerned that Khadr might return to his grenade-tossing ways should he be set free. As a compromise, perhaps his first obligation upon returning should be to read all of the cloying editorials that have been written in his defence over the last 10 years.

That outta buy us at least another decade.