Jason Kenney is promising a much more combative approach against Ottawa, other provinces and environmentalists over the fate of new oil pipelines if he wins the spring election, arguing that the Trans Mountain expansion has stalled in part because the governing New Democrats have not been aggressive enough.
The United Conservative Party Leader said a National Energy Board report due this Friday and a federal cabinet decision expected later this year will do little to guarantee the Trans Mountain project is actually built. Instead, he predicted more court battles and what he described as obstruction from the B.C. government.
“What we’re talking about is moving Alberta from an apologetic or defensive posture to an assertive posture. From a tactical approach to a strategic approach. From being a pushover to standing up and demanding fairness in the federation,” Mr. Kenney told reporters at the end of a weekend “election readiness” conference in Edmonton.
He said a UCP government would press the federal government to assert authority over the pipeline by declaring it to be for “the general Advantage of Canada” under the Constitution and also urge Ottawa to withhold transfers to provinces, notably British Columbia, that interfere. He would also threaten to cut off oil shipments to B.C., target environmental groups, which he said have abused their charitable status, and fund First Nations who support the project.
And if that fails, Mr. Kenney said he would hold a provincial referendum on equalization, which he insisted would force the federal government to confront the issue.
“We Albertans are generous, we pride ourselves in being able to share our prosperity when times are good here and bad elsewhere,” he said.
“But what we cannot abide is governments and politicians in other parts of the country benefiting from the resources developed by Alberta workers while trying to block those resources.”
The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion has been stalled after the Federal Court of Appeal ruled last year that Ottawa failed to adequately consult First Nations and did not properly take into account the potential effects on southern resident killer whales. Rather than appeal, the federal government sent the project back to the NEB to examine the effects on marine life, and also launched fresh consultations with First Nations. The NEB report is due this week, but a federal cabinet decision could drag into the summer.
Mr. Kenney said the federal government should have appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada, which he said would have provided needed clarity on the requirements for Indigenous consultation.
On the constitutional declaration, Mr. Kenney said it would not be aimed at Indigenous opposition to the pipeline but rather obstruction from other provinces, notably B.C.
Premier Rachel Notley has also positioned herself as a champion of the pipeline, issuing her own threats to cut off oil shipments to British Columbia. And her government briefly staged a boycott of B.C. wine a year ago. She has withdrawn her support for the federal climate plan and cancelled planned increases to the province’s carbon tax until the pipeline is built.
Ms. Notley has also announced a plan to purchase rail cars to expand crude shipments, promised grants and loan guarantees for upgrading and refining projects in Alberta, and imposed production cuts as of Jan. 1 to drive up the price of the province’s oil.
The provincial election campaign could begin at any point. The vote must occur in a three-month window that ends May 31.