Good morning, it’s James Keller in Calgary.
Jason Kenney is now Alberta’s 18th premier, and he’s already launching into his fight with British Columbia.
Mr. Kenney and 22 other cabinet ministers from his United Conservative Party government were sworn in on Tuesday at a small ceremony in Edmonton. The new Premier said his “young, diverse” cabinet would get to work immediately on policies designed to spark the province’s economy and protect its oil industry.
The ministers then retreated for a cabinet meeting and did what Mr. Kenney promised during the election campaign: proclaim legislation that would allow the province to “turn off the taps" on the flow of oil into British Columbia.
Mr. Kenney promised during the campaign to immediately proclaim the legislation, Bill 12, that would allow Alberta to cut off oil shipments to British Columbia as retaliation for opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. The NDP government had passed the legislation but never proclaimed it.
Lawyers for the B.C. government are ready to file a lawsuit challenging the law, which will likely be filed today. Government lawyers already have the paperwork ready to go, since they tried to sue Alberta over the law last year. That previous lawsuit was thrown out because the law wasn’t in force; proclamation changes that.
Mr. Kenney has called a news conference for this morning to reveal more details of what he has planned for Bill 12.
Mr. Kenney finished the day testifying before a Senate committee examining Bill C-48, which would ban tanker traffic off British Columbia’s northern coast. He told the committee, which has been holding hearings throughout Western Canada, that the bill would hurt the province’s oil patch. He pointed to similar criticisms from former NDP premier Rachel Notley as evidence of the widespread opposition to the bill in the province. What’s more, he promised a constitutional challenge of the bill, adding to the legal challenges his government has already announced. He also plans to file a constitutional reference case challenging the federal carbon tax, and a lawsuit against the federal government over Bill C-69, which would overhaul the environmental assessment process.
Aside from that, Mr. Kenney and his government will have a busy few weeks ahead of them. The Premier intends to call the legislature back in several weeks, with several significant pieces of legislation on the agenda. In the short term, he plans to head to Ottawa this week to testify at a committee on Bill C-69, and then to Toronto for a speech on Friday.
This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here. This is a new project and we’ll be experimenting as we go, so let us know what you think.
Money in politics: It appears recent efforts to clamp down on large donations to political parties at the federal and provincial levels have had the effect of bolstering third-party groups whose funding and objectives are not always transparent. Calgary environment reporter Jeff Lewis and his Ottawa colleague Shawn McCarthy reported this week that federal Conservative Party campaign director Hamish Marshall has business links with a national advocacy network supported by oil-industry executives that backed conservative parties in recent provincial elections and is gearing up to attack the Liberals in the fall federal election.
Mr. Marshall is a founding partner of Toronto media company One Persuades. Provincial election filings show a group called Ontario Proud paid One Persuades $30,510 for two ads that attacked former Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne. Ontario Proud is part of a growing network in Canada of well-funded, purportedly grassroots interest groups that are playing a larger role in federal and provincial elections.
Farm values: Rising borrowing costs, trade disputes and falling crop prices have conspired to slow the ascent of Canadian farmland values, Report on Business reporter Eric Atkins writes. The average increase in agricultural real estate was 6.6 per cent in 2018 after a rise of 8.4 per cent in 2017, according to Farm Credit Canada, the country’s biggest farm lender. J.P. Gervais, chief agricultural economist for the Crown corporation, said the Bank of Canada’s lending rate increases and lower prices for canola, soybeans and other major field crops amid global trade tensions have dampened farmers’ incomes and slowed the rise in land prices.
Mr. Gervais sees things getting worse, not better, this year: The China-U.S. agriculture tariff dispute, China’s ban on most Canadian canola and India’s restrictions on Canada’s lentils and other pulse crops will erode farm incomes and cut in half the rise of farmland value to about 3 per cent, he predicts.
Labour Code: B.C.’s NDP government has introduced substantive legislative changes to the province’s labour code that will have sweeping effects on employers and employees in the province.
Critics say the changes are just a sop to the NDP’s union backers, while unions say they right the balance that was for too long tilted against workers. Teachers will be given back the right to strike – the Liberals had declared them an essential service. The changes will also extend the successorship protection that union contracts enjoy to service contracts re-tendered by employers in janitorial, security, transportation, food and non-clinical health services.
Advisor resigns: Rather than wait to get fired, a prominent environmental policy expert has resigned from the board of Alberta’s energy regulator. With his departure, Ed Whittingham warned that getting rid of limits on oil sands emissions would revive international opposition to the industry. Mr. Whittingham, who led the Pembina Institute environmental think tank from 2011 to 2017, was a target of United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney, now Alberta Premier, during the election campaign.
Mr. Whittingham did not receive a thank-you-for-your-service from the new Premier. Instead, Mr. Kenney tweeted his appreciation for the resignation “a day before we could fire him. Our government will never appoint people like him who are avowed opponents of Alberta jobs. And we will stop all funding to groups engaged in economic sabotage against Alberta.”