Good morning! It’s James Keller in Calgary.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has spent his six months in office (and the election campaign before that) making Quebec one of his many targets.
Mr. Kenney has slammed the Quebec government and the leader of the Bloc Québécois for objecting to oil pipelines while the province benefits from large equalization payments. He’s called out what he sees as hypocrisy because those equalization payments are funded in part by Albertans’ resource wealth, through income taxes. And he’s accused the province of being all too eager to take oil from “OPEC dictators” rather than Canadian crude.
The animosity ratcheted up during the federal election campaign and it’s only got more heated since then.
This past week, Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet said his party would not help the governments of Saskatchewan and Alberta in their fight with Ottawa, even as Alberta demands a level of autonomy that in some ways would mirror the situation in Quebec. He also said his province already has enough oil and he doesn’t see the need to help bring more Alberta crude to the east.
Mr. Kenney snapped back, accusing Quebec of biting the hand that feeds it: “You cannot have your cake and eat it, too. Pick a lane." He’s using Mr. Blanchet’s dismissive attitude as fodder for his push for a more autonomous Alberta. Mr. Kenney has called for a “fair deal” for his province that could include an Alberta Pension Plan, a provincial police force, a provincial revenue agency and a number of other measures.
Speaking to the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors, Mr. Kenney said Mr. Blanchet and his sovereigntist allies cannot continue to denounce Alberta oil even as the Quebec government receives billions of dollars in equalization payments. While the funding comes from Ottawa, Mr. Kenney argues a large part of the money was generated by the oil industry.
Our Calgary-based columnist Kelly Cryderman argues Mr. Blanchet’s opposition is self-defeating and outdated. Quebec already gets a significant amount of oil from Alberta through existing pipelines and there’s demand to ship more oil east for export out of Montreal. Opposing pipelines won’t stop that, but simply increase shipments by rail: “To be clear, Quebec politicians are not saying no to Alberta oil. They are saying no to Alberta shipping oil through the province to get to international markets.”
Gary Mason writes that Mr. Blanchet’s approach to Alberta is blatant hypocrisy. And it’s not just equalization; Quebec gets nearly half of its oil supply from Western Canada: “Imagine what would happen if Alberta cut off that supply tomorrow. What would happen in Quebec? Let’s hope we never have to find out.”
Campbell Clark says the whole dispute is further damaging national unity (and we shouldn’t be surprised that Mr. Blanchet doesn’t appear too concerned): “The whole dispute is ripe for all sides to take offence, for one province to fire blame at another. But [Quebec Premier François Legault] hasn’t deputized Mr. Blanchet to speak for Quebec. And when he shoots off his mouth, Mr. Kenney should not treat the Bloc leader as he does. Because he’s not rooting for Canadian unity.”
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.
Around the West:
BIG SISTER: Justine Hunter reports on a young woman raising her five siblings, relying on her own grit and the kindness of strangers. Because Marina Miller chose to become the children’s legal guardian, she qualified for none of the help that a foster parent would.
HK EXCHANGE STUDENTS: Canadian exchange students studying at universities in Hong Kong are being urged by their schools to return to Canada. UBC, McGill and others have concluded safety conditions have deteriorated because of anti-government protests.
SOLE-SOURCE CONTRACTS: Alberta’s Opposition New Democrats have asked the province’s ethics commissioner to review a $905,000 sole-source contract awarded by the head of a continuing public inquiry to his son’s law firm.
ALBERTA-B.C. CO-OPERATION: Alberta and British Columbia have joined forces to try to gain a foothold for Canadian natural gas in the Asian market. Officials from both provinces will head to Japan next week to make the case for Western Canadian natural gas at a business summit in Tokyo.
SMUDGING LAWSUIT: A mother on Vancouver Island says her two children’s Charter right to religious freedom was infringed when their classes participated in an Indigenous smudging ceremony and is seeking a court-ordered ban on the practice in schools.
VAPING: British Columbia has introduced the toughest restrictions on vaping in the country. The legislation boosts sales taxes on vaping products by 13 per cent. BC is the first province to have a specific tax rate for vaping products. The Globe investigated the vaping industry’s marketing practices in a report by Carly Weeks, who found that e-cigarette companies are using many of the same tactics once used by Big Tobacco to target teens.
ALBERTA AID: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is seeking nearly $1.7-billion from Ottawa under a little-used federal program after a collapse in oil prices that sent the provincial economy into a tailspin. Mr. Kenney’s request comes as he’s struck a panel that is investigating whether to renegotiate the province’s relationship with Ottawa.
HOMELESSNESS TARGETED: B.C. municipalities have been passing a series of bylaws targeting activities usually associated with being homeless. Smaller cities in the Lower Mainland are grappling with increased numbers of homeless people and are outlawing panhandling, sitting on sidewalks or sleeping in RVs.
TRADE OFFICES: Saskatchewan’s trade minister says the government won’t be making partisan staff appointments to three new international offices. Premier Scott Moe on Thursday announced new offices in Japan, India and Singapore as part of a plan to expand exports and strengthen trade relationships.
TRANSIT STRIKE: The Vancouver area is bracing for escalating job action as bus drivers and mechanics press for better wages and working conditions. Two days of talks with the employer collapsed Thursday.
ASSET SALE: Oil and gas producer Crescent Point Energy Corp. says it is selling Saskatchewan midstream assets for $500-million as part of a divestiture strategy adopted following a management shakeup last year.
Gary Mason on pipelines: “Given how long it takes to get a pipeline built in Canada, does it make any sense to be planning more, to be dreaming of something that might not be built for seven, eight, nine years? That might be coming onstream as demand has plateaued or has started to contract at an inexorable rate?”
Shawney Cohen on the drug war: “The Rat Park experiment involved rats, but the bigger message for the rest of the world is that without shifting our perspective on drug policies and focusing more on the environments in which we live and want to build, the futile drug war will only continue.”
Karen Tam Wu on B.C.’s climate change legislation: “B.C.’s climate accountability and transparency legislation is a near-complete framework for moving from climate promises to performance. A minority federal government committed to climate action would do well to follow B.C.’s lead and act quickly to insulate climate targets against the vagaries and vulnerabilities of politics before it’s too late.”