Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says Calgary petroleum giant Encana’s decision to move its headquarters to the United States is a consequence of what he calls the destructive policies of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government when it comes to energy development in Western Canada.
“It’s not just about Encana. It’s about the broader decline of the Canadian energy industry which I think is a deliberate policy of the Trudeau government,” Mr. Kenney said in an interview Thursday.
Encana CEO Doug Suttles, however, rejected the notion that Canadian politics prompted his company’s move. In an interview with BNN Bloomberg Thursday, he was asked whether this decision, coming so soon after the federal election, where the Liberals won the most seats, had anything to do with the political environment.
“The answer is unequivocally no,” Mr. Suttles said. “This is not a political move, this is quite simply accessing the capital trends in the marketplace.”
Mr. Kenney also called for an early First Ministers meeting soon after the Prime Minister unveils a new cabinet on Nov. 20 to discuss urgent issues such as completing the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, an improved deal on equalization payments and the creation of “energy corridors” in Canada that would enable pipelines to be built without undue obstacles.
“I actually believe on most of the issues that animate Albertans right now we have almost all or most of the provincial or territorial governments lined up in various ways,” he said.
He also warned that western Canadian alienation will continue to deepen unless the minority Liberal government guarantees the completion of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project and repeals or at least substantially rewrites Bill C-69, legislation the premier contends will frustrate the building of any more pipelines to coastal waters.
Bill C-69, the Impact Assessment Act, was given royal assent in June and sets up a new authority to assess major infrastructure projects such as pipelines, mines and interprovincial highways.
Mr. Kenney said the legislation “creates profound uncertainty about getting any major investments or projects approved. We see this … as part of a larger term effort by many in this government to effectively phase out the oil sands.”
The Liberal government declined to comment on Mr. Kenney’s accusations but instead released a statement through Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi’s office. Press secretary Vanessa Adams said the government was “disappointed to hear the news.” She noted Encana’s Mr. Suttles had said it would not affect employment levels or investments in Canada.
Ms. Adams said Alberta is a key driver of Canada’s economy and the government realizes the energy sector has been weathering a “very challenging time.” She said the Liberal government has been focused on creating the conditions to attract new investment including adding pipeline capacity to get petroleum to markets, including the Trans Mountain pipeline, which Ottawa purchased last year to keep an expansion project on track.
She said Ottawa had introduced better rules for reviews to ensure “good projects can be approved.” She noted the government had also secured a $40-billion liquefied natural gas project in Kitimat, B.C., to expedite sales to Asia. “And there are hundreds of other major resource projects planned across Canada over the next 10 years.”
Mr. Kenney said he wants a guarantee from Ottawa that the Trans Mountain expansion will be completed, to stave off any chance that the Liberals might agree to stall or cancel the project in order to win New Democrat or Bloc Québécois support so it can survive budget or confidence votes.
Mr. Trudeau is still grappling with how to address growing western Canadian alienation that was manifested in the October 21 general election that saw the Liberals shut out of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
The Liberal government is examining a number of options to address its lack of MPs in those provinces, including the possible appointment of senators from western Canada or creating a western advisory council.
Mr. Kenney said the best way for Mr. Trudeau to resolve tensions within the federation is to deal directly with him and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe.
“If the federal government wants to know what Alberta is thinking, they have got my number. If they want to know what Saskatchewan is thinking, they have Scott Moe’s number,” he said. “We have two provincial governments here, both of them elected with super majorities who are, according to the polling, two of the most popular provincial governments in Canada.”
Speaking Thursday morning, following the news that Encana is moving head offices to the United States, Mr. Kenney said the company’s actions are a consequence of antipathy and neglect by Ottawa. He quoted a statement from Gwyn Morgan, who founded Encana, where the former petroleum executive blamed “the destructive policies of the Trudeau Liberals” and said the company had been left with no choice.
“I think Gwyn speaks for a lot of Albertans,” Mr. Kenney said.
Mr. Kenney said the Prime Minister must wake up to what he described as deep anger in Alberta and Saskatchewan about the way the provinces have been treated by Ottawa. He listed off a series of thwarted or cancelled energy projects to buttress his arguments.
“It is the same government that cancelled the approved Northern Gateway [pipeline] arbitrarily … it is the same federal government that killed Energy East after $1-billion had been spent by TC Energy … It was the same federal government that completely surrendered to President [Barack] Obama’s veto of the Keystone XL pipeline in 2015,” he said.
“It is the same federal government that brought in a no-more pipelines law,” he said, referring to Bill C-69, legislation that he argued, if not amended, would make the Trans Mountain project the last coastal access pipeline.
The Alberta premier also suggested Mr. Trudeau should not reappoint Catherine McKenna as environment minister, saying she is anti-pipeline.
Mr. Kenney said he plans to appoint an eminent persons panel within days to offer recommendations on how Alberta can get a fair deal on employment insurance, Canada Pension Plan and greater control over health care.
Encana Corp., one of Canada's oldest and largest energy companies, is moving its corporate headquarters from Calgary to the United States to bolster its access to deep-pocketed investors. Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage blames federal energy policies for the move, while Alberta's opposition NDP says the province's plan to rescue the economy by slashing corporate income taxes has failed.
The Canadian Press