UCP threatens constitutional challenge as relationship with Ottawa enters campaign
Standing with Calgary’s ailing downtown core in the background, Jason Kenney placed the blame for Alberta’s current situation on Premier Rachel Notley and her “alliance” with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“Rachel Notley sold Alberta out to Justin Trudeau,” Kenney said. “And all we got in exchange was a carbon tax and no pipelines.”
Kenney said a United Conservative Party government would launch a constitutional challenge against Bill C-69 if it becomes law.
Bill C-69 would tighten regulations around pipeline approvals.
Kenney also said his government would use “Turn off the Taps” legislation against any province that obstructs Alberta’s energy industry, as well as demand a better equalization deal for Alberta.
He told reporters if a pipeline isn’t built or under construction by 2021, he would hold a referendum in Alberta on removing equalization from the Canadian constitution on Oct. 18, 2021.
According to Kenney, Alberta sends $20 billion more to the federal government in equalization than it receives on an annual basis.
Kenney said his government would take the issue to the Supreme Court if necessary.
“If a province holds a referendum with a clear question on a constitutional amendment, and if a clear majority votes in favour, that it imposes a binding obligation on the federal government to negotiate that matter with the province in good faith,” he said.
Alberta’s economy has been struggling since oil prices dropped drastically in 2014, and Kenney said policy by the NDP government, like the carbon tax, made things worse.
“It’s an easier target,” Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt, said. “That’s why [Kenney] talks about the Notley-Trudeau alliance, because they worked closely together up until about last August, when the federal court of appeal came down on TransMountain.”
During her tenure as premier, Notley met often with Trudeau to advocate for pipelines.
She also attended a climate change conference in Paris alongside the prime minister.
But, her tone towards the federal government changed dramatically when the courts ruled against the Trans Mountain project.
Notley, who was in Lethbridge on Thursday, told reporters her government made significant progress on pipelines since that appeal.
“We have fought since Day 1 to get pipelines built, across this province and to tidewater, and its long overdue,” Notley said.
“We can point to a federal government that previously approved the pipeline, that bought the pipeline, that is committed to getting the pipeline built, we just got the (National Energy Board) to re-approve the pipeline.
“That happens when you have a strong, forceful case on behalf of the people you represent, not when you build firewalls, which is the strategy of my opposition — that won’t help anything.”
But Bratt believes that campaigning against Ottawa is never a bad idea in a provincial election campaign, adding it’s a common theme in Alberta elections since 1905.
He said the approach could cause problems if the UCP ends up earning a mandate in the upcoming spring election.
“It’s difficult for [Notley] to stand up the way Kenney has over the last several months, where there have been legitimate disputes — like over Bill C-69 — because of the close relationship she already had with [Trudeau], whereas Kenney had been opposed to Trudeau for a very long time,” Bratt said.
“You have the Notley approach of working with other governments — it hasn’t produced a pipeline, but it’s on the verge. Is the Kenney approach better or worse than that?”
Consultations on the Trans Mountain pipeline are ongoing and construction is expected to be underway by 2021.
Both Notley and Kenney are in Calgary on Thursday evening for campaign events.
Albertans head to the polls on April 16.
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