Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has a list of expectations for Canada’s new federal government and promised on Tuesday the UCP government will hold Justin Trudeau’s Liberal minority to account on all of them.
In a speech to the Legislative Assembly, Kenney said the results of Monday’s 43rd federal election – and the party platforms that were tabled through the campaign period – were a “complete inversion” of the Canadian constitution and he’s committed to seeing that righted, especially when it comes to defending Alberta’s interests. He called on the incoming Trudeau government not to make any deals or arrangements with the NDP, Bloc Quebecois or the “anti-Alberta Green Party.”
Kenney said he called Trudeau on Tuesday to congratulate him on his win, adding he also took the opportunity to set out Alberta’s expectations, which he wrote in a five-page letter to be sent to the prime minister-elect Tuesday.
The first of Kenney’s demands was to see plans for a resource corridor across the country, which he said wasn’t a unique request, but rather one that is based on nation building and “helps achieve the dream of economic union.” He said he would hold the feds to their word on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which 278 representatives from Canadian political parties now sitting in the House of Commons were in support of.
“One can imagine a scenario in a minority Parliament where parties that hold the balance of power might try to negotiate their support for confidence measures such as a budget contingent upon federal withdrawal from TMX,” he said Tuesday. “What I’m saying is that would be totally unacceptable and if the prime minister means what he said last night, about listening to Alberta and Saskatchewan, the clearest way he could do so would be to unequivocally commit this new government to the completion of the pipeline that the federal government owns.”
Kenney also demanded fundamental change to the equalization payment program, saying Albertans have been overwhelming contributors to the rest of the country’s economy, despite struggling financially since 2015. He said the stabilization program should be imposed when “have provinces” like Alberta are faced with an economic hit, but because of the program’s payment capping, the province hasn’t seen the payments it should.
Kenney promised that if changes aren’t made to the highly controversial federal Bill C-69, his government would look at having equalization deleted from the Canadian constitution.
“It’s insulting to us that we have to subsidize provinces that choose not to develop their own resources with the resources that we develop,” Kenney said. “We think that’s a perverse incentive for other provinces not to develop their resources.”
The premier also renewed his call for the federal government to exempt Alberta from the mortgage stress test on homebuyers, which he said was designed to get booming markets like those in Toronto and Vancouver under control, but has had negative impacts on Albertans. He said he plans to include Saskatchewan on that demand.
Finally, Kenney said he wrote in his letter to Trudeau he would continue to press the federal government to listen to nine out of 10 provinces and the vast majority of the Senate and reconsider Bill C-69. He said he’d like to see Trudeau’s government look at previously presented amendments, including some that were proposed by the former Alberta NDP government.
Kenney said in the coming days, the UCP government will create a panel to consult with a broad range of Albertans – including grassroots residents, academics and other stakeholders — on “ways to secure our role and fairness in Canadian federation.”
“There are a whole lot of ideas that have been floated about constitutional amendments, non-constitutional approaches, a greater assertion of provincial jurisdiction,” Kenney said.
“Many of these ideas go all the way back to, for example, ideas that Peter Lougheed floated in the late 1970s and since then. So the mandate we will give to this expert panel will be to look at all these ideas and say, ‘What would be the most effective ways to assert fairness for Alberta in the federation and to listen to Albertans in doing so.'”
Kenney said the panel — which will include well-known Albertans — would gather information through public hearings and is expected to be announced next week.
He said the UCP would consider each idea presented between now and the end of the calendar year, with the aim to “present an expanded plan to fight for fairness in the federation” to Albertans in early 2020.
One thing the premier said he didn’t write about in his letter to Trudeau about was the federal carbon tax, which Kenney has been openly opposed to and promised in his own election campaign to abolish.
When asked by reporters why that wasn’t included on his priority list Tuesday, Kenney said the province “will continue to dispute that.”
“First of all, through judicial reference to the Alberta appeal court, and also by supporting the appeals of the governments of Saskatchewan and Ontario to the Supreme Court of Canada,” he said.
“We will be asking that the Supreme Court delay their consideration of those appeals until we’ve been able to get a judgment of the Alberta appeal court that considers the unique fact pattern here in Alberta.
“I know Justin Trudeau is not going to back up on his policy on that. Our first effort was to get a democratic decision from Canadians — that didn’t happen on the carbon tax yesterday. Our back-up plan, Plan B, is to go and assert our provincial rights through the courts.”
Monday night’s election saw Trudeau’s Liberal Party re-elected as a minority government. However, the party did not win a single seat in Alberta.
All but one of Alberta’s 34 ridings were won by the Conservatives. The only riding not won by a Conservative was in Edmonton Strathcona, where NDP candidate Heather McPherson was elected.