Alberta Premier Jason Kenney expects to finish meetings with the prime minister and other senior federal officials this week with clear evidence Ottawa is going to take action on some of his province’s demands, he said Monday.
He’s bringing five requests into his meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, set for Tuesday, among them changes to the fiscal-stabilization program and to two pieces of legislation heavily criticized by the energy sector as putting a freeze on new development.
In a speech to the Canadian Club in the capital, Kenney noted those were both supported by all premiers at a meeting last week.
“If I was the federal government, I would take that as a pretty strong prompt, a nudge, to deliver,” he said.
“I don’t expect to be walking out of the prime minister’s office with written agreements on these things tomorrow but I sure hope we get an indication they are prepared to move.”
Kenney is in the nation’s capital on a two-day political trade mission of sorts, travelling with eight cabinet ministers and a posse of officials all pressing the case for those in the federal government to take seriously the economic and social costs of the ongoing challenges to Alberta’s economy.
Too many Canadians believe the issues facing Alberta are about a downturn in oil prices five years ago, Kenney told a packed ballroom at Ottawa’s Chateau Laurier hotel Monday.
But the reality is, oil prices have stabilized and in the U.S. the energy sector is in the midst of a job boom, while Alberta’s industry is facing a crisis.
“The difference is not (oil) prices,” he said. “It is policy.”
Alberta has been hit in the last week with several pieces of bad economic news. Last Tuesday, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the province’s credit, citing concerns over its reliance on non-renewable resources — mainly oil.
It also warned that Alberta has a high “environmental risk,” with its carbon-intensive oil and gas sector leaving it susceptible to costly wildfires and floods.
On Friday, Statistics Canada reported that last month in Alberta, the unemployment rate rose to 7.2 per cent from 6.7 per cent. The number of jobs fell by 18,000.
On Tuesday, in addition to requesting retroactive changes to the fiscal-stabilization program and changes to natural-resource legislation, Kenney will also press Trudeau on placing a hard deadline on the completion of the Trans Mountain pipeline project, with Indigenous groups quickly made partners; an expansion of tax instruments to help increase investment; and federal recognition for Alberta’s methane regulations.
What Albertans want isn’t unreasonable, nor does it hurt any other province, Kenney said.
“We are simply asking for a fair deal now,” he said.
During Monday’s lunch, he was seated at the same table as Trudeau’s deputy prime minister, Alberta-born Toronto MP Chrystia Freeland, who has been tasked by Trudeau with repairing the strained relationship between the federal and provincial governments.
Kenney will also meet with leaders of the NDP and the Conservative party.
Along with deputy ministers and other senior officials, the ministers on the trip are:
- Travis Toews, President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance
- Jason Nixon, Minister of Environment and Parks
- Sonya Savage, Minister of Energy
- Jason Copping, Minister of Labour and Immigration
- Devin Dreeshen, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry
- Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General
- Rick Wilson, Minister of Indigenous Relations
- Rebecca Schulz, Minister of Children’s Services
— With files from Karen Bartko, Global News