The fate of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion mustn’t be a bargaining chip in a federal Liberal minority government, said Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.
It would be “totally unacceptable” for a re-elected federal government to withdraw approval of the pipeline’s expansion to gain the backing of the federal NDP, Bloc Quebeçois or Green Party on a confidence motion in the House of Commons, Kenney told reporters at the legislature Tuesday.
All three parties oppose expansion of oil pipelines.
“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 said.
The expansion, which has been delayed by court challenges and regulatory hurdles, will nearly triple the volume of oil transported from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C., when complete in 2022.
With conservatives elected Monday in 33 of 34 Alberta federal ridings, Kenney fired off a five-page letter to Trudeau listing at least 13 ways the Prime Minister can mend relations with the Prairie folks who spurned his party at the polls.
Key among his suggestions were policies that could help Alberta get more oil and natural gas to international markets, which he said would help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and bolster provincial and federal coffers.
Kenney proposed exempting Alberta from a federal carbon tax, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2020, and repealing federal legislation he says will make it more difficult to build oil pipelines in Canada.
Kenney campaigned on replacing Alberta’s carbon tax on heavy emitters with a new Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) program that would lower the price of carbon emissions to $20 a tonne from $30 a tonne. On Tuesday, while discussing conciliatory gestures, he said the Alberta government would set the price at $30 a tonne in 2020, which is what the federal government wants.
The premier also renewed his previous calls on Trudeau to amend the federal equalization formula, remove a mortgage stress test for Alberta property buyers and chop away internal trade barriers.
“We don’t object to sharing some of our wealth,” Kenney said. “What we object to is Ottawa and some provincial governments expecting us to pay those bills without allowing us to develop the wealth to do so.”
‘Eminent Albertans’ panel
The premier is also appointing a panel of prominent Albertans to brainstorm other mechanisms for the the province to “secure our role in fairness in the Canadian federation,” he said.
Within a week, he hopes to name individuals who will hold public hearings to air some of the frustrations about and potential solutions to the western alienation that drove Albertans to turf its Liberal MPs.
As threats of separation raged on social media Tuesday, the premier made a pitch for keeping the country whole: Albertans are patriots, Alberta has the backing of other provincial governments, and the province lacks a coast, he said.
“We should not let Justin Trudeau and his policies make us feel unwelcome in our own country,” he said.
NDP Opposition deputy house leader Heather Sweet said the election results are a clear warning from Alberta that a federal government must protect Alberta’s role in confederation.
Although the federal NDP is opposed to the Trans Mountain expansion project, the Alberta NDP will continue to push for its completion, Sweet said.
She was skeptical of Kenney’s latest panel, saying the premier doesn’t ask questions without already knowing the answers he’s looking for. The exercise is seeking “permission” to pursue Alberta separatism, she said.
Same refrain from Edmonton MPs
Like Kenney, some re-elected Edmonton MPs said Tuesday the Liberals should ease development of Alberta’s energy industries to mend fences with an irate province.
Victorious Edmonton Centre conservative candidate James Cumming said the federal government should ensure Trans Mountain proceeds, along with other potential projects in liquid natural gas and “value added” options, such as chemical or plastic production.
“We’ve got abundant resources, we’ve got abundant commodities, so there’s just oodles of opportunity in Alberta if the federal government will just let us do what we do well,” he said.
Re-elected Edmonton Riverbend MP Matt Jeneroux said Tuesday Trudeau sounded tone deaf to the province’s economic struggles during the campaign when he mused about the Liberals picking up more seats in Alberta.
He has little appetite for talk of separation.
“I know many of us are frustrated right now with results and not seeing that we’re in Ottawa,” he said of the Liberals’ win. “I love Canada, I want us to stay united. I want Alberta to be a part of it and then, quite simply, I think Canada is worth fighting for.”