CanadaOPINION | The sudden diplomacy of Premier Jason Kenney
AER member quits, claims he was targeted by UCP during campaign
Jason Kenney is to be sworn in as premier Tuesday and has promised that one of his first acts in the job would be to fire Whittingham. He has accused Whittingham of committing "economic sabotage" against the province's oil and gas industry by supporting and abetting groups seeking to landlock it. READ MORE: Lower price discounts to boost Q1 oil profits but sector still faces uncertainty During the campaign, Whittingham says Kenney and those running for the UCP spread lies about him and his views on Alberta's oilsands, claims he denies.
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Well, at least the universe didn't explode.
When newly-minted Alberta Premier Jason Kenney met with Prime Minister Trudeau in Ottawa Thursday it was the political equivalent of matter and antimatter colliding.
Swearing in: Jason Kenney's United Conservatives take over Alberta government
EDMONTON — Former federal cabinet minister Jason Kenney and his United Conservative Party are to officially take control of Alberta's government today. Kenney is to become Alberta's 18th premier and his cabinet members are to be sworn in during a ceremony at Government House in Edmonton. They are expected to get right to work with their first meeting immediately after. It will be the formal end of the four-year NDP government under Premier Rachel Notley. Kenney's UCP defeated the New Democrats in the provincial election April 16 when the party won 63 seats to the NDP's 24.
Kenney has a shopping list of disputes with Trudeau that include the federal carbon tax, Bill C-48, Bill C-69, and equalization.
To make the meeting even more awkward, Kenney has made no secret of his complete disdain for Trudeau both professionally and personally, once publicly insulting Trudeau as "an empty trust-fund millionaire who has the political depth of a finger bowl."
But the two men do agree on one thing: the need to get the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project underway as soon as possible so Alberta can get more of its oil to the West Coast for shipment to Asia.
Unless, of course, Trudeau doesn't agree.
Trudeau might not be in such a hurry to approve the pipeline expansion underway now that the Kenney-led UCP government has replaced the Rachel Notley-led NDP government.
‘Stay tuned’: Jason Kenney to proclaim ‘turn off the taps’ bill, won’t use it yet
"I've been clear it is not our intention to reduce shipments or turn off the tap at this time," said the Alberta premier.
Especially when Kenney just last month tweeted that "in the fall, we join with [federal Conservative leader] Andrew Scheer to work to defeat Justin Trudeau at the polls."
It wouldn't be a stretch to imagine Trudeau dragging his feet on approving the pipeline project until after the federal election in October [to win votes from environmentally conscious types in B.C. as well as in Ontario and Quebec].
And not just for petty retributive political reasons.
Trudeau gave conditional approval to the Trans Mountain project in 2016 because of then-premier Notley's climate leadership plan that included an Alberta carbon tax and a 100-megatonne per-year cap on greenhouse gas emissions from the oilsands.
Now Trudeau is dealing with Kenney who just won an election victory promising to blow up the climate leadership plan, scrap the Alberta carbon tax, and fight the federal carbon tax.
B.C. takes Alberta to court on law that could see gasoline exports cut
EDMONTON — The British Columbia government is taking Alberta to court over a law that could reduce the export of gasoline west. In a statement of claim filed in Calgary, B.C. says the law, proclaimed Tuesday by Alberta premier Jason Kenney, is unconstitutional. B.C. Premier John Horgan says he will defend his province's interests the same way Kenney will defend the interests of Alberta. The so-called turn-off-the-taps law was passed by Alberta's former NDP government as part of an effort to see the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion built to the B.C. coast.
How can Trudeau possibly approve the pipeline project now?
That's the question you'd assume the two men were discussing through gritted teeth Thursday afternoon.
To help win over Trudeau, Kenney has already suggested he's malleable on the oilsands emissions cap.
In fact, he's so malleable he's denying he ever made a campaign promise to lift the cap. It should be pointed out that party officials told journalists during the campaign in no uncertain terms that a UCP government would absolutely lift the cap. Kenney now says he was simply "opposed" to the cap.
And he says it's all a moot point because the cap is so relatively low it won't be an issue for another decade. He now seems to be suggesting he's willing to let the cap stay as is.
No doubt acting as an incentive are comments from federal Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi that, if the emissions cap is lifted, Ottawa would place new in-situ projects in the oilsands under federal regulation.
Political antagonists, Alberta's Jason Kenney and PM Trudeau to meet
Jason Kenney will meet face-to-face today with the political foe he attacked relentlessly in his successful bid to become Alberta's premier: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The two are to meet this afternoon in the Prime Minister's Office, just hours after Kenney is to testify before a Senate committee studying the government's bill to re-write the rules for environmental assessments of energy projects. Kenney, a former federal Conservative cabinet minister, calls the bill the "No Pipelines Act" and wants it scrapped.
A familiar approach
Kenney is desperate to get the pipeline project underway. He's so desperate he looks remarkably like Notley who tied her political survival to the expansion project that morphed from personal flotation device to lead weight when the project hit a series of delays.
Kenney, like Notley, has bet his political credibility on getting the project built.
Like Notley, he appeared before Senate committees reviewing Bill C-69 (the "no more pipelines bill," as Kenney calls it) and Bill C-48, the tanker ban bill.
"Toss C-48 in the garbage. It's where it belongs," Kenney told the Senate.
Oh, wait. That was Notley when she appeared before a Senate committee in February.
"This is not just a slight against the people of Alberta, this is the culmination of a full-frontal attack on our economic prosperity," Notley told the Senate.
Oh, wait. That was Kenney when he appeared before a Senate committee on Thursday.
When it comes to fighting for Alberta's interests, the two politicians sound remarkably alike when they're sitting in the premier's chair.
During the election campaign, both were trying to outdo each other in expressing the anger and frustration many Albertans are feeling over the province's economic troubles and lack of progress on Trans Mountain. But Kenney did anger and frustration much better than Notley.
Ahead of Trudeau meeting, Kenney calls assessment bill a threat to unity
OTTAWA — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says if the federal bill overhauling environmental assessments passes in its current form it will threaten Canadian unity and there will be "an immediate constitutional challenge." Kenney is at the Senate energy committee this morning to talk about Bill C-69, which he calls the "no more pipelines" bill. He is telling the committee the bill flagrantly violates Alberta's constitutional right to regulate its natural resources. The legislation establishes a new process for reviewing major projects with a national scope or in federal jurisdiction.
He is trying though, to rein in the outrage.
Kenney is even Notley-esque in his language over Alberta's Bill 12, the turn-off-the-taps legislation, aimed at cutting off oil exports to British Columbia to help get the pipeline expansion underway.
Notley passed Bill 12 last year but said she wouldn't use the law unless it was absolutely necessary. For the past year, and all through the election campaign, Kenney pretty much called her a political coward for not proclaiming the legislation and making it a law on the books. This week, Kenney proclaimed the law but he too said he wouldn't use it unless absolutely necessary.
That didn't stop B.C. Premier John Horgan from immediately launching a court challenge that, if successful, would strike down the law before Kenney ever has a change to turn off the taps.
But the new Premier Kenney is trying to be more statesmanlike than the old Opposition leader Kenney. That's understandable and laudable.
And for the sake of Alberta's economy let's hope it works.
But you have to wonder when it comes to making a deal with "an empty trust-fund millionaire who has the political depth of a finger bowl," Kenney's sudden diplomacy is too little too late.
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B.C.'s request for injunction against Alberta turn-off-the-taps law delayed 1 month.
B.C.'s request for an injunction against Alberta's Bill 12, which would allow the province to restrict shipments of oil and gas to B.C., has been delayed one month. B.C. Attorney General David Eby's office confirmed the hearing has been tentatively rescheduled for June 6. The hearing was originally scheduled to be held at the Calgary Courts Centre Tuesday morning. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney enacted the bill into law on April 30, shortly after he and his new cabinet were sworn in. In response, B.C. filed legal paperwork at Alberta's Court of Queen's Bench for an injunction and constitutional challenge on May 1.
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