Canada COMMENTARY: The Kenney-Blanchet feud is ultimately nothing more than a distraction
The Bloc Québécois Still Wants Quebec To Separate But Won't Help The West Do The Same
Blanchet won't be offering any help to the west.Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet told reporters that he wants Quebec to be his own country and western Canada shouldn't look to him for help with doing the same thing there.
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Albertans are in a rather ornery mood these days, so it should come as no surprise that Alberta’s premier might be up for a fight.
In fact, Jason Kenney’s willingness to fight was a big reason he was elected premier this past spring.
‘Pick a lane’: Kenney calls out Quebec’s use of equalization payments after Blanchet’s meeting with Trudeau
Premier Jason Kenney said Alberta has paid $600 billion in equalization payments since 1960, adding the province has contributed $23 billion each year for the past five years. "And yet we are going through an economic crisis," he said. "All we ask is a little bit of fairness -- we’re not asking for a special deal, we’re asking for a fair deal.”READ MORE: Premier Jason Kenney announces ‘Fair Deal Panel’ to advance Alberta’s interests, like pipelines The comments come on the heels of Kenney's announcement of a "fair deal" panel on Saturday, which is aimed at pushing forward with Alberta's interests.
Of course, there’s a big difference between fighting to achieve something and fighting for the sake of fighting, and Kenney is walking a fine line between the two in. Ultimately, though, it’s unlikely that anything productive is going to emerge from this spat and hopefully we won’t waste too much energy on this.
It is, however, a useful reminder of the tensions that currently exist in this country and that the newly re-elected prime minister is going to have to address. Even once the dust settles on this spat, it’s unlikely to be long before the next one flares up.
It was following his meeting with the prime minister this past week that Yves-François Blanchet sparked this feud with Kenney (so technically Blanchet started it). The Bloc leader expressed his intent to oppose any government initiative that would lead to more oil and gas being extracted.
Kenney fires back after Bloc leader shows little sympathy toward calls for more Western independence
OTTAWA — Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet began his day on Wednesday in a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but ended it in a spat with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. Dismissing calls for more independence for western Canada, Blanchet said he doesn’t believe Canada is currently experiencing a national unity crisis. Dismissing calls for more independence for western Canada, Blanchet said he doesn’t believe Canada is currently experiencing a national unity crisis. He claimed Alberta and Saskatchewan are using concerns about western alienation to force the federal government’s hand in an attempt to garner more support for the petroleum industry.
In a subsequent interview, when he was asked about the fact that Quebec receives a significant portion of its oil from Alberta, he declared simply that “Quebec’s needs are fulfilled,” and that’s as far as things need to go.
Of course, any premier is going to want to stand up for his or her province and so it’s more than fair that Kenney would do so. Given that Albertans are already feeling disrespected and unappreciated — especially when it comes to Quebec — it was obvious that Kenney wouldn’t hold back.
Kenney slammed Blanchet’s remarks, which he noted came “a week after Quebec tabled a budget with a $4-billion surplus thanks to a $13-billion equalization payment from Ottawa, which came from the workers that many of you [oil and gas companies] had to lay off.”
To Blanchet directly, Kenney said: “You cannot have your cake and eat it too. Pick a lane.”
The comments certainly played well here in Alberta, but it’s probably also true that there was a receptive audience for Blanchet’s comments. There’s certainly some political theatre going on here as both politicians are performing for their respective bases.
Opinion | Kenney might be bilingual but he needs to learn a new language
Alberta and Quebec have been strong allies in the fight for provincial rights, more money for health care and more provincial powers in international trade. But one discordant issue has been increasing in volume for years: climate change. Heading to the annual premiers' conference in Halifax in 2002, for example, Alberta Premier Ralph Klein complained that Quebec, developing its hydro power, was hypocritically targeting Alberta's emissions from the oilsands: "We should also consider the environmental impact of other forms of green energy, hydro power in particular, and the impact that the development of huge dams and reservoirs could
Clearly, neither has any expectation of convincing the other of anything.
And even if Kenney could argue so forcefully that it actually did convince Blanchet to back down or change his mind, what would that actually accomplish? For what, specifically, is Blanchet an obstacle?
As Kenney himself pointed out this week, the province of Quebec is actually an ally when it comes to raising concerns about Ottawa’s Bill C-69 — the legislation to overhaul the review process for major projects.
Furthermore, the most immediate and critical concerns when it comes to pipeline infrastructure are Trans Mountain (TMX), Keystone XL and the Line 3 replacement — none of which have anything to do with Quebec.
Further still, all three projects have government approval, so there’s nothing the Bloc can do to cause trouble for them.
Albertans might bristle at the fact that Quebec politicians are largely opposed to the concept of a future export pipeline to the east coast, but that’s a moot point at the moment.
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Ironically, Quebec may end up getting more Alberta oil across its territory, anyway. It was reported this week that Repsol SA — a Spanish oil company — isto use rail transport to get more Alberta oil to the east coast so it can be shipped to Europe. Apparently, the company sees Western Canadian oil as a potential replacement for dwindling supplies of Mexican and Venezuelan oil.
Of course, a pipeline would be a much safer and more efficient way of transporting that product, but pipeline opponents tend to be somewhat oblivious to such details.
Regardless, though, it only further underscores the disconnect that exists between the Kenney-Blanchet feud and the issues that actually matter right now. Hopefully this doesn’t prove to be a significant distraction moving forward.
is host of “Afternoons with Rob Breakenridge” on and a commentator for Global News.
Premier Jason Kenney heads to Texas to push investment .
Jason Kenney will be travelling to Houston, where he is set to meet with investors and business leaders over a four-day trip that also includes a day in Dallas. "Our top goal is getting Alberta back to work," Kenney said in a news release. "This means restoring investor confidence and reversing the flow of money, ideas and businesses from Alberta to places like Texas."This trip will allow me to raise awareness among prospective investors.