Kenney to enact 'turn off the taps' legislation amid pipeline dispute
Published Wednesday, April 17, 2019 5:41PM PDT
Last Updated Wednesday, April 17, 2019 6:56PM PDT
Alberta premier-designate Jason Kenney says he is ready to enact the so-called "turn off the taps" legislation that would allow Alberta to restrict how much energy leaves the province, and potentially send gas prices in B.C. soaring.
His doubling-down on threats made during the Alberta provincial election campaign comes amid an ongoing standoff with British Columbia over the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
Many Albertans are frustrated that not enough energy is leaving the province and Kenney appears to want to punish B.C. for its opposition to the project.
But the move would also potentially hurt the oil and gas industry in his province.
Speaking at his first press event to after being elected the next premier of Alberta, Kenney said he will enact the legislation on April 30, the same day he will be sworn in as premier.
However it's still unclear when he might use the new law.
"It's not our intention to begin with reducing energy shipments to British Columbia, but to have the option to do so," said Kenney outside the Alberta legislature.
B.C. Attorney General David Eby has said as soon as the law is enacted, lawyers are ready to take Alberta to court. B.C. previously tried to challenge the legislation in court, only to be told that action was premature.
SFU's Patrick Smith, from the political science department, was unsurprised to see Alberta return to its 'conservative roots' and said the legal wrangling may mean any attempt to "turn off the taps" wouldn't last long.
"Even if he (Kenney) loses a court battle around it, subsequently it's going to have a short-term rattling effect here," said Smith.
B.C. Premier John Horgan - who has tried hard to steer clear of weighing in on the Alberta election - said he spoke with Kenney Wednesday morning to congratulate him. He described the talk as cordial, and added he hoped the neighbouring premiers could work together despite differences.
"His obligation is to the people of Alberta," Horgan said of Kenney. "My obligation is to the people of British Columbia."
Horgan has been facing increasing questions about the price of gas across the province.
In many places it has shattered records and has many drivers looking for relief. B.C.'s premier said the government is looking into that possibility but without more supply it's unclear how there could be a long-term fix.
"The supply and demand equation is not working in our favour, but it certainly is working in favour of those who deliver the product," said Horgan.
Horgan also suggested some of Kenney's comments may be bluster and campaign rhetoric.
While Horgan was on the campaign trail in 2017, he vowed to use every tool in the government's toolbox to stop the controversial twinning of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
After coming into government, the language changed to B.C. would take whatever action was needed to protect the coast.
Finding common ground
Kenney opened the door to finding potential common ground on LNG exports.
Noting there may be a way for Alberta to potentially capitalize on the growing industry after a multi-billion dollar project was approved in British Columbia.
Kenney and Horgan spoke for a few minutes Wednesday and are hoping to meet face-to-face in the coming weeks before a meeting of all premiers in the summer.
Outgoing NDP Premier Rachel Notley and Horgan had a rocky relationship, despite common political values.
Notley's government tabled the bill that could "turn off the taps" but didn't enact it, meaning it wasn't ready to use.
An escalating trade war was eventually called off, but the damage to the relationship between Horgan and Notley was done.
While both premiers are talking about common ground, Kenney continued to talk tough, alluding to other potential consequences for what he called a campaign of obstruction.
Fight over carbon tax
Despite the heated comments Kenney's first fight will likely be with Ottawa. He says his first bill will be one to repeal a much hated carbon tax.
The federal government has said all provinces need to come on board with a carbon pricing plan or else Ottawa will impose a framework.
When the Trans Mountain expansion was initially approved by the federal cabinet, Notley launched a carbon action plan that included a tax.
It was understood to be part of the reason why the controversial pipeline got the green light.
In Alberta, the tax has proven very unpopular, and Kenney used the frustration to his advantage during the campaign, tying it directly to Justin Trudeau.
"The prime minister has been clear that the environment and economy go hand in hand and we need to have a natural national strategy including if we want to get our resources to market," said Environment Minister Catherine McKenna when asked about the pipeline's links to climate action.
"We should buck up," said Smith about if Kenney starts to act on all his campaign promises.