UCP READY FOR WAR OVER PIPELINE
The NDP hasn’t called an election campaign but Jason Kenney is running one anyway.The UCP’s weekend bash in Edmonton was pure campaign hype and hoopla. The presence of 500 party members on a frigid Family Day weekend shows how primed and zealous these people are.The sessions featured a lot of fierce talk from Kenney about fighting Ottawa over the Trans Mountain pipeline.Then came Monday’s jolting news that Ottawa may extend its review time beyond the 90 days required after release of a National Energy Board report on Friday.Two crucial points are looking more obvious.The Justin Trudeau Liberals have no interest in helping the Alberta NDP win the provincial election to be held by May 31.And they may even stall a pipeline reboot until after their own federal election coming no later than Oct. 21.Will Trudeau’s cabinet risk more demonstrations and losing large chunks of the party’s environmental base, just as an election approaches? Not likely.Will they mollify the many Canadians who want the pipeline by continuing to vaguely back it, someday? Very likely.Further ominous signs are the SNC-Lavalin scandal and now the surprise resignation of the prime minister’s principal secretary, Gerald Butts.This looks like a cabinet in crisis and a PM losing authority. Ministers will be diving under their desks. Who’s going to be saying, “hey, let’s do that pipeline!”By afternoon Monday, federal sources were disputing the report of delays beyond the 90-day period after a new NEB certificate.But the fact remains that cabinet must then vote its own new approval, and that does not have to be done within 90 days. History has long since taught us to be skeptical.On the weekend, Kenney vowed to use every legal and political lever to fight Ottawa and B.C., including legislation that allows cuts in shipments of oil to the Lower Mainland.He says Ottawa must invoke a constitutional provision declaring the pipeline a benefit to Canada, and start building.Premier Rachel Notley is stuck in the moderate middle — advocating for the pipeline while taking measures such as oil curtailment and rail car purchases, but not really fighting Ottawa.The latest federal dodge can only inflate the anger that helps Kenney’s cause.And, maybe, it even helps the Trudeau Liberals.Some would like to see Jason Kenney as premier during that fall federal campaign. Trudeau could run as the progressive saviour against the growing wave of conservatism in the provinces.Whatever happens, the toxic effects of Ottawa’s dismal failure on pipelines are perhaps only beginning to be felt.Kenney spent a lot of the weekend stoking local issues as well.Most striking was his pledge to cut MLA pay by five per cent — and his own, should he be premier, by 10 per cent.Legislature members now make $127,296 per year. That would drop to $120,931.The premier’s total pay is $206,856. It would fall to $186,170.Kenney said all the UCP MLAs and nominees at the gathering approved the move.This is pure symbolism, of course. It will have negligible effect on debt and deficits.These pay levels had already been frozen for most of the decade. They sit roughly in the middle of the Canadian pack.Once a hot issue, pay for provincial politicians isn’t much of an Alberta irritant these days.But Kenney is sending a mini-austerity signal that’s bound to be popular with fiscal conservatives — and alarming to public servants.The move raises instant echoes of the five per cent public pay cut in the Ralph Klein era. That applied not just to politicians but the entire public service.Kenney promised there will be no pay reductions for government employees or the much larger group working for public agencies (education, AHS, etc.).Those levels, too, have been quite well contained by the NDP.But there’s no doubt about the UCP’s intention to cut or defer funding for projects and many NDP priorities.While Kenney specifically promised not to cut public pay levels, he pointedly did not say he wouldn’t eliminate jobs.In some areas, UCP policies are subtly shifting from bluster toward the real world.For instance, Kenney yanked the NDP’s school curriculum review out of the “shredder,” where he’s been promising to deposit it since last May.He now concedes that the NDP may have a good idea or two. The review will be “paused” for examination by experts and parents on the hunt for NDP ideology.Education Minister David Eggen immediately called the UCP plan a “drive-by shooting,” not the most appropriate phrase for a person in his position.Eggen did point out, more relevantly, that the NDP is doing much of what the UCP demands (emphasizing basic skills, numeracy, financial literacy, computer coding, etc.).Kenney also blasted the NDP for announcing new renewable energy deals during the formal election period, which began Feb. 1. He said it’s not proper for the NDP to sign deals that a new government might not agree with.Kenney did not say, however, that he would stop or reverse wind and solar projects — only that a UCP government would not subsidize them. With the carbon tax extinct (another repeated promise) there would be no cash pool for subsidies anyway.As it happens, the huge solar project announced by the NDP last week — to supply 55 per cent of solar electricity to government facilities — does not use subsidies or carbon tax revenues.Kenney pledged to rescind the NDP’s prized Bill 6 on farm safety. While decidedly vague, he did promise to replace it with a regime fair to workers on commercial farms.All told, he gave a slightly more nuanced view of UCP plans for toppling the NDP superstructure. But there’s no nuance about the pipeline. If Kenney is elected, a conflict to rival the 1980s energy wars will start very quickly.While Kenney specifically promised not to cut public pay levels, he pointedly did not say he wouldn’t eliminate jobs.
Gerald Butts has resigned as principal secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau amid the scandal over SNC-Lavalin. It has thrown the federal Liberals into disarray and further complicates pipeline politics in Canada.
© PressReader. All rights reserved.