Al­berta chal­lenges fed­eral Bill C-69

Premier con­fi­dent due to grow­ing pro­vin­cial op­po­si­tion to the bill

Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE - CLARE CLANCY

FORT MC­MUR­RAY Al­berta Premier Ja­son Ken­ney is launch­ing a con­sti­tu­tional chal­lenge against the fed­eral govern­ment’s Bill C-69.

Ken­ney an­nounced the chal­lenge dur­ing a visit to Fort Mc­mur­ray, where he gave a speech at the Oil Sands Trade Show.

The bill, pro­claimed into law in late Au­gust, over­hauls Canada’s en­ergy reg­u­la­tor process for large re­source projects. Changes in­clude re­plac­ing the Na­tional En­ergy Board with a new reg­u­la­tor and chang­ing rules for project ap­provals.

“This is not about jobs in Al­berta, although that is crit­i­cal,” Ken­ney said in his speech. “It’s about the rule of law, the dream of an eco­nomic union.”

Af­ter it was passed by the Se­nate on Aug. 29, the Al­berta govern­ment pledged to launch a con­sti­tu­tional chal­lenge against the bill, which the United Con­ser­va­tive govern­ment has dubbed the “no more pipe­lines act.”

The bill has also been op­posed by the oil in­dus­try, ar­gu­ing it will in­tro­duce un­cer­tainty into the mar­ket. It was also op­posed by the pre­vi­ous Al­berta govern­ment led by for­mer premier Rachel Not­ley, who told a Se­nate panel last year that “C-69 hurts Al­berta.”

Dur­ing his speech, Ken­ney said he was feel­ing con­fi­dent be­cause of grow­ing pro­vin­cial op­po­si­tion to the bill and a fed­eral car­bon tax.

He praised tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tions that have re­duced wa­ter use and green­house gas emis­sions, giving a shout-out to Sun­cor En­ergy’s $1.4-bil­lion plan to in­stall two co­gen­er­a­tion units at its base plant, re­duc­ing emis­sions by 25 per cent.

Ken­ney also praised Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties who have in­vested in the nat­u­ral re­sources sec­tor and have pushed for pipe­lines.

He added it was a “moral obli­ga­tion” for gov­ern­ments and in­dus­try to work col­lab­o­ra­tively with First Nation and Métis com­mu­ni­ties.

As world en­ergy de­mands con­tinue grow­ing, he said, “that de­mand will be filled. It will be met. The only ques­tion is, who will sup­ply that de­mand?”

“We have a moral obli­ga­tion, as a cham­pion of hu­man dig­nity and hu­man rights, to fur­nish the world with more eth­i­cally-pro­duced Cana­dian en­ergy,” he said.

Dur­ing an in­ter­view be­fore the event, Ken­ney said the con­sti­tu­tional chal­lenge is one of many ways his govern­ment is “mov­ing from a sort of pas­sive de­fen­sive pos­ture to … a strategic as­sertive pos­ture.”

As other ex­am­ples, he men­tioned the open­ing of pub­lic sub­mis­sions into the prov­ince’s in­quiry into for­eign-funded cam­paigns against the oil­sands and pipe­lines and a $30-mil­lion “war room” to counter cam­paigns against Al­berta’s en­ergy sec­tor.

Ken­ney re­jected crit­i­cisms that his war-room strat­egy would be a govern­ment-funded troll cam­paign. He also dis­missed crit­i­cisms — and jabs — on so­cial me­dia that ask­ing the pub­lic to send in­for­ma­tion into the in­quiry was a snitch line. For­mer NDP en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter Shan­non Phillips called it a “silly lit­tle witch hunt” on Twitter and hash­tagged it #Re­por­tanal­ber­tan.

“If the po­lit­i­cal left in Al­berta is op­posed to in­ves­ti­gat­ing the for­eign money be­hind cam­paign­ing to land­lock Al­berta oil, that shows how out of touch they are,” he said in the in­ter­view. “I don’t even know what a snitch line is. This is ask­ing for pub­lic in­put into a for­mal pub­lic in­quiry to a very se­ri­ous is­sue that’s ma­te­ri­ally af­fect­ing our pros­per­ity.”

Pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ments at all lev­els of govern­ment and oil in­dus­try lead­ers have pledged to fight th­ese cam­paigns. How­ever, Ken­ney said those cam­paigns and lead­ers have lost ground be­cause they “re­sponded de­fen­sively and re­ac­tively.”

In the mean­time, he pointed out Al­berta has seen the can­cel­la­tion of the En­ergy East and North­ern Gate­way pipe­lines, as well as de­lays over get­ting Key­stone XL and Trans Moun­tain built.

“All of th­ese things are de­lib­er­ate out­comes of a cam­paign to land­lock Al­berta en­ergy and I don’t think we’ve had gov­ern­ments that re­ally un­der­stood how th­ese things were con­nected,” he said.

“We’re be­ing much more strategic in the way we ap­proach this and much more as­sertive.”

Speak­ing at the same Fort Mc­mur­ray con­fer­ence, fed­eral Nat­u­ral Re­sources Min­is­ter Amar­jeet Sohi de­fended Bill C-69.

“If the premier wants to test that in court, that is his right to do so,” Sohi said, adding he was con­fi­dent the courts would side with the fed­eral govern­ment.

“We have al­ways been clear that we are tak­ing ac­tion on fed­eral ar­eas of re­spon­si­bil­ity, not on the pro­vin­cial ar­eas of re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

NDP critic Sarah Hoff­man said she’s not sur­prised by the move.

“I am not shocked that Mr. Ken­ney, on the eve of an elec­tion, is weigh­ing in on fed­eral pol­i­tics yet again,” she told re­porters Tues­day in Ed­mon­ton.

“He seems to have a lot of his en­ergy fo­cused on Ottawa.”

LARRY WONG

Premier Ja­son Ken­ney has re­jected crit­i­cisms that his $30-mil­lion “war room” to counter cam­paigns against Al­berta’s en­ergy sec­tor would be a govern­ment-funded troll cam­paign.

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