Alberta United Conservative leader Jason Kenney spent a few days in B.C. this week. Black Press legislature reporter Tom Fletcher spoke with him about pipelines, protesters and politics.
TF: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has applied to intervene in a case that the B.C. NDP government has already joined to support the City of Burnaby challenge of the National Energy Board permits for Kinder Morgan Canada’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. Is that what she should be doing?
JK: Yes. I called on her to do this weeks ago. This is sort of the pattern. Last July when the John Horgan NDP government came to power, I called for a fight-back strategy to deal with his threat to block Kinder Morgan. Premier Notley mocked me at the time, but now seems to be taking a page from our playbook.
What the NDP in Victoria is trying to do is attack Canada’s economic union, undermine our constitution and rule of law, and they’re really attacking our country’s future economic prosperity. We have the third largest oil reserves on Earth. They have a value of trillions of dollars. That’s the ability to pay for future pensions, debts, health care and everything else. If we don’t get that to global markets, it means we’re leaving a monopoly to some of the world’s worst regimes, like Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Iran and Russia.
We should be displacing that conflict oil with ethically produced Canadian oil, generated with the highest environmental and labour standards on Earth.
TF: What should the Notley government be doing that they’re not?
JK: First of all, they should have been much faster off the mark to challenge their New Democrat friends on this stuff. I think the Alberta government was wrong to pull back on the wine boycott. I don’t see any relenting by the B.C. New Democrats.
This court reference [on legality of restricting diluted bitumen shipments from Alberta] is just another delay tactic, creating yet more uncertainty. The NDP-Green strategy here is death by delay. It’s 100 little ankle-biting efforts through municipal regulation, proposed provincial regulations, court challenges, protests. They hope the cumulative effect of all of that is to create enough investor uncertainty that Kinder Morgan walks away, and that’s why we need to keep fighting.
I’ve talked about a whole range of other consequences, up to and including, if B.C. blocks the shipment of Alberta oil, why would we allow B.C. to ship natural gas through Alberta, toll free to U.S. markets?
When you launch a trade war, as the Horgan government has, you look for whatever leverage points you have. Alberta is not spoiling for a fight. We want to defend free trade, from which we think all Canadians benefit, and our constitution.
Why in the world is it easier to move goods between the 28 sovereign member states of the European Union than Alberta and British Columbia? It is absurd. It’s a violation of the vision of Confederation and the rule of law, and it cannot stand.
TF: What should the federal government be doing?
JK: The federal government could stop this today by declaring that Trans Mountain is in the national interest. Under Section 92-10C of the Constitution Act, the federal government has that so-called declaratory power. It’s been used hundreds of times in Canadian history, not recently, but it allows the federal government to basically strike down any provincial laws or regulations seeking to inhibit a project that is designated as in the national interest.
TF: What about Notley’s plan to use $1 billion for grants and loan guarantees to expand upgrading of heavy crude in Alberta, and the idea that exporting raw bitumen is exporting jobs?
JK: I would be delighted if a company came along, willing to risk up to $20 billion to build a full-scale crude refinery in Canada. But there are market reasons why that hasn’t happened, and I’m not prepared to risk taxpayers’ dollars by getting the government in the business of refining oil. In the real world of the marketplace, there is excess refining capacity in the integrated North American energy market, I’m told.
TF: We’ve had a lot of talk here about the B.C. NDP’s relationship with big environment groups. What do you think about what’s happening here in B.C.?
JK: I’ve seen your reports on this, and as a Canadian, thank you for exhibiting the lost art of journalism by actually doing some digging. The Harper government was ridiculed for referring to a co-ordinated campaign by radical environmentalists to stop our energy industry. Now we see clear proof of what’s happening – foreign-funded organizations co-ordinating to bottleneck Canada’s resources.
It’s outrageous that the B.C. environment minister has been collaborating with these people who advocate law-breaking tactics. There have been some very naive politicians in Canada who seem to think that if we impose upon ourselves the highest environmental standards, and then on top of that, carbon taxes, like Alberta and B.C., that somehow the opponents of resource development will turn themselves into supporters.
That hasn’t happened. These folks, these hives and swarms, alliances, they are ideologically hostile to resource development, period. And the faster governments indicate that their civil disobedience will not stop our nation’s economy, the better.
I’m concerned when I see these people popping out in front of trucks trying to make their way to the Kinder Morgan development. The RCMP show up, they walk away, they’re not arrested or detained, and as soon as the cops are gone, they jump in front of the trucks again. I’m sorry, we cannot allow people to play cat and mouse with the country’s economic future or the rule of law. There have to be consequences.
And we need to get to the bottom of the funding sources. As Vivian Krause has documented, Tides Canada has received over $40 million in the past decade to fight against Canada’s economic interests. Why are we allowing this?
$80 MILLION - that’s how much @TidesCanada has received from NON-CANADIAN sources (2009-2016).— Vivian Krause (@FairQuestions) February 21, 2018
Fully 60% of total revenue was NON-CANADIAN in 2015 - the year of the federal election.
How “Canadian” is a charity that gets so much money from non-Canadian sources? pic.twitter.com/jOIfilfmEV
JK: And these organizations getting involved with foreign money in our election campaigns? Thankfully Senator Linda Frum has a private member’s bill to stop foreign money from influencing Canadian campaigns.
A U.S. Senate committee just concluded last week that it has incontrovertible evidence of an organized Russian social media trolling campaign to fight the American energy industry. I’d like to see an investigation into whether or not the same thing is happening to the Canadian energy industry.
And by the way, if these people get their way and landlock Canada’s energy, it won’t make one whit of difference to the global environment, because Venezuela, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran are not going to stop producing and shipping energy. If the green left gets its way, it’s handing a monopoly position to OPEC plus Russia.
TF: If you’re successful in the Alberta election next year, how do you deal with Ottawa’s plan to impose a carbon tax?
JK: Bill number one of an Alberta Conservative government will be the Carbon Tax Repeal Act. If the federal Liberals then try to impose their carbon tax on us, we’ll fight them in court. We will join the pending Saskatchewan constitutional challenge of the federal carbon tax and go all the way up the Supreme Court of Canada. We think there’s a strong argument that it’s an invasion of provincial jurisdiction.
If the court rules against us, and if the Trudeau Liberals are re-elected, we would then set up a rebate scheme to return 100 per cent of the carbon tax revenues to Albertans. Because the feds say they’ll rebate the funds to the provincial government.