United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney says if he wins the Alberta election he will first get rid of the provincial carbon tax implemented by the NDP government, then launch a formal court challenge against the federal carbon tax before the end of April.
The Premier-hopeful said there are constitutional questions surrounding whether Ottawa can even impose the tax, which formally began this week in the four provinces that refused to bring in their own tax – Manitoba, Ontario, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick. Mr. Kenney added that since the constitutional challenge could take years so he’ll also do whatever he can to see Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defeated in the fall election.
“It is in Alberta’s vital economic interests, for the future of jobs and prosperity in this province, that we not only defeat this tax-hiking NDP government, but that we also defeat their close ally in Ottawa — Justin Trudeau. I, as leader of the United Conservative party, will do everything within our power to ensure that he is not returned as Prime Minister.” Mr. Kenney said last Monday.
He also promised to reduce wait times on energy projects to try to make them the fastest in North America, stating that approvals for oil wells currently take a year and a half, which he says places Alberta far behind Saskatchewan and U.S. jurisdictions and puts the province at a competitive disadvantage. He says if his party were elected April 16, he would set up legislated targets to cut wait times and would publish data to update progress. The goal would be to cut timelines in half and eventually make them the shortest in North America.
Mr. Kenney also guaranteed that, by law, once a project has received its permit, the royalty structure would remain the same throughout the life of the project. Additionally, his government would intervene at all National Energy Board hearings that affected Alberta’s oil and gas interests.
At the Enoch Cree Nation near Edmonton, Mr. Kenney announced his government would set up a Crown corporation to help Indigenous communities invest in resource projects., saying, “We need a radically new approach from the failure of the past so we can get a fair price for our energy, and we need to move beyond empty words to give real, concrete meaning to reconciliation with Aboriginal Canadians.” The Crown corporation would provide technical and advisory support to Indigenous communities and potentially provide loan guarantees or co-invested debt and equity lending from the Alberta government.
Mr. Kenney said a UCP government would consult with First Nations about how to structure the Aboriginal Opportunities Corporation and ensure there is Indigenous representation on its board. This would entail an initial investment of CAD $24 million to set it up and set aside CAD $1 billion to facilitate and backstop financing for Indigenous peoples who want to buy into pipelines and other resource infrastructure. These funds would come from the re-allocation of the NDP’s CAD $3.7-billion plan to ship more oil by rail, which the UCP has said it would cancel.
Mr. Kenney said many First Nations support projects such as the stalled Trans Mountain expansion to the West Coast, but do not have financial means to buy a stake and that opposing Indigenous groups have the support of well-funded foreign environmental organizations. “This is not just about getting a pipeline built. It’s not just in the strategic economic interests in Alberta. I also believe it is a truly moral cause,” he said, “Reconciliation needs to be about more than just words and symbols. It needs to be about substance. It needs, in part, to be about helping to empower our First Nations communities to fully develop their social and economic potential.”
British Columbia’s Eagle Spirit entrepreneur Calvin Helin, who has proposed a multibillion-dollar Indigenous oil pipeline between the oilsands and the West coast supports Mr. Kenney’s plan, saying on Twitter, “No lip service but a real partnership with government.”