Alberta’s new Premier enacts “turn off the taps” bill into law

Former federal Cabinet Minister Jason Kenney officially became Alberta’s 18th Premier on Tuesday, and named Calgary lawyer Sonya Savage as the province’s new Energy Minister. As promised during the election, proclaiming the “Preserving Canada’s Economic Prosperity Act” was his Cabinet’s first order of business. The legislation, which enables Alberta to restrict the flow of oil and gas to neighbouring British Columbia, was introduced last year but never enacted by the previous New Democratic Party government in retaliation for BC’s opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Premier Kenney said his government would not immediately cut oil and gas shipments but would use the legislation as leverage in discussions with British Columbia’s NDP Premier John Horgan. He said he had a “respectful” conversation with Horgan on Tuesday night, adding he would start by looking to build a relationship and find common ground over the issue of Trans Mountain. However, “If needs be, we will do what is necessary to preserve the value of our resources and to stand up for our workers. This does not mean energy shipments will immediately be reduced, but rather that our government will now have the ability to use the law should circumstances require,” Premier Kenney said, and, “It’s not our intention to reduce shipments or turn off the tap at this time. We simply want to demonstrate that our government is serious about defending the vital economic interests of Alberta.”

If Premier Kenney chooses to utilize the new law, BC will face higher gasoline prices and shortages. Alberta supplies, directly or indirectly, more than 80 per cent of the gasoline and diesel used in BC. Each day, British Columbians consume between 70,000 and 85,000 barrels of gasoline and between 55,000 and 70,000 barrels of diesel. Approximately 55 percent of BC’s gasoline and 71 percent of its diesel is imported from Alberta refineries. The majority of these refined fuels are transported to BC through the Trans Mountain pipeline.

A government energy expert from BC, Michael Rensing, said the threat of refined fuel supply shortages can have rapid price impacts and anti-pipeline protests, such as one in July 2018, where demonstrators hung on lines from a bridge above Burrard Inlet in Vancouver. He said those actions had the potential to cause fuel shortages on Vancouver Island. Interruption of the supply of gasoline to Vancouver Island for even 48 hours could affect the ability of retail gas stations there to remain open.