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Get out of our resources backyard or risk the state of the nation: that was the message Alberta premier Jason Kenney delivered to Canadian senators in Ottawa Thursday morning.
Kenney told members of the Senate natural resources committee that the government’s new environmental legislation would imperil the federation and promised a referendum in Alberta on equalization payments, “if we can’t get at least one pipeline to tidewater.”
“There’s a growing crisis of national unity in Alberta that would be exacerbated by this bill (C-69),” Kenney said. “We are not simply here to say this needs amending…in our view, if it continues in its form, it’s unacceptable.”
Kenney also said he would engage a Constitutional challenge under section 92 – provincial powers over resource exploration and production – if Bill C-69, An Act to enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act is passed as is.
“It needs complete reconstructive surgery or to be put out of its misery,” he said of the legislation currently before the Senate.
The province’s new premier also accused the current Liberal regime of compounding Alberta’s economic woes and by extension the country’s, most recently its nationalization of the moribund Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5 billion.
“This is the same government that surrendered to Obama’s pipeline veto on Keystone XL…strangled Energy East through the imposition of regulatory mandates which (it) now seeks to enshrine in this federal legislation,” said Kenney. “And they’ve driven Kinder Morgan out of the country leaving taxpayers holding the bag.”
In addition to threats of court challenges and a provincial referendum, Kenney said his government is “launching a public inquiry” into foreign cash that targets the province’s energy industry and “adopting a bill that bans foreign money from (Alberta) politics”.
Kenney was accompanied by provincial Energy minister Sonya Savage who said discretion over project reviews that C-69 proposes “gives a political review…from start to finish for political influence by the minister.”
Under the Liberal government’s plan, the Environment minister becomes gatekeeper with power to quash proposals deemed not in the public’s interest, supplanting current vetting processes by federal agencies like the Calgary-based National Energy Board and Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.
Following Environment Canada’s release of its revised federal review project list, Savage said the addition of steam, in-situ well projects was constitutional overreach.
“If it’s under provincial jurisdiction, the federal government should just get out of it and let Alberta regulate it,” Savage said.
Wind farms also join in-situ projects in an expanded list that also increases federal scrutiny for work related to nuclear reactors and certain hard rock mining ventures.
Bill C-69 is part of the Liberal government’s broader environment and climate change policy which includes the west coast tanker ban bill (C-48, also before the Senate) and federal carbon tax legislation (Bill C-74); the latter’s constitutionality currently under court of appeal challenge by Ontario and Saskatchewan.