TURNER VALLEY — United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney took aim at NDP rival Rachel Notley’s energy policies Tuesday, saying as premier he’d work to restore investor confidence in Alberta’s oil and gas sector.
Speaking in Turner Valley, about 70 kilometres south of Calgary, the UCP leader said Notley’s government has caused a “crisis in our energy sector that is fuelling a jobs crisis in our economy.”
“Tens of billions of dollars of investment have fled Alberta’s oil and gas sector,” he said. “That money has not left the oil and gas industry, it’s left Alberta.”
Kenney said a UCP government would reform the Alberta Energy Regulator to speed up well approvals; it would guarantee through legislation that the royalty regime — in place when a well is permitted — remains in place for that project in perpetuity; and, it would intervene at all National Energy Board hearings that affect Alberta’s oil and gas interests.
A review of the Alberta Energy Regulator would be conducted within 180 days “to identify efficiencies in both the budget and regulations.”
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He added his party would streamline regulations that hinder the energy industry and work with stakeholders “to get a fair price” for Alberta natural gas, including support for LNG infrastructure to the west coast.
A lack of pipeline access is forcing natural gas producers in Alberta to sell their product at discounts of as much as 70 per cent, Kenney said.
Among his promises, Kenney noted that the UCP would encourage diversification by supporting growth of the petrochemical industry and would accelerate the reclamation of abandoned well sites, while streamlining the process for environmental reclamation.
Kenney added he’d facilitate Indigenous financial participation in resource projects and infrastructure.
He also repeatedly referenced the “Trudeau-Notley Alliance” on Tuesday, a frequent UCP talking point throughout the election campaign that criticizes co-operation between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Notley while she’s been premier.
Notley called those accusations “irresponsible” earlier in the day.
But the UCP leader said it is Trudeau and Notley policies, not global oil prices, that are primarily responsible for high unemployment in the province’s energy sector and for the partially-empty office towers in downtown Calgary.
“If this was about price, they wouldn’t be going through an unprecedented oil boom in Texas. It’s about policy,” Kenney said.
Under Kenney’s leadership, a UCP government would launch a “fight back strategy” against opponents of Alberta’s oil and gas sector. That would include forming “alliances” with pro-pipeline provincial governments like Saskatchewan, Ontario, Manitoba and New Brunswick, as well as pro-development First Nations.
“We will make it clear to provinces like B.C. if they block our energy that we’ll be prepared to turn off the taps and we’ll make it clear to Ottawa: no pipelines, no equalization,” Kenney said, referencing a part of the UCP platform to hold a referendum on cancelling Alberta’s equalization payments in 2021 if there hasn’t been progress on pipeline construction by then.
On Monday, Notley took aim at Kenney’s pledge to cancel a $3.7 billion NDP plan to daily move 120,000 barrels of Alberta oil by rail until better pipeline access arrives.
“The economic consequences of restricted markets are bad enough, but we don’t need to be doing it to ourselves,” she said.
“That’s not how a premier should act . . . You can count on us to move it to market.”
Meanwhile, Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel announced a new strategy Tuesday that would see the construction of an Alberta-to-Alaska railway and pipeline corridor.
The rail line, pegged at $15 billion, would allow Alberta products to bypass B.C. and connect Fort McMurray with the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System at Delta Junction, where it would take oil to the tidewater Port of Valdez. It would provide one million barrels per day of capacity, equivalent to the Energy East pipeline proposal.
It’s an idea that could have support in the U.S., as Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy asked President Donald Trump in a Feb. 13 letter for a permit to extend an Alaska rail line into Canada.
Railcars would carry passengers and freight, including bitumen, potash used in fertilizer, and ore from mines, according to the proposal.
Kenney, who has promised to repeal a provincial carbon tax introduced by Notley’s NDP government, said his plan is best positioned to tackle climate change without hurting the economy.
In a report released Monday, Environment Canada scientists sounded an alarm that Canada is warming up twice as fast as the rest of the world, causing irreversible changes to climate.
“We take the challenge of climate change seriously which is why we proposed a common sense alternative to the job-killing carbon tax,” Kenney said in response to a question on the report.
“In fact, our levy on major industrial emitters would reduce carbon emissions by almost as much as the NDP’s plan, with much less economic damage. So it is the right balance between controlling carbon emissions and allowing our economy to grow.”
Notley, however, said the report proves a Kenney government would be ill-equipped to lead the province.