Alberta will not cede an inch of constitutional jurisdiction to the federal government, even if that struggle means the death of the countrys pan-national strategy to fight climate change, says Premier Jason Kenney.
In an interview with The Globe and Mail, the Premier said an offer to regulate a cap on heavy emitters in Alberta is still on the table despite it being tied to the approval of the Frontier oil sands project, the future of which was cast into doubt when proponent Teck Resources recently withdrew its application for approval. However, Mr. Kenney is linking any new cap regulation deal to a long list of demands.
The Alberta government is still reeling from the Teck decision, which was another damaging blow to a province struggling under low oil prices and a widespread investor backlash against fossil fuels that is forcing rapid change in global markets.
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This phenomenon was cited in a letter by Teck Resources president Don Lindsay to the federal government outlining his companys decision to step back from the project. In it, Mr. Lindsay said todays investors and customers are looking to do business in jurisdictions that have a framework in place that reconciles resource development and climate change. He said that doesnt exist in Canada.
The future of the countrys climate plan took a hit on Monday when an Alberta appeals court ruled 4-1 against the federal government on the question of its authority to impose the tax on provinces that didnt have a carbon tax or equivalent of their own. (The judge writing for the majority called it a constitutional Trojan horse). Courts in Ontario and Saskatchewan ruled earlier in favour of Ottawa on the question.
The Supreme Court of Canada is expected to rule on the constitutionality of the federal carbon tax later this year, after a hearing set for next month.
A ruling at the Supreme Court affirming the Alberta decision would instantly jeopardize the federal Liberal governments overarching climate policy, leaving the future of the countrys emissions-fighting strategy in disarray. Mr. Kenney, however, does not believe that the fallout from such a decision is precisely the opposite of what Don Lindsay says Canada needs a cohesive plan that reasonably squares energy development with the undeniable consequences of climate change.
Look, weve said we dont believe a carbon tax is good policy, Mr. Kenney told The Globe during the interview in his legislative office. It simply punishes people for simply living normal lives, and thats wrong. Weve said all along that the provinces are in the best position to know how to deal with the problem of climate change, not the federal government. And we continually believe that to be the case.
In his letter, Mr. Lindsay extolled the virtues of the federal carbon tax.
NDP Opposition leader Rachel Notley said this week the framework to which Mr. Lindsay was referring in his letter is precisely the type of regime her government put in place after it won election in 2015. That included a suite of measures, including a carbon tax, aimed at addressing the provinces emissions challenges. Most of those initiatives were ripped up by Mr. Kenney after he took office in 2019 moves Ms. Notley now blames for the Teck decision.
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Mr. Kenney said the history of Alberta has been to defend and expand our constitutional jurisdiction for reasons of economic survival. And in fighting the carbon tax he is doing no less, he said. We are not going to sit back and allow Ottawa to decide the future of Albertas economy, the Premier said.
This was a theme that also found its way into the governments Speech from the Throne read in the Alberta legislature on Tuesday. It said restoring investor confidence in the province was going to be a priority of the government in the coming years. To that end, the government confirmed the creation of a new investment promotion agency that will expand Albertas profile in key capital markets around the world.
The government will table a new budget on Thursday, one which is likely to confirm recent indicators that show the province in the midst of another bout of economic stagnation. The futures market shows the price of oil remaining well below levels on which the government had predicated recent budget numbers. In other words, its budgetary forecasts have already likely been blown well off course.
The future of the energy industry remains Mr. Kenneys top priority, however. He said that the province remains willing to regulate a 100-megatonne cap on industrial emissions in the province something it offered to do if the Frontier oil sands project were approved but were not going to be doing it [now] without some reciprocity. We need to see a path forward on our energy industry.
Asked what that looked like, he said it meant, among other things, removing some of the more onerous environmental aspects of Bill C-69 (dubbed by Mr. Kenney as the no more pipelines bill); completion of the Trans-Mountain expansion and approving three or four major oil sands projects currently frozen because of a lack of pipeline capacity.
It means a commitment that no one will stand in the way of that, Mr. Kenney said.
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As for Canadas commitments under the Paris climate agreement signed in 2016, Mr. Kenney said they were goals we should try and live up to but we shouldnt massively impoverish ourselves in the process.