The leader of Alberta’s United Conservative Party, Jason Kenney, said on CTV’s Power Play yesterday that separatism may be on the rise in the province after the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project was blocked by a court in late August.
“I would not be surprised if a significant and growing minority of Albertans are entertaining [separatism],” he said. “I’m a Canadian nationalist and, by the way, separating ourselves from the rest of the country is not how we’re going to get market access. But still, that frustration is real.”
He believes that Alberta’s loyalty to the rest of the country may be declining as the Trudeau government can’t make good on its attempt to bolster the province’s energy-reliant economy.
Over a week ago, the Federal Court of Appeals revoked the Trudeau government’s approvals to build the $7.4 billion Trans Mountain expansion project. Its reasoning was that it found that Indigenous communities had not been adequately consulted, and the environmental review was insufficient. In particular, the government had failed to consider the impact of increased tanker traffic.
Watch Kenney’s interview here:
Might Be Time to Turn the Question to the People, Kenney Argues
“If we can’t get market access for Canada’s largest export then I would be prepared to hold a referendum on equalization,” Kenney said, referring to the payments the federal government gives to less wealthy provinces to help them fund public services.
Alberta paid a significant amount into the fund that is used to make these payments, and received nothing from it.
“I think that’s Alberta’s ultimate leverage in the federation, according to the Supreme Court’s Quebec secession reference, that would force binding negotiations with the federal government.”
Using Equalization Payments as Leverage to Get Pipeline Built
Kenney said he would like to use the payments as leverage to get the pipeline built: “I intend for a future Alberta Conservative government to play ball in asserting our demand for fairness within the federation,” he said.
The federal government has remained committed to the pipeline project, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said earlier this week that the government would get it done “the right way.”
Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi the CBC News that the government knew the “risks” of the project, but went ahead with it was in the national interest and would create thousands of jobs.
Frustrations Building in Alberta
However, the Trudeau government did not give a timeline, or next steps for the project. It’s unclear whether they will appeal the decision or try to complete the conditions the court said weren’t met.
As a result, CTV reports that “frustrations are building in Alberta.”
Rona Ambrose, the former interim Conservative leader, said this: “When that court decision came down…you could just feel the anxiety and the frustration and that has turned into anger — and it’s very real… Jason [Kenney] has a real sense of what that [court decision] means for the province so I think he’s capturing that sentiment and let me tell you, it is strong.”
Alberta’s Premier, Rachel Notley, slammed the government after news of the court decision came out, announcing shortly after that Alberta would pull out of the national plan to combat climate change until the government “gets its act together.”
Trudeau Says Government Is Looking at Options for Next Steps
Trudeau said on Wednesday that the government is looking into an appeal, but then said this: “the court was very clear: You need to do more on the environment. You need to do more on consultations, if anything is going to happen, so that’s what we are going to do.”
He also stood by the project on the grounds that it would an investment in Canada’s future, as ninety-nine percent of our oil exports go to the United States. The pipeline would thus make Canada more independent from its neighbour to the south.
“All we have to do is look at the headlines to understand that being a prisoner to the United States for our resource exports, knowing that right now we only have one market, the U.S., for our oil exports, is simply not a wise strategy for Canadians moving forward,” Trudeau said. “We need to get new markets for our oil resources.”
The Nectarine reported earlier this week that Liberal MP Marc Serré, a member of the committee on the project, blamed the previous government for a flawed review and consultation process that the Trudeau government had inherited, adding that “the Conservatives could not get it done. We will.”