Build pipelines, scrap carbon tax and battle protesters: That’s what Kenney vows to do for Alberta’s oilpatch


Alberta returned to its conservative roots, electing United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney premier after he vowed to fight harder for the province’s beleaguered energy industry.

Kenney defeated center-left incumbent Rachel Notley, 55, whose New Democratic Party snapped four decades of conservative rule in 2015.

Kenney’s election may herald big changes for Alberta’s energy industry, which produces more oil than most OPEC members and has the world’s third-largest petroleum resources. He’s vowed to get stalled pipelines built, scrap the province’s carbon tax, and create a “war room” to hit back at anti-oil-sands campaigners. He also pledged to cut corporate taxes and balance the province’s books in his first term.

Kenney, 50, a former Cabinet member under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, tapped into voter frustration over the failure to get pipelines completed, which has battered oilsands prices and sparked an exodus of capital by energy firms like Kinder Morgan Inc. Alberta, traditionally one of the richest provinces in Canada, now has among the highest jobless rates and one of the weakest economies in the country.

“Albertans have elected a government that will be obsessed with getting this province back to work, a team that will do everything in our power every single day to create tens of thousands of good jobs,” Kenney said at a victory rally in Calgary.

A supporter wearing a “I love pipelines’ T-shirt cheers leader Jason Kenney on election night in Calgary. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

Alberta became the third major province in Canada over the past year to elect a conservative-leaning government in a growing front of opposition to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s liberal vision for the country.

The United Conservative Party, founded in 2017 as a merger of two right-of-center groups and led by former federal cabinet minister Jason Kenney, won a majority of legislative seats in the oil-rich province. His victory over New Democratic Party Premier Rachel Notley restores the status quo in a province that until her 2015 victory had a decades-long run of conservative leaders.

For Trudeau, the most immediate impact of Kenny’s victory will be on climate change, Notley had proven to be an occasional ally of the prime minister’s environmental ambitions by implementing a provincial carbon tax and capping oil-sands emissions. The United Conservative leader has already promised to scrap the levy. That will force Trudeau to impose his own federal tax in the province. Kenney has also pledged to join other provinces fighting Trudeau’s carbon pricing plan in court.

Kenney is also a philosophical foe of Trudeau’s energy policies, which are based on the idea the nation must secure a “social licence” to develop its resources by being more pro-environment and supportive of indigenous concerns.

Kenney plans to create a $30 million “war room” to hit back at anti-energy campaigners and investigate their sources of funding. He’s also threatening to have Alberta cease doing business with banks that boycott energy projects, cut oil shipments to provinces that fight pipeline development and press Trudeau to kill Bill C-69, which overhauls the approval process for pipelines.

“You have a conservative bloc of premiers stretching from Alberta to Quebec uninterrupted,” said Yaroslav Baran, principal at Earnscliffe Strategy Group and a former communications adviser under Stephen Harper’s Conservative government. “The near-consensus the prime minister had on his carbon framework is — it’s safe to say — now in tatters.”

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