News source from CTV News
Despite being elected on a promise to go to war with anyone who stands in the way of pipelines, UCP Leader Jason Kenney’s first day as premier-designate was one of diplomacy.
A day before Tuesday’s election, Kenney promised Albertans a UCP government would take a hard stance on pipelines and equalization payments.
“What we will no longer tolerate are politicians and governments benefitting from our hard work and our resource wealth,” he told supporters.
But on Wednesday, Kenney’s approach was somewhat tempered—even in response to Quebec Premier Francois Legault saying he sees no “social acceptability” for a pipeline in his province.
“I am hopeful that we can find a way to work together,” Kenney said, speaking in front of the Alberta legislature. “We want to start the relationship on a positive footing, looking for common ground.”
However, the UCP leader was clear his agreeableness wasn’t a compromise on the party’s platform.
“I’ll repeat what I said last night and for the last month: that Alberta is going to fight for a fair deal in the federation,” the premier-designate said.
“And we don’t think it’s reasonable for other provinces, like Quebec, to take our equalization money while opposing pipeline projects that can help us to pay the bills.”
Kenney echoed the same sentiment when asked about his readiness to effect Bill 12, known as “turn-off-the-taps” legislation.
“I’ve always said it’s not our intention to begin with reducing energy shipments to British Columbia, but to have the power to do so,” Kenney said, announcing plans to make the bill law by the end of the month.
He wants an in-person meeting with the western premier, John Horgan, to discuss the province’s differences.
“The Horgan government called the bluff of Alberta’s NDP on the turn-off-the-taps legislation. They said publicly that they’d received assurances that the current Alberta government does not intend to use Bill 12,” Kenney said.
“I think we sit down with the Government of British Columbia with greater strength and clarity about the tools that Alberta can use to defend our vital economic interests.”
Horgan has offered Kenney his congratulations, and chosen a similar approach of diplomacy.
The B.C. premier said Wednesday, “If we work hard together to try and address the differences of opinion on various issues, we’ll be able to move forward effectively.”
Kenney has been welcomed by other conservative leaders across the country. Ontario Premier Doug Ford called him “a great ally to join the anti-carbon alliance,” and Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said he was excited to work with Kenney on “issues of mutual concern.”
Kenney said his government’s first action when it enters the legislature in May will be to introduce a bill to repeal Alberta’s carbon tax, among other laws intended to spur job creation.
It’s a guarantee Ottawa is not reacting lightly to: “If the new government walks away from those commitments, the federal government will step in,” promised federal Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi.
Kenney and the prime minister have agreed to try to meet in the coming weeks.
At a more local level, both of Alberta’s big city mayors expressed hope the UCP government would follow through on the NDP’s commitments to infrastructure development.
“Mr. Kenney was explicit in the campaign that he would honour the government’s commitments to West LRT, that he would honour the Government of Alberta’s commitments to our infrastructure deal,” Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said.
Calgary Mayor Nenshi added, “I think it’s a clear mandate for the United Conservative Party to really start focusing on talking about the things they said they’d do.”
Both hope to sit down with the premier-designate soon.
With files from Bill Fortier
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