EDMONTON – Premier Rachel Notley and incoming premier Jason Kenney began the formal transfer of power in Alberta on Thursday, with Notley saying Kenney is already getting real-life lessons on the difference between political grandstanding and governing.
The NDP’s Notley said that since the United Conservative leader won Tuesday’s Alberta election, Quebec has rebuffed his public pitch to accept new pipelines and the B.C. government officially endorsed this week a federal bill to formalize a tanker ban off its northern coast.
“What it does demonstrate is it’s not as simple as having press conferences and expressing people’s outrage over and over,” Notley told reporters after meeting with Kenney at Government House.
“This is a complicated country. It involves considered diplomacy and strategic pressure in a thoughtful way.
“We will be keeping a close eye to making sure that he engages in that considered diplomacy/strategic pressure for the benefit of the pipeline — not grandstanding for the benefit of political outcomes.”
Kenney, a former federal Conservative cabinet minister, won a strong majority in the election on a get-tough policy toward any and all oil and gas opponents. He has long criticized Notley’s government as an enabler of federal policies detrimental to Alberta’s oil and gas industry.
He said the NDP’s passivity was deliberate to gain federal approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline project, which got the green light in 2016 to ship more Alberta oil to the B.C. coast but, due to legal challenges and reversals in court, has yet to see shovels in the ground.
Kenney has promised to fight Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in court on multiple fronts, including the federal carbon tax, and has promised to do what he can to get Trudeau defeated in the fall national election.
Notley said she discussed a number of issues with Kenney on Thursday, including Bill 12, which Notley’s government introduced and passed but never proclaimed into law. The bill gives Alberta power to restrict oil shipments to B.C. if that province continues to resist Trans Mountain.
Kenney has said the first act of his government will be to proclaim Bill 12 into law to send a strong message that Alberta will protect its oil and gas. Legal experts say it’s also a move that could give B.C. the opening it needs to successfully challenge the bill’s constitutionality in court.
Notley said Kenney’s promise to lift her government’s cap on Alberta oilsands emissions could also threaten Trans Mountain approval, given the cap was a key reason why Ottawa approved the multibillion-dollar project in the first place.
Kenney has said his approach will be one of cooperation and diplomacy with all political leaders, but that he will leave no doubt about Alberta’s determination to stand up for its bread and butter industry, particularly against those who benefit from it while opposing its growth.
As part of that fight-back plan, Kenney has pledged to create a government communications “war room” to challenge oil and gas opponents and those who spread misinformation about the industry.
It will have an initial budget of $30-million, Kenney said Thursday, and it will be staffed with communications professionals who are creative and, more importantly, nimble and quick to fight rhetorical fire with fire.
“Both the industry and governments of different partisan stripes have not been fast enough to respond to the incoming attacks,” said Kenney.
“I want a unit in the government that will be on that (factual errors and lies) the moment it is published, demanding a correction.”
Kenney and his new government are to be sworn in April 30, with a spring legislature sitting starting a few weeks after that.
Notley is staying on as Opposition Leader, but wouldn’t say Thursday whether this will be short-term while a successor is groomed or if she plans to stay the full four years and lead the NDP into the next election.
“That’s a little bit premature,” she said.
“My intention to lead Alberta’s Official Opposition and to stand up for the things that we fought for in the election.”