The new Alberta government has proclaimed into a law an act enabling it to restrict the flow of oil and gas to neighbouring British Columbia, raising the stakes in a spat between Canada’s two westernmost provinces over the Trans Mountain pipeline.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and his cabinet were sworn in on Tuesday and proclaimed the “Preserving Canada’s Economic Prosperity Act” as their first order of business, Kenney told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday.
The legislation, also known as the “turn off the taps” act, was introduced but not enacted by the previous New Democratic Party government last year in retaliation for British Columbia opposing the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
Trans Mountain carries crude from Alberta’s oil sands to the British Columbia coast. The proposed expansion would triple capacity to 890,000 barrels per day, but has been held up for years up regulatory delays and environmental opposition.
Kenney, who during his election campaign promised to champion Alberta’s energy sector, said his government would not immediately cut oil and gas shipments, but would use the legislation as leverage in discussions with British Columbia Premier John Horgan.
“If needs be, we will do what is necessary to preserve the value of our resources and to stand up for our workers,” Kenney said. “This does not mean energy shipments will immediately be reduced, but rather that our government will now have the ability to use the law should circumstances require.”
Kenney said he had a “respectful” conversation with Horgan on Tuesday night, adding he would start by looking to build a relationship and find common ground over the issue of Trans Mountain.
Last August, after a number of regulatory delays, the Canadian government bought the pipeline from Kinder Morgan Canada for $4.5 billion to ensure it gets built.
The federal government will by June 18 make a decision on whether pushing forward with the expansion is in the public interest.