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No pipeline fireworks as Western premiers emerge from annual meeting in Edmonton

There were smiles, handshakes and even a joke or two as Canada’s western premiers emerged from their day-long meeting in Edmonton last Thursday.

There has been friction between the leaders of late over British Columbia’s opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which would carry more Alberta oil to the West Coast.

Both B.C. Premier John Horgan and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said their positions on the project didn’t change following the talks.

Thursday was the first time the two leaders met face to face and the meeting came a week after the federal government approved the controversial project for a second time.

But there were no fireworks at the closing news conference like at last year’s meeting, when the pipeline issue led then-Alberta premier Rachel Notley to opt out of signing a final statement for reporters.

Instead, the premiers found common ground on issues such as trade corridors and recognizing professional credentials from province to province.

“We spent a lot of time working together on a statement that finds common ground,” Kenney said. “It frankly meant that we didn’t all get what we would like. Premier Horgan wasn’t going to agree to endorse the TMX expansion, for example.

“So, obviously there were some differences.”

Kenney restated that Alberta is prepared to use provincial legislation to limit oil and gas exports to any province he sees as standing in the way of pipelines – a so-called turn-off-the-taps law.

Horgan said his government will push ahead with a legal challenge of that law, as well as a reference to the Supreme Court on whether the federal government had the constitutional jurisdiction to approve the pipeline expansion.

But there were few jabs thrown.

Horgan even made a joke about being the lone New Democrat at the table with Kenney, Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe and Manitoba’s Brian Pallister, all leaders of conservative governments.

“I wore a blue suit so I could blend in,” he said as Kenney laughed.

Pallister went into the meeting hoping his western counterparts would unite against Quebec’s law banning civil servants from wearing religious symbols, but the item did not make it on the formal agenda of the meeting.

Pallister said he wouldn’t give up the fight.

“Manitoba remains very concerned about anything that interferes with our ability to celebrate as a country the diversity that’s a reality here,” he said.

“I’m a farm boy and I don’t like erosion. And I certainly am always concerned about the erosion of rights in our country. So I’ll continue to have that view and I’ll continue to express it.”

 


Premiers Kenney, Moe to work together on rig rules as they meet in Saskatchewan

Premiers Moe and Kenney.

Premiers Moe and Kenney.

The premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan are pledging to harmonize regulations governing the movement of oil and gas rigs in the two provinces.

Jason Kenney and Scott Moe have signed a memorandum of understanding noting that some commercial trucking rules are not suitable for service rigs, which spend most of the time in a field, not on a road.

The goal is to make it easier for rigs to be moved from job site to job site in both provinces without getting bogged down by two sets of rules.

The agreement was signed as Kenney and Moe appeared together at an oil trade show in Weyburn, Sask.

The two conservative premiers praised the policies of their respective governments, while taking shots at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal carbon tax.

Both heralded their support for pipelines and say they are confident the federal government will approve the stalled construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion by the June 18 deadline.


Alberta premier Jason Kenney says provincial carbon tax will die May 30

Premier Jason Kenney says Alberta’s carbon tax has about two weeks to live.

Kenney says the Carbon Tax Repeal Act is to be introduced during next week’s legislature sitting and will have a proviso to end the tax by the end of the month.

“By May 30th there will no longer be an Alberta carbon tax,” Kenney said Monday at a news conference outlining some of the legislation coming from his new United Conservative government.

An end to the tax brought in by the former NDP government will put an estimated $1.4 billion a year back in the pockets of taxpayers, he said.

The levy is charged on home heating using fossil fuels and on gasoline at the pumps.

Ending the tax would open the door to the federal government imposing its tax, as it has done with four other provinces that wouldn’t bring in their own carbonpricing: Ontario, New Brunswick, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was in Edmonton last Friday, wouldn’t say if his government would immediately charge the federal tax if Alberta ditched its own, but stressed that no province will be exempt.

Opposition Leader Rachel Notley said the repeal “sets the stage for a made-in-Ottawa, a made-by-Justin-Trudeau carbon plan to be imposed on Albertans.

“I don’t think it’s wise,” the NDP leader said. “And we will certainly make the case vigorously that it’s not wise.”

Getting rid of the carbon tax was a central policy pillar in Kenney’s successful campaign last month to win the election. He defeated Notley’s party, achieving a strong majority.

Kenney ridiculed the NDP carbon fee as a thinly veiled tax grab that penalizes consumers while having no effect on greenhouse gas emissions. He also held the levy up as a symbol of what he has said was an interventionist NDP government that was stifling economic recovery by imposing additional fees and red tape.

On the campaign trail, Kenney promised to file an immediate court challenge on the constitutionality of the federal carbon tax if he won the election.

He promised to file the court papers by April 30; however, his cabinet was not sworn in until that day. In the two weeks since, no challenge has been filed.

Kenney said Monday the lawsuit has been delayed and may not be filed at all.

He said his government wants to review court decisions in Saskatchewan and Ontario before it decides if it will challenge the federal tax in court.

The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal recently ruled in a split decision that the federal tax imposed on provinces without a carbon price of their own is constitutional.

The Ontario government is waiting for a decision on its court challenge.

“The right thing for us to do is wait and see what the Ontario Appeal court decides,” said Kenney.

“We can take both of those decisions into account as to whether or not to launch our own separate challenge or whether just to support (the) Saskatchewan and Ontario governments in what will be inevitable appeals to the Supreme Court.”

Kenney’s platform promised he would create jobs and move Alberta’s oil- and gas-based economy forward by reducing regulations and cutting taxes.

On Monday he said a bill to cut corporate income tax by one-third will also be rolled out next week.

It is likely to follow Kenney’s plan to reduce the 12 per cent corporate tax by one percentage point on July 1, and then cut it again by one point in the first days of 2020, 2021 and 2022, to ultimately bring it to eight per cent.

His government also aims to bring in a bill to reduce the current $15 an hour minimum wage for workers 17 and younger.