New Alberta premier won't 'turn off the taps' to BC 'at this time'

Apr 30 2019, 10:02 pm

Despite vocalizing his intentions to enact what has been dubbed the “turn-off-the taps” legislation – officially known as Bill 12 – and restrict oil and gas shipments to BC in response to pipeline opposition, Alberta’s new premier Jason Kenney appears to be pressing pause on that plan – at least for now.

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Kenney, the leader of Alberta’s United Conservative Party, was elected as premier earlier this month.

During his campaign, Kenney said that if elected, he wouldn’t be afraid to put Bill 12 into action, going as far to say he would enact the legislation “within an hour” of being sworn in.

At an event earlier this spring, Kenney said he and his party “will make it clear to our partners in the federation – such as the BC government – that if they continue to obstruct our energy and violate the economic union of Canada guaranteed in the Constitution, we will use the ‘turn-off-the-taps’ legislation.”

This, he added, “is what I proposed nearly two years ago.”

But on Tuesday – the day of his swearing-in – he appeared to soften his timeline, as to when he would actually take such measures.

“We will obviously keep our electoral commitment to proclaim Bill 12 – just stay tuned,” he told reporters. “But I’ve been clear it is not our intention to reduce shipments or turn off the tap at this time.”

Kenney added that the idea at this point is to “demonstrate that our government is serious about defending the vital economic interests of Alberta.”

UBC Political Science Professor Kathryn Harrison called Kenney’s threats to turn off the taps “political bluster,” meant to both show Albertans how much the UCP will ‘fight’ for their interests and to frighten British Columbians.”

And while Kenney’s words might sound threatening, Harrison told Daily Hive that it doesn’t mean his government will necessarily follow through on the plan.

“Proclamation is the final step in finalizing a law,” she explained. “Further action would then be needed under that law to restrict the flow of oil to BC or any other province.”

Still, even if Kenney decided to go ahead with his threat, “there are some very big constitutional questions,” said Harrison.

“In particular, Section 92A of Canada’s constitution, a section that was added in 1982 on Alberta’s initiative, explicitly states that a province ‘may not authorize or provide for discrimination in prices or in supplies [of natural resources] exported to another part of Canada,” she said.

That, she said, “seems to be the purpose of the Alberta law, as stated by various Alberta politicians.”

Harrison also noted that “turn off the taps” would be a two-way streak.

“It would hurt Alberta’s own oil industry,” she said. “For that reason, there are a lot of folks in the Alberta oil industry who do not support the measure.”

The BC NDP and Alberta government have been at odds with one another over the pipeline issue, ever since BC announced legislation in January 2018 that, if successfully passed, would give the province power to restrict the amount of bitumen that flows to its shores — essentially halting the Trans Mountain Pipeline in its tracks.