While newly sworn-in Alberta Premier Jason Kenney may not have been entirely true to his promise of proclaiming Bill 12 within the first hour of becoming premier, doing so on the second day on the job comes pretty close.
A Wednesday morning release from the Government of Alberta states that its first order of business was to proclaim the Preserving Canada’s Economic Prosperity Act, better known as the ‘Turn off the Taps’ legislation.
The bill was introduced by Rachel Notley’s government in 2018 in the heat of Alberta and BC’s pipeline feud, and it has now officially been proclaimed — though that doesn’t guarantee that it will be used any time soon.
Alberta’s new premier hopes to find “common ground” with BC before it comes to that.
“Alberta is serious about sending a message to those who wage a campaign of obstruction against our vital resources,” Kenney said, in the release.
“We want to work with other jurisdictions, like British Columbia, to find areas of common ground, but everybody should be aware that we will use every option available to defend Alberta, our economy, our resources, and our people. While the proclamation does not constitute an immediate reduction of shipments, it shows we mean business when protecting Canada’s economic interests.”
Bill 12 would potentially require companies exporting petroleum products from Alberta to acquire a licence to do so, with fines reaching up to $10 million per day for Albertan oil companies who go against the act.
This would give the government the ability to restrict the import of natural gas, crude oil, and refined fuels to BC — a step that newly appointed Minister of Energy Sonya Savage said would help Canada’s prosperity in the long run.
“This is not a mechanism to punish others. It’s a tool to protect Alberta,” she said, in the release.
“Alberta’s prosperity fuels Canada’s prosperity. It’s in every province and territory’s interest that we get these products to market. Without proper access to world markets and prices, Canada continues to lose billions of dollars.”
Kenney hinted at his plans following the swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday, stating that “We will obviously keep our electoral commitment to proclaim Bill 12 – just stay tuned.”
“I’ve been clear it is not our intention to reduce shipments or turn off the tap at this time.”
Whether or not the legislation will actually be able to legitimately turn off the taps is another matter entirely, and while it may be some time yet before Bill 12 is put to the test, a political science professor from UBC has told Daily Hive that some constitutional question will arise if Kenney goes through with using the legislation.
“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,’” Professor Kathryn Harrison said, in an email to Daily Hive.
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.”
It remains to be seen if/when Kenney will pull the trigger on Bill 12, but given a statement released on Tuesday evening wherein the premier called for Ottawa’s Bill C-48 to be killed, it is clear what an inciting factor may be.
“Today, one of my first acts as Alberta’s new Premier was to appear before the senate committee reviewing Bill C-48 — which would ban Canadian oil tankers off much of Canada’s west coast — to defend our province and add my grave concerns to the growing list of voices calling for this arbitrary, illogical, and discriminatory bill to be killed,” Kenney said.
“If the defects I, and many others, have outlined are not addressed and Bill C-48 is forced through against the wishes of the Alberta government and many First Nations, the federal government will be responsible for an entirely avoidable threat to Canada’s economic union and to our national unity.”
With files from Eric Zimmer