Corbella: Alberta government negligent in its handling of Bill C-69
Premier Rachel Notley’s Alberta government dropped the ball on a federal government bill it now admits will “doom” the province’s energy industry.
Too bad it took so long for Notley’s NDP government to stop sitting on its collective hands and actually head to Ottawa to fight against Bill C-69 that virtually everyone agrees will grind capital investment and large infrastructure projects to a halt in Canada, particularly in Alberta’s oilpatch.
On Feb. 8, the very day that Justin Trudeau’s federal government introduced the Impact Assessment Act (Bill C-69) in the House of Commons, United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney was in Ottawa warning that “the process announced today is going to extend the timelines, massively expands the consultation process, allows anybody including any activist, anywhere in Canada, to get intervener status at the agency, which could mean endless process and delays.”
To quote a CBC article: “The Alberta government offered little reaction to the moves announced by federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr.”
On that troubling day, Alberta Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd said in a written statement from Edmonton that Alberta wants to first consult “key stakeholders” on the new bill.
What a lost opportunity. All McCuaig-Boyd needed to do was read the bill. It is a disaster for the entire country.
She and Notley should have immediately started working and lobbying against Bill C-69. On Thursday, Deron Bilous, Alberta’s economic development and trade minister, told a crowd of 300 delegates at the Energy Relaunch Conference in Calgary that “we’ve said to the federal government that you need to make significant changes to this bill or you’re going to doom our energy sector.”
DOOM! It’s a strong word but not hyperbole. He’s right. Finally, some alarm emanating from the Alberta government about Bill C-69. Notley and Co. will claim that they’ve been alarmed all along. Don’t believe them.
On March 29, growing increasingly concerned at the lack of urgency on this matter by the Alberta government, Kenney wrote a gracious letter to Notley suggesting that the entire legislative assembly unite against Bill C-69.
He never even received the courtesy of a reply, which is actually more polite than the response to his concerns in the legislature during question period.
Virtually every time the leader of the official Opposition urged the Alberta NDP government to do something about Bill C-69 he was mocked publicly.
In the letter, Kenney points out that Canadian Energy Pipeline Association president Chris Bloomer told the House of Commons’ Environment Committee: “It is difficult to imagine that a new major pipeline could be built under the Impact Assessment Act (Bill C-69), much less attract energy investment to Canada.”
Kenney proposed that upon the return of the legislative assembly that a joint motion be considered to show unity in opposing Bill C-69.
Kenney wrote that he would be open to modifying the draft language of the motion “to find all-party consensus on this issue that is so critical to our economic future.”
The response from the government? Silence.
Then the government voted against the UCP motion on Bill C-69 in the legislature.
Earlier this week, Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips flew to Ottawa where she lobbied 50 senators. The bill passed second reading in the Senate in March, but following a huge letter-writing campaign launched by an Alberta group called Suits and Boots, it is hoped that many senators may actually amend or kill the bill.
It’s good that an NDP minister has finally flown to Ottawa to fight this bill, but it’s bordering on tragic that they didn’t follow Kenney’s lead early on by going to Ottawa and making some noise about the bill and lobbying MPs rather than senators.
Instead, check out the utterly contemptuous comments made by NDP ministers of the Crown to a reasonable question made by Kenney in the Alberta legislature.
As Hansard shows, on April 11, McCuaig-Boyd said about Bill C-69: “We do understand that there are some issues, but at the same time we’ve been welcome to submit our information and our feedback …” she said. “I am somewhat puzzled why you guys are so obsessed with the federal government and what they’re doing. Maybe that’s where you need to be instead of across the way.”
Sheesh. I bet if she’s reading this right now, she’s blushing.
Sarah Hoffman, Alberta’s deputy premier, retorted on May 16 to a question from Kenney: “The ministers of Environment and Parks and Energy did make a written submission to the Minister of Environment. We know that the member opposite likes to spend a lot of time in Ottawa — I get that — and that he wants everybody to spend a lot of time in Ottawa. Here we’re focused on Alberta, making sure we get good results for the people of Alberta.”
Then there’s Phillips, who back on April 5 refused to say following repeated questions by Kenney that she opposed Bill C-69. Instead, she said she was “very pleased” that they were able to score a small win.
“We were very pleased to learn that in situ projects will not find themselves on a project list if they are covered by a climate leadership plan, that is to say a carbon pricing regime and an emissions cap, which puts Alberta at significant strategic advantage,” said Phillips.
Strategic advantage with whom, exactly. Other in situ oilsands projects in Canada? With Texas? Saudi Arabia? Iran?
Actually, forget my opening paragraph. Notley and crew didn’t drop the ball, they dropped Alberta’s economic engine. It is to weep.