Corbella: Trudeau’s Bill C-69 ‘greatest threat’ to energy industry since father’s NEP
Like father, like son?
When it comes to instituting policies considered disastrous to Alberta’s energy industry, Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is not unlike his father — former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, who announced the devastating National Energy Program on Oct. 28, 1980, almost 38 years ago to the day.
Regardless of the political stripe of those speaking Thursday at the Energy Relaunch Conference in Calgary, the federal government’s Bill C-69 — which is currently before the Senate — was described as a bill that will “doom” Alberta’s energy industry.
“Bill C-69 is the greatest threat to the future of your industry since the National Energy Program,” said Andrew Scheer, leader of the federal Conservative party and Canada’s official Opposition.
“Justin Trudeau has told Canadians more than once that he wants to phase out your industry,” Scheer told the crowd of 300 that filled the conference hall at the Metropolitan Centre.
“Bill C-69 is the centrepiece in how he will do it.”
Scheer said Bill C-69 — the Impact Assessment Act — will take Alberta’s energy industry, which is already “suffocating in red tape,” and “smother it completely.”
Besides adding layers of new regulatory burdens as well as sweeping new ministerial powers to control approvals and timelines, Scheer pointed out that “loopholes that allow for interference from foreign-funded special-interest groups and other extremist organizations whose sole purpose is to destroy the industry,” will make approvals of major infrastructure projects such as pipelines and hydro projects much more difficult, not just in Alberta, but across the country.
Alberta’s NDP Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous used even stronger language than Scheer to describe Bill C-69 and what it will do to Alberta’s main economic driver.
“(Alberta Environment Minister) Shannon Phillips returned (Wednesday) night from Ottawa . . . where she met with over 50 senators and talking about Bill C-69. 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,” the NDP minister told the crowd, to warm applause.
According to a brief summary obtained by Postmedia on Wednesday, Phillips highlighted several aspects of Bill C-69 she thinks should be amended, including ensuring downstream emissions are “clearly excluded” from the environmental review of new energy projects, which industry has argued would unfairly disadvantage fossil fuel developments.
Alberta is also calling for a hard timeline of 300 days for pipeline reviews, rather than the 600-day review timeline included in the new legislation.
Better late than never.
It’s now almost the end of October and Bill C-69 was introduced in February, which is when United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney started urging Premier Rachel Notley to create a united front and fight this bill in Ottawa. He was repeatedly mocked in the legislature for months by the NDP government for suggesting the government fight this damaging proposed legislation.
At least now, they are finally onside. Kenney and many industry leaders believe Bill C-69 is so severely flawed that it should be scrapped, rather than reworked.
Kenney told the crowd that should he be elected premier of Alberta in the anticipated May election, he would go to great lengths to kill the federal Liberal government’s bill.
“I’m prepared to do whatever we can to advance our demands just for fairness in the federation,” Kenney said Thursday morning.
“One strategy that has been proposed that I think has merit would be to say to the federal government that if you insist on proceeding with the No More Pipelines Act — Bill C-69 — if you refuse to guarantee us the construction of a coastal pipeline to significantly reduce the price differential, then we will put equalization on the table. Not waiting five years for a negotiation but immediately, by triggering the 1998 Quebec secession reference of the Supreme Court of Canada, which says that if a province holds a referendum on a constitutional amendment with a clear question and a clear majority voting in favour, it imposes on the federal Crown a binding obligation to negotiate that amendment in good faith with the province,” Kenney said to rousing applause.
“I would be prepared to hold, in principle, a referendum in Alberta on Section 36 of the Constitution — equalization. Based on my polling, about 90 per cent of Albertans would support it, and that would then impose on the federal government an obligation to sit down and to discuss with us the terms of equalization,” said Kenney.
“What it would do is to take a page out of the playbook of Quebec political leaders who have been so effective at asserting their province’s agenda at the national level.”
That statement got the largest applause of the conference.
Bill C-69, Justin Trudeau’s bookend to his father’s destructive NEP, is already creating strange bedfellows as the New West Public Affairs event showed Thursday. And now it’s creating the same kind of regional alienation his father caused as well.