Jason Kenney invites Alberta senators to lunch to discuss 'grave concerns' over energy reforms

OTTAWA — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has invited a number of senators to a private lunch next week to discuss the province’s “grave concerns” around two contentious pieces of federal legislation, part of a final pushback against Ottawa on its sweeping energy reforms.

In a letter, a copy of which was obtained by the National Post, Kenney invited all six senators representing Alberta to a lunch at the provincial legislature to discuss Bill C-69 and Bill C-48, which he says “threaten responsible resource development and Alberta’s exclusive provincial jurisdiction over non-renewable natural resources.”

The meeting, scheduled for May 23, comes as industry groups and provincial leaders promise to ramp up pressure on Ottawa as the two bills enter their critical final weeks.

Senators are now contemplating hundreds of proposed amendments to Bill C-69, which would overhaul the review process of major energy projects. Bill C-48, which would bar any large oil tankers from docking on the northern B.C. coast, is also currently being studied by committee. The senate committees now have just six weeks to pass the bills before the upper chamber’s final sitting day on June 28, leaving little time to propose and then vote on any proposed amendments.

Both bills have been the focus of intense criticism from oil-rich provinces such as Alberta and Saskatchewan as the Canadian oil and gas industry continues to suffer from a prolonged commodity rout. Energy lobby have also criticized the bill and put forward their own proposed amendments.

The Alberta premier’s office did not immediately respond to questions about the specific nature of the lunch meeting. Kenney and former Alberta premier Rachel Notley have criticized C-69 and C-48, both in committee testimony and in public statements, calling on Ottawa to drop both pieces of legislation.

Senators early in their study of Bill C-69 promised a robust review of the legislation. So far, both Conservatives and Independent senators have put forward more than 250 amendments, after hearing from a long list of witnesses during a cross-country tour of Canada.

Oil and gas lobby groups have said that Bill C-69 threatens to kneecap the industry, widening the review process in a way that places higher priority on environmental concerns that they say could block projects from being built. Environmentalists, meanwhile, argue regulatory bodies need to consider a wider array of considerations in reviewing projects, including whether they will contribute to greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.

Four of the six senators representing Alberta are part of the Independent Senators Group (ISG), and include Patti LaBoucane-Benson, Doug Black, Paula Simons and Elaine McCoy. Non-affiliated Sen. Grant Mitchell, who is the senate sponsor of the bill, and Conservative Sen. Scott Tannas also represent Alberta.

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