Would Jason Kenney kill the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion for short-term political gain in Alberta? Just askin’

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PHOTOS: Jason Kenney, at left, in his fevered imagination, visits the Alberta Army on the B.C. front. (Photo of an actual event, heaven only knows what, grabbed from Mr. Kenney’s Twitter feed.) Below: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, B.C. Premier John Horgan, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, all of them keeping calm and carrying on. Each of this shots is from the author’s vast if technically imperfect personal collection of snaps of political leaders.

By vowing economic “repercussions” for British Columbia if the province’s NDP-Green governing coalition blocks or slows down the expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline, Jason Kenney may have hit upon the perfect scheme to ensure no pipeline is ever built from Alberta to the Canadian West Coast.

But, as they say when the gales of November come early to the not-so-pacific North Pacific, “any old port in a storm!”

If throwing a giant monkey wrench into Alberta’s still fragile economy is what it takes to wrest power from the New Democrats of Premier Rachel Notley and hand it back to the rebranded Tories of the United Conservative Party, which the former Harper Government cabinet minister expects to lead soon, Mr. Kenney and his advisors may reckon it’s worth the damage.

Would Mr. Kenney climb into bed, metaphorically speaking, with Greenpeace if it offered him a chance to whack Ms. Notley’s government – which has done something no Conservative government in Edmonton or Ottawa has been able to do, and that’s get a pipeline project approved by the federal government? The jury’s still out on that one.

Then again, maybe Mr. Kenney, who nowadays holds no actual elected office, is just frustrated with the lack of power that goes with his current absence of official status. Blustering about what he’ll do when he’s premier may feel quite satisfying under the circumstances.

All the better if he can tie the pro-pipeline Alberta NDP to the half-heartedly anti-pipeline B.C. Dippers, their leader John Horgan’s shaky hold on government shored up in the B.C. Legislature by his three determinedly anti-pipeline Green partners. (Never mind that the conservative Liberals then led by Christy Clark promised exactly the same things in the last desperate hours of her government in late June.)

And given the UCP’s recent penchant for telling huge whoppers – like the one about how the only reason the Alberta economy’s perking up is because of the recent merger of the Wildrose Party and what was left of the Progressive Conservatives – I suppose in the event the pipeline expansion is completed as Premier Notley promises Mr. Kenney can claim it was because of his threats.

Well, whatever this is, it sure as heck isn’t “servant leadership!”

And here we thought that Mainstreet Research poll the other day meant a Tory Restoration was a certainty! Perhaps Mr. Kenney and his advisers are less sure of that than they want us to think.

I imagine that British Columbia’s legions of committed environmentalists were almost as thrilled to hear Mr. Kenney’s bluster as was the far-out fringe of the UCP’s base. After all, pipeline opponents don’t really have a legal case to make any more, only a political one.

As Ms. Notley keeps patiently explaining, Ottawa has now approved the project, so under the law it will have to go ahead – no matter what roadblocks the B.C. government might try to throw in the way.

And as Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau keeps patiently explaining, the only reason the project got Ottawa’s approval was because of the efforts of the Notley Government on the environmental front – which Mr. Kenney and the other UCP candidates all vow to dismantle the instant they get elected.

So Mr. Kenney’s sabre rattling in an interview with the Globe and Mail gives an enormous boost to those who hope to generate political conditions west of the Rockies that can halt the Kinder Morgan expansion.

By threatening a trade war he doesn’t have the power to deliver – and wouldn’t even if he were in office, thanks to Ottawa’s constitutional power to ensure peace, order and good government – Mr. Kenney strengthens committed pipeline opponents’ arguments immensely.

Ironically, he would be counting on Mr. Trudeau’s federal Liberals to bail him out of this mess in the event this scheme actually succeeded.

But that might not be enough to save the rather fragile Kinder Morgan project, which right now has a little momentum thanks to Ms. Notley and Mr. Trudeau.

Momentum is important in this case because Kinder Morgan’s investors are likely getting cold feet as they think about continued softening in the market for petroleum products and how this project is likely to play out politically and physically in British Columbia. This will be especially so as construction nears the Vancouver region, where tanker traffic is predicted to increase seven fold as a result and opposition is strongest.

If the expansion is stopped for any reason, the impact would surely cascade to threaten other planned and proposed projects that traverse B.C.

If you doubt me, I have one word for you: Petronas.

Of course, when the Malaysian oil and gas giant of that name cancelled its multi-billion-dollar LNG project near Prince Rupert late last month as expected by pretty much everyone for all the same market reasons, Mr. Kenney loudly blamed the B.C. NDP, which at the time had been in power for six days.

So there you go.

Really, the big question right now is only whether the damage Mr. Kenney’s empty trade war threats do to the Alberta economy is inadvertent or intentional.

Categories Alberta Politics Canadian Politics