Andrew Scheer and Jason Kenney: Not necessarily as close as this awkward photo might suggest … (Photo: Twitter).

Jason Kenney will be sworn in tomorrow as the 18th premier of Alberta, so we should know very soon if he really meant his oft-repeated pledge to make the repeal of the NDP’s carbon levy the first act of his government or if it was just another campaign whopper.

Likewise, with Canada creeping into the hot zone before a federal election, we may soon have the opportunity to test the veracity of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s assertion in November 2016 that approval of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion would not and could not have happened without the departing Alberta NDP government’s carbon tax and its cap on oilsands emissions, which Mr. Kenney has also promised to eliminate.

Justin Trudeau, prime minister of Canada: Itching for a fight? (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Backsliding is always possible in politics, of course, and there might be sound reasons for it on both sides in the current situation, but right now we seem to be headed for an intramural game of chicken between Ottawa and Edmonton.

So far, leastways, Mr. Kenney has not wavered in his public determination to make axing the C-tax the first piece of legislation he brings before the Alberta Legislature.

Nor has he wavered on other aspects of what is already coming to be called in other provinces his “revenge platform,” including immediately enacting the NDP’s unconstitutional “turn off the taps to B.C.” legislation and joining the hopeless courtroom grandstanding by other Conservative governments based on the unlikely notion Ottawa’s carbon tax is unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, “sources” close to the prime minister are dropping hints in the national press that the federal Liberals are “actively considering” blocking expansion of the TMX if Mr. Kenney goes ahead with blowing up the carbon tax, removing the 100-megatonne carbon cap, and implementing other parts of the ecocidal Kenney-Conservative agenda.

“The logic is that if there is no climate change plan, there can be no more pipelines,” columnist John Ivison wrote in the National Post on Thursday. That, he noted, “would likely play well in British Columbia and Quebec, where the Liberals believe they can pick up seats in the October election.”

Indeed it would, and even appearing to let Mr. Kenney’s plans slip through could be disastrous for the Liberals in those two jurisdictions. At the very least, we could expect a bonus for Elizabeth May’s Greens on the West Coast in October if Mr. Trudeau doesn’t stand up to Mr. Kenney’s bluster, and even a respite for the federal NDP led by Jagmeet Singh.

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The PM also has to know that if he does permit Mr. Kenney’s agenda to proceed unhindered, the new Alberta premier will loudly proclaim it as a huge victory, evidence of the federal Liberals’ weakness and the bankruptcy of the whole “social license” approach to balancing environmental and economic interests.

So it’s this simple: If Mr. Kenney goes ahead as promised and Mr. Trudeau approves the pipeline anyway, the PM’s path to victory in the fall is very narrow; if he withdraws approval, or even kicks the can down the road, he has a much wider path to another term.

Yeah, no Liberals will be elected in Alberta and the local media will go into hysterics, but so what? Voters have already made up their minds in this province, and local columnists have already slipped over the edge!

On the other hand, the instant Mr. Trudeau announces the TMX is dead, he has lost any possibility he might restrain or influence Mr. Kenney, who will presumably then try to provoke a constitutional crisis by attacking B.C.’s economy in ways we have never seen before in Canadian history. Still, there’s only so much you can do without an army.

Federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

So my guess is that notwithstanding the Post’s claim Mr. Trudeau is “itching for a fight,” the federal government’s response will be to plead a need for more study and put off making a decision on the TMX until after the federal election, thereby eating its cake and having it too.

Moreover, as blogger Susan Wright pointed out yesterday, there’s no guarantee federal Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer would do much more for Mr. Kenney than Mr. Trudeau will. After all, the federal Conservative Party faces the same electoral math problem as the Liberals, in reverse. “The federal Conservatives could win every seat west of Ontario and Mr. Scheer would still need 63 seats from central Canada and the Atlantic provinces to form government,” she wrote.

Meanwhile, regardless of what happens with the TMX, there is another game afoot as well: the Liberal government’s desire to remain Canada’s Natural Governing Party and Mr. Kenney’s obvious ambition to return to Ottawa in prime ministerial triumph.

For Mr. Kenney’s ambition to be realized, the federal Conservatives must lose the 2019 election to Mr. Trudeau – else the ambitious Alberta premier and the rest of us might be stuck with several years of Mr. Scheer as prime minister. Talk about an unappealing prospect all ’round!

This presents some interesting problems for Mr. Kenney. He can’t appear to be too unenthusiastic about a Conservative victory in 2019 without ruining his prospects for inheriting the mantle of national party leadership afterward. Nor can he seem to be too accommodating to Mr. Trudeau.

I imagine Mr. Kenney was as pleased as Mr. Trudeau, therefore, to see recent polling that shows the Liberals finally closing the gap on Mr. Scheer’s Conservatives now that Jody Wilson-Reybould and Jane Philpott are gone from cabinet and the Liberal caucus and the SNC-Lavalin brouhaha seems to be receding into the past.

Join the Conversation


  1. I think there is no doubt that Justin Trudeau will use both Jason Kenney and Doug Ford stances on carbon taxes to get re-elected, they both certainly used the dislike of Justin Trudeau to win the respective campaigns. I read an article that in the recent election in PEI the provincial Liberal’s requested that the Prime Minister stay away because he wasn’t popular! Don Braid’s column on Catherine McKenna’s attitude towards Alberta’s oil was bang on in my opinion!

    I am certainly surprised David that you appear to still support Justin Trudeau. As a farmer I will give you a couple of examples of why I don’t. A couple of years ago India imposed tariffs on pulse crops exported from Canada. This reduced the price of peas and lentils. What I recieve for my yellow peas went from $8 a bushel to $7. How did our Prime Minister respond? He went to India and played Mr. Dressup! Now we have China backing out of buying western Canadian Canola. Justin Trudeau has not handled China well. He tried to get labour, gender, environment and governance issues entrenched in the negotiating framework of the free trade talks and China basically told him to take a hike. Then they detained Huawei Exec. Meng Wanzhou as asked by the USA. Then they fired John McCallum from his post as Ambassador to China and haven’t appointed a replacement. China purchases 40% of exported canola seed. This is going to have a large negative impact on western Canadian farmers bottom line. Let’s be realistic Justin Trudeau wants to replace jobs in the oil patch in western Canada with jobs installing solar panels made in China. Enjoy your day.

    1. Farmer Brian, no worries, now that Jason Kenney is our leader he will wave his magic wand and your canola will be sold and the TMX pipeline will get built in his first 100 days in office. Hold on to your hat because we all in Alberta are in for a rough ride with Kenney calling the shots, particularly in health.

      I am closely connected to a person in the health industry who went to university and employed both in Alberta and London England and in England they went through the same thing, privatising health such as blood work as past governments have done in Alberta and it turned out to be a disaster and England returned to government controlled lab’s because for important health research purposes. And now Kenney stops construction of the mega lab research centre which started construction near the U of A. And he wants to turn off the oil taps to B.C. Talk about a Kenney style job killer and less money for the oil business sector and farmers. You may need to get out from under the dome and do your own research instead of reading an article in the paper and taking it as fact.

      Enjoy your day

    2. The bungling of canola sales to China and the rest of the grain export mess is the joint responsibility of both Harper and Trudeau. Take a look at this widely circulated article on China, Trudeau, and canola from three years ago for a bit of background:

      The short version is that 3 years ago China wanted less crap (stems, pods, chaff) in their canola shipments. Prairie farmers already produce and deliver canola that would almost meet the standard China requested. Instead Trudeau insulted the Chinese, so they gave him a couple of years to get Canadian canola exports cleaned up. It did not happen and now they are going elsewhere for their supplies. Same thing happened with India, and later Italy and North Africa with durum wheat. The customer is always right and insulting them is never a good idea.

  2. If memory serves, no Canadian premier has ever become prime minister. I see nothing in Kenney’s approach to date that will change this. (I don’t mean this to slam Kenney either.). As I believe Mr. Climenhaga pointed out earlier as well, Kenney has no experience running a government. When this is combined with his lack of personal charisma (a defect shared by 95 percent of the population), I am not sure how many of his preferred policies will be enacted. (I may have made these points before in this forum, so forgive the repetition if that is the case.)

    1. Charles Tupper was premier of Nova Scotia from 1864 to 1867, to July 3, 1867, so it could be argued he was the premier of a Canadian province for two days. He was prime minister of Canada for 69 days in 1896. He was the last Canadian premier to become a prime minister. DJC.

  3. And all these ‘politics as usual’ games will be widely watched, and narrowly commented on, ad nauseam, while the planet heats up, floods and fires, hurricanes and droughts visit those unlucky enough to live on the actual ground……….

    At some point, we’re going to have to start another conversation, and pay significantly more attention to a different ‘power source’. Everything about the Kenny victory suggests the triumph of fantasy hopes over fearful realities….but as W.B.Yeats said of another civil crisis decades ago:

    We had fed the heart on fantasy,
    The heart’s grown brutal from the fare
    More substance in our enmity
    Than in our loves….” He was speaking of Ireland, but it could as easily be said of current Alberta, where fantasy visions of continued oil prosperity, and hateful plans for vengeance against an imaginary enemy appear to have captivated a majority of the citizens.

    Can’t wait for the referendum on equalization payments and the wealth bonanza that is going to be for the province!

    1. “…fantasy visions of continued oil prosperity, and hateful plans for vengeance against an imaginary enemy appear to have captivated a majority of the citizens.”

      I agree. Several weeks ago Jen Gerson wrote an op ed piece for CBC in which she argued that the angst we are seeing in this province is a result of people starting to realize that Alberta’s oil wealth is starting to fade, and they are not reacting well to the idea. I really think the election result was partly based on Albertans’ desperate attempt cling to Jason Kenney’s offer of a denial.

      The whole thing reminds me of how my neighbour’s son turned really bratty the summer he was 5, and (I think) was terrified of his future where he had to go to school. Threats like turning off the taps, holding a meaningless referendum, and leaving Canada really do fit in a category of temper tantrum.

      I think the ‘Equalization Referendum’ could be interesting, in that it could also prove to be a vote of confidence, or lack of, for the Kenney government. Given that almost 50% of the electorate did not want Jason Kenney as their premier, and the fact that UCP supporters could use the referendum to express their disillusionment without having to vote NDP, the referendum could prove to be very embarrassing for Mr. Kenney.

  4. His second act is to cancel the railcars.

    “Cenovus Energy Inc. is concerned the domestic market’s fragile balance and lift from higher heavy oil prices could be jeopardized if Alberta’s new government cancels oil-by-rail contracts.

    ‘There’s no doubt in my mind that we need oil-by-rail in this province if we ever hope to get away from curtailment and get back to a point where we can add production,’ said Pourbaix in an interview.

    Cenovus moved 20,000 barrels of oil per day on railway cars at the beginning of April, but Pourbaix said new tank cars were arriving and the company would be ramping up shipments to 100,000 bpd by the end of the year.”

  5. I think JT will quickly become competitive with Scheer as soon as people witness their respective parliamentary demeanours (the HoC is back in session); it was JT’s silence about SNC-Lavilin that lowered his polling numbers, after all, not to mention that it was Andrew Scheer who trucked with the racists at the Ottawa protest rally. D’ohFo has done his share of immigrant bashing but, naturally, Scheer can’t offer a buck-a-beer—nor a buck-a-litre for gasoline.

    Scheer, of course, can only dream of winning every seat west of Ontario. And I don’t know how to read Ivison’s idea that JT will play well in BC. It sure doesn’t seem that way here on the Island where Green support is probably the highest in the country.

    Jason KeKKenney provoke a constitutional crisis? As Premier John Horgan already demonstrated to Christy Clark, he’s not one to shrink from court action and an injunction against anything remotely unconstitutional could easily be obtained within three days, at most.

    PS: KeKKenney was alleged to have sung the politically incorrect, gendered version of the national anthem. In fact, it’s impossible to tell from verbal utterances whether he sang, “In all our sons’ command,” or, “In all our sun’s [as in, ‘days’] command,” which is what I always took it for.

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