Separatism may be on the rise in Alberta after Trans Mountain decision: Kenney

by Rachel Gilmore, Power Play producer

Alberta’s loyalty to Canada may be waning after the justice system dealt a blow to the province’s pipeline plans. At least that’s what Jason Kenney, leader of Alberta’s United Conservative Party, told CTV’s Don Martin on Power Play Wednesday.

“I would not be surprised if a significant and growing minority of Albertans are entertaining [separatism],” Kenney said.

“I’m a Canadian nationalist and, by the way, separating ourselves from the rest of the country is not how we’re going to get market access. But still, that frustration is real.”

That frustration boiled over after a Federal Court of Appeal reversed a cabinet decision to allow Trans Mountain construction to go ahead. Citing insufficient consultation with Indigenous people and a failure to consider the impact of increased tanker traffic, the court indefinitely halted the pipeline’s construction.

Kenney said it might be time to turn the question over to the people.

“If we can’t get market access for Canada’s largest export then I would be prepared to hold a referendum on equalization,” Kenney said.

“I think that’s Alberta’s ultimate leverage in the federation, according to the Supreme Court’s Quebec secession reference, that would force binding negotiations with the federal government.”

Equalization is a complex calculation intended to help have-not provinces provide public services that reach the ranks of those available in other provinces. Alberta pays a significant amount into the fund and received nothing from it in 2017-18.

Kenney said he would use those payments as leverage to try to get the Trans Mountain pipeline built.

“I intend for a future Alberta Conservative government to play ball in asserting our demand for fairness within the federation,” he said.

Meanwhile, the feelings of frustration are building in Alberta.

“When that court decision came down…you could just feel the anxiety and the frustration and that has turned into anger — and it’s very real,” said Rona Ambrose, the former interim Conservative leader.

“Jason has a real sense of what that [court decision] means for the province so I think he’s capturing that sentiment and let me tell you, it is strong.”

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley was reeling after the decision came out. She slammed the federal government in an Aug. 30 speech and announced that Alberta would pull out of the national climate plan until the federal government “gets its act together” on the planned pipeline expansion.

The government has yet to confirm whether they plan to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

“We are looking at what an appeal would look like, what it would mean,” Trudeau said in a Wednesday interview with Edmonton radio station CHED.

“The court was very clear: You need to do more on the environment. You need to do more on consultations, if anything is going to happen, so that’s what we are going to do.”

The government bought the project for $4.5 billion earlier this year and, within an hour of the court ruling’s release last week, Kinder Morgan shareholders approved the sale.

Trudeau stands behind the decision.

“Our process and our focus is on getting that pipeline built the right way so we can finally get our resources to markets other than the United States,” he said.

With files from the Canadian Press

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