By David Marsden
Say what you want about the wisdom of Premier Jason Kenney’s decision to proclaim the so-called turn-off-the-taps legislation into law, but at least he followed through on his promise.
Opposition Leader Rachel Notley, whose party crafted the legislation while in power, has criticized Kenney for signing the bill into law.
The NDP’s preference had been to let the threat of reduced energy exports loom as possible punishment for British Columbia’s continued opposition to expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
In some respects, the NDP’s strategy had merit: B.C.’s challenge of the legislation failed in court because the bill wasn’t actual law.
Still, Kenney’s actions show a measure of commitment that was lacking under the NDP.
What was the point of creating an instrument to punish B.C. for its hypocritical and Un-Canadian opposition to the pipeline if it wasn’t going to be used?
There’s no dignity or honour in making hollow threats.
What would the British Columbia government had to have done to persuade Notley to pull the trigger and restrain energy exports?
Notley, remember, was the same premier who imposed a ban on B.C. wine imports, only to lift it two weeks later. Nothing was accomplished by the half-hearted gesture, which ended when B.C. Premier John Horgan said he would let the courts determine whether his government has the power to restrict increased bitumen shipments from Alberta.
Kenney gains credibility with his decision to make the spectre of energy export cuts a reality. He gains believability with voters who were attracted during the recent election campaign to his more assertive position, and he has the firm attention of British Columbians, many of whom support the pipeline expansion.
Importantly, cuts in exports shouldn’t be limited to those heading to B.C. That would simply strengthen our neighbour’s argument that the measure is intended to impede the flow of energy to a single province.
No, if Kenney employs the power to dial back exports, he must apply it evenly to shipments travelling west and east.
And let’s face it, central Canada has hardly been a friend of Alberta oil, even as it relies upon it as a pillar of its economy and as a tremendous contributor to national wealth.
As Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid notes, cutting Alberta energy exports isn’t unprecedented. Premier Peter Lougheed throttled back shipments in the spring of 1981 in retaliation of the federal Liberal government’s infamous National Energy Program.
Lougheed reduced them a second time a few months later, and was poised to trim them further, but he didn’t have to because the tactic had its desired effect in Ottawa.
Kenney can’t act capriciously when it comes to reducing the rest of the country’s energy supplies, but he must strongly represent the interest of Albertans. That’s his job as premier.
Kenney has signalled to the country that he prefers conversation and consultation over the sort of measures that appear increasingly unavoidable.
Such reasonableness is commendable, but so is Kenney’s apparent willingness to do what needs to be done. That’s called leadership.
David Marsden is managing editor of the Red Deer Advocate.