Jason Kenney rails against tanker ban bill, calling it a threat to national unity
Senators voted Wednesday to advise against federal government proceeding with Bill C-48
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney warned about the future of national unity on Thursday, while praising a Senate committee's recommendation to scuttle a bill calling for a West Coast tanker ban.
He called the vote to recommend against passing the bill in the Senate "courageous" and "pro-national unity" while claiming it vindicates his new government's tough-talking approach.
Alberta's Official Opposition also weighed in, citing Rachel Notley's work as premier in lobbying against the bill.
"We are also pleased the Senate committee has recommended against proceeding with Bill C-48, which Rachel Notley personally spoke against at last month's hearings," said NDP spokesperson Matt Dykstra. "Alberta's energy industry is critical to the well-being of every Canadian, and the Alberta NDP Opposition will take every opportunity to continue making that case to Canadians."
Bill C-48 would prohibit tankers carrying more than 12,500 tonnes of oil from docking along an area that stretches from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to the Alaska border.
Passage of the bill in the House of Commons was applauded by environmentalists concerned about the coastal ecosystem in the wake of an oil spill.
Kenney, in what has become a common refrain, used his platform on Thursday to attack those environmentalists as "foreign-funded" radicals.
The vote by the Senate's transportation and communications committee does not kill the bill but gives the Senate the option of not proceeding or bringing the bill back.
If the bill is brought back, at least one senator, Alberta's Paula Simons, says she'll introduce amendments. Simons cast the deciding vote in the committee on Wednesday night.
The Senate will likely discuss whether or not to accept the committee's report sometime in the next few weeks.
Kenney's early praise
Kenney has already praised the committee on social media for its recommendation.
"This is a victory for common sense and economic growth," he tweeted, shortly after the decision Wednesday evening. "Thank you to Senators for listening to Albertans and respecting fairness in our federation."
The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association applauded the committee as well.
"Bill C-48 would unfairly discriminate against oil pipelines by banning the shipment of crude oil to or from ports located on the northern British Columbia coast, restricting market access for one of Canada's highest value resources," it said in a news release.
"This decision sends a clear message that proceeding with Bill C-48 is not in Canada's best interest."
CAPP president and CEO Tim McMillan said he's pleased industry's concerns appear to have been heard in Ottawa.
"The fact that we have an institution like the Senate which is putting out to those global investors in fact, 'This isn't how Canada operates; We aren't going to penalize investments in Canada,' I think will have a very positive impact on creating jobs and attracting investments into Canada," McMillan said Thursday.
Meanwhile, Greenpeace Canada said it was disappointed.
Their spokesperson, Mike Hudema, said this development stalls vital action on climate change and puts Indigenous territories and vital marine ecosystems at risk to appease the oil industry.
Kenney also talked about Bill C-69, legislation designed to clarify and speed up approval of major projects in Canada but which has come under fire from Alberta's oilpatch.
Again, he raised the spectre of national unity when discussing the bill and said he's hearing reports from Ottawa that a Senate committee has accepted extensive amendments that Kenney said were proposed by the Alberta government, the Canadian Energy Pipelines Association and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
More than 130 amendments are on the table at the Senate committee that could dramatically alter much of the bill. The proposed amendments include moves to reduce cabinet discretion to intervene in the assessment process, to make it harder for anyone to challenge a project approval or denial in court, and to change how climate-change impacts are considered.
Kenney says he will meet with senators next week in Edmonton for lunch, and has invited Notley along with him.
"She is happy to do so. This issue goes beyond partisan politics, and we will work with the Government of Alberta and all stakeholders to see this bill fixed or tossed out," Dykstra said in an emailed statement on behalf of the NDP.
Environmentalists have expressed concern that senators are bowing to pressure from industry to gut the legislation.
Kenney, meanwhile, describes both C-69 and C-48 as "full-frontal attacks on Alberta's jobs and on our economic future."
When the Senate committee stopped in Edmonton last month for consultations, Kenney said he warned them Bill-48 could "deepen a divide in our federation."