Alberta political leaders trade pipeline barbs in final campaign push

A day before Alberta voters go to the polls, United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney and the NDP's Rachel Notley traded attacks over the pipeline issue that has come to define the campaign.

NDP's Rachel Notley and UCP's Jason Kenney try to rally support for Tuesday's vote

United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney, left, and New Democratic Party Leader Rachel Notley campaign on Monday, the last day before Alberta's election. (The Canadian Press)

A day before Alberta voters go to the polls, United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney and the NDP's Rachel Notley traded attacks over the pipeline issue that has come to define the campaign.

Kenney and Notley started their Monday — the last full day of the four-week election campaign — in the city where each party needs the most work. Edmonton voted orange in the 2015 election while Calgary remained primarily blue.

All other parties, as well, knocked on doors and rallied supporters one last time before voting day on Tuesday.

"Just one more sleep, one more day before Albertans have an opportunity to vote for change that gets our province back to work and that gets Alberta back on track," Kenney told cheering supporters outside a campaign office in Sherwood Park, east of Edmonton.

In Calgary, Notley donned a hard hat and work boots to tour a pipe fabrication yard. She called the city a "battleground" area where people acutely felt the drop in oil prices.

"Through patient and determined action, we have built a durable national consensus on the need for pipelines," she said.

"A strong and growing majority of Canadians support Alberta pipelines, including in British Columbia. And I intend to keep it that way."

She said she's expecting a federal green light next month for the stalled Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which would move oilsands crude to the West Coast for export.

"I must say that Mr. Kenney's plan on the pipeline, it worries me and I think it should worry everyone," Notley said. "Some of the rhetoric we're hearing from him actually puts the pipeline at risk."

Kenney arrives at a rally in Sherwood Park, Alta., on Monday. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Kenney has spent much of the campaign criticizing Notley for what he calls her failure to deliver on a pipeline and her failed collaboration with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on energy and climate policy.

He has said that, if elected, he would set up an Alberta government "war room" to go after pipeline critics in real time and file several legal actions.

Oil exports to B.C.

In Sherwood Park, Kenney reiterated that Job 1 of his government would be to proclaim into law a bill passed by the Notley government giving the province the power to reduce oil exports to B.C. if it continues to impede progress on Trans Mountain.

"What we will no longer tolerate are politicians and governments benefiting from our hard work and our resource wealth while doing everything they can to block that wealth and not allow us to achieve our economic potential," said Kenney.

Notley visits an oil and gas pipe fabrication plant in Calgary. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Notley said Kenney's stance puts the pipeline in jeopardy.

"Mr. Kenney is prepared to mess it all up so that he can make headlines. It's risky. It's wrong for Alberta," she said.

Notley ridiculed Kenney's promise to turn off the taps to B.C., saying the province is not the major roadblock to Trans Mountain. Rather, the expansion was delayed last year because the Federal Court of Appeal ordered more Indigenous consultation and study into the impact on marine life.

"Unless he thinks he's got one particular judge that he's going to somehow pull back on their access to gas ... it's just not connected to the real problem," she said.

"And he knows it, but he's just playing games. It's irresponsible, and Albertans deserve better than that."

Notley then headed to Edmonton for her final campaign event.

Federal issue

The president of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, Chris Bloomer, has watched the back-and-forth between the leaders and now he's looking beyond the provincial election's outcome. Alberta's government has little control over increasing oil export capacity, he said.

"The cards are really stacked over on the federal side, though," Bloomer said Monday. "The province can do some things but it's really in the federal jurisdiction to move these projects forward and to assert their jurisdiction to get these pipelines built." 

Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel, who announced his party's platform Sunday, finished his campaign door-knocking in his Edmonton riding.

Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel finished his campaign push in Edmonton, where he was once mayor. He's running to represent Edmonton-McClung. (Codie McLachlan/The Canadian Press)

Alberta Liberal Party Leader David Khan announced his party's justice platform in Calgary. 

He proposed a tax credit for home security, money to hire more police officers and task forces to address court wait times and informal family law case management. He said his party would end police carding and improve child custody enforcement.

Alberta Liberal Party Leader David Khan announced his party's plans for the justice system, including ending police carding, improving child custody enforcement and reducing court wait times. (CBC)

Also Monday, Kenney addressed the issue of his Calgary-East candidate, Peter Singh. Mounties raided Singh's auto-repair shop last week and confiscated a computer hard drive and other items.

Singh has said he has done nothing wrong.

Kenney told reporters that while he has not talked with Singh, he understands police are dealing with Singh's son, not Singh.

"I've learned nothing more than what I've read in the media," said Kenney.

"As far as I know, he (Singh) hasn't been accused of anything."

Kenney and the United Conservative Party have been dogged by controversy this campaign run, but the leader has said he remains focused on jobs and the economy.

Elections Alberta will start counting votes as of 8 p.m. MT on election night. The advance votes cast outside a voter's home riding will not be counted until after election day, meaning the total could take some time to finalize.

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With files from CBC's Scott Dippel, Mike Symington and Rachel Ward