An update from the Kenney-channelling-Trump department.
After weeks of flooding the airwaves with demands for an emergency debate on a motion condemning BC’s interference with the Trans Mountain pipeline Jason Kenney finally got a chance to demonstrate what he meant when he called for the government to speak with “one voice” and present a “united front”.
Not surprisingly, the debate turned into Kenney channelling Donald Trump and other bombastic populists.
On March 12 Premier Notley presented this motion to the Legislative Assembly:
Be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly support the government of Alberta’s fight on behalf of Albertans’ interests to ensure the lawfully approved Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is built and be it further resolved that the Legislative Assembly call for the federal government to continue to take all necessary legal steps in support of the pipeline’s construction and be it further resolved that the Legislative Assembly reaffirm its support for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion as a key component of Alberta’s energy future.
The UCP wanted three amendments: (1) strike out “the government of Alberta’s fight on behalf of Albertans’ interests” and substitute “the efforts by the government of Alberta to fight,” (2) strike out “continue to” and (3) add “including putting before Parliament a declaration that the pipeline is in the national interest pursuant to section 92(10)(c) of the Constitution Act, 1867” after “construction.”
Kenney ticked all the populist boxes as he laid out his rationale for these amendments (although “rationale” is a bit of a stretch when applied to Kenney’s rambling diatribe on everything from Pierre Eliot Trudeau’s approval ratings to a hocus pocus valuation of Alberta’s oil reserves).
Unlike Saskatchewan premier Scott Moe, Kenney just couldn’t bring himself throw his unconditional support behind the Alberta government’s fight with BC. So he proposed an amendment to signal the UCP’s “support” for the fight but not for the government.
The amendment was as clear as mud, but it gave Kenney an opportunity to deploy a number of Trump-like arguments to show Notley’s government hadn’t done enough.
Kenney said he “understood” (from whom?) that the NDP had staged a “fake dispute with Victoria” because they didn’t want to get into a serious fight with their BC NDP brethren. To demonstrate his “understanding” was accurate he said: Look! The mayor of Burnaby, the mayor of Vancouver and the BC premier are all NDP! Look! There’s the “NDP’s friend Tzeporah Berman” and “David Suzuki, who was recently paid up to $50,000 by the teachers’ union”. Look! Notley’s “ally” Justin Trudeau is counselled by Gerry Butt, formerly of the World Wildlife Fund and “described as the most powerful and influential person in Ottawa”.
All that was missing was Look! Aliens spotted at Roswell!
Lies and half-truths
Kenney praised the Harper government for building four, count ‘em four, pipelines but failed to acknowledge that not one of these pipelines went to tidewater.
He denounced the Liberal government’s pipeline record saying it vetoed Northern Gateway (wrong, the Federal Court of Appeal said the Harper government failed to properly consult and the project stalled). He said Ottawa didn’t protest Obama’s handling of Keystone (well, Harper was prime minister at the time and his “protest” consisted of saying Obama’s approval was “a complete no-brainer”, Obama was unmoved by the force of Harper’s logic), Kenney said the feds “indirectly” killed Energy East (did they, or did TCPL drop it after Trump approved Keystone XL). He said the feds are doing nothing for Trans Mountain (apparently the unequivocal support of Trudeau and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr is nothing).
He said Notley did nothing to support Trans Mountain until Kenney was elected in Dec 2017. This ignores the fact that (1) the feds approved Trans Mountain because Notley implemented the Climate Leadership Plan a full year earlier, (2) Notley intervened in support of Trans Mountain’s regulatory applications to prevent the BC government and municipalities from further delaying the pipeline, (3) Notley cancelled power deals worth up to $500 million to BC, (4) Notley imposed a wine boycott which caused BC to withdraw its attempt to control the product flowing in the pipe, and (5) Notley is a strong advocate for pipelines, building support for pipelines in every speech she’s given at home and across the country.
Ignorance or intentional misdirection
Kenney invoked what he snidely referred to as “Constitutional Law 101” in support of the third amendment, arguing the federal government should invoke its power pursuant to Section 92(10)(c) to declare the pipeline to be in the national interest.
Apparently, Kenney is more knowledgeable about constitutional law than Peter Hogg, the government’s constitutional law expert, who literally wrote the book(s) on constitutional law, and other constitutional law experts who say Section 92(10)(c) is irrelevant because the pipeline is already under federal jurisdiction and thus in the national interest.
Rather than learn from Stephen Hawking’s example (Hawking changed his mind about the existence of the unified theory of everything) Kenney refuses to budge from his flawed position, rather like Trump telling Trudeau the US has a trade deficit with Canada when Trump had no idea what he was talking about.
The moral/existential/something-or-other imperative
Kenney topped off his argument for amendments by preaching to the Assembly about Alberta’s moral imperative (if Alberta leaves the oil in the ground, it will be sold to us by bad countries) and the “existential question for Alberta’s prosperity” (based on Kenney’s flawed calculations the oil reserves are worth $11 trillion, Alberta could use this money to pay off its debt and the debt of every province and the federal government–wouldn’t that be a heck of an equalization payment–and provide all the social services we need).
The moral imperative and existential question arguments are based on the assumption Notley wants to leave the oil in the ground. She doesn’t. So Kenney’s allusions to a morally correct existentially prosperous Alberta were irrelevant and misleading.
The final motion
The Legislative Assembly unanimously passed the motion as amended by the second amendment (striking out the words “continue to”). The first and third amendments failed because the first amendment was nothing more than partisan grandstanding and the third amendment was simply wrong at law.
Kenney’s performance in the debate demonstrates his contempt for the legislative process. An emergency debate is not an excuse for a populist pep rally…unless of course you’re a politician like Donald Trump, in which case the words of Bob Barker and all the other carnie hucksters, apply: “Come on down!”
Source: Alberta Hansard, March 12, 2018 starting at page 24