May 26, 2022 marked Jason Kenny’s last appearance in the Legislature as Alberta’s premier (we think).
His final week was replete with members’ statements applauding his leadership, his legacy, and everything his government had accomplished over the last 3 years.
He was especially proud of one achievement: his appearance before the US Senate Energy Committee. He said his presentation was “historic” and made the point that “Alberta can be the solution to the global energy crisis, particularly for North American energy security.” *
The solution to the global energy crisis…for North American energy security. Wow, these are lofty goals.
Despite Kenney’s historic presentation, he missed the mark. His stumble went unnoticed by his party and the press until the National Post interviewed the new US Ambassador to Canada (more on that below).
For the record, Kenney was not the only Canadian to testify before the Committee. The federal Natural Resources minister, Jonathan Wilkinson, Quebec’s Associate Deputy Minister for Mines, Nathalie Camden, and the CEO of Electricity Canada, Francis Bradley also made presentations.
Furthermore, the Committee was interested in hearing about all forms of energy including renewables, hydropower, hydrogen, and small modular reactors.
Kenney said Alberta could help “our American friends” who are facing record high fuel prices due to scarcity by increasing Alberta crude exports. This would entail:
- Utilizing unused capacity on existing pipelines (300,000 bbl/day)
- Pipeline optimization (400,000 bbl/d)
- Shipping crude by rail (200,000 to 250,000 bbl/d)
- Finishing TMX in Q3 2023 (590,000 bbl/d)
He told the Committee Biden could support Alberta’s efforts by:
- Demanding the Governor of Michigan not decommission Enbridge Line 5
- Treating Canadian energy as if it were US energy by adding oil and gas to Title 3
- Developing a North American Energy Alliance
- Derisking (ie providing government funding) for a second KXL pipeline
The Republican senators wasted considerable time vilifying Biden, slamming “ESG insanity” and expressing the hope that Ukraine and energy security “wakes up the woke.”
Kenney played along, saying he found it “passing strange” that Biden did not reach out to Alberta after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. This was immediately contradicted by Wilkinson who said discussions between the Canadian and US governments and oil companies about exporting additional crude were ongoing.
As the hearing progressed, it became apparent that even the Republican senators were interested in more than increasing Alberta energy exports. They asked questions about reducing regulatory timelines, meeting climate change targets, building a hydrogen hub and transportation corridor and importing more potash for American farmers.
Unfortunately the one question they failed to ask was whether any of Kenney’s suggestions for increasing exports were feasible, and if so, how long it would take to make them operational, and most importantly what effect, if any, these measures, once implemented, would have on the global price of crude.
The only person to cast a critical eye on Kenney’s testimony was David Cohen, the US ambassador to Canada.
He disagreed with Kenney’s assertion that Canada’s existing pipeline capacity, particularly the 300,000 bbl/d unused capacity, would provide a short-term advantage and “meaningfully move the needle on oil supplies from Canada to the United States.”
He said the US isn’t interested in expanding its dependence on fossil fuels and wanted instead to expand its hydro-power relationship with Canada and its access to cleaner energies.
Then came the stinging blow.
Cohen said Kenney “of all people” should understand the dynamics of the Line 5 dispute, which Cohen characterized as primarily a dispute between the state of Michigan and Canada and Canadian interests. He implied that just as Kenney expected the feds to stay out of Alberta’s disputes, so too would the governor of Michigan expect Biden to stay out of state affairs.
Thin skinned retort
Kenney responded to Cohen’s criticisms through his proxy, energy minister Sonya Savage. She issued a news release calling the ambassador’s comments “ill-informed” and “unproductive.” She repeated Kenney’s talking points but failed to address Cohen’s key argument: that an additional 300,000 bbl/day would not “move the needle” as far as the US was concerned.
If Kenney hoped to cement his legacy in his testimony before the Senate Committee he failed. Perhaps he took comfort in Savage’s rebuttal of Cohen’s comments. Perhaps all he had left to sooth his ego was the comment made by the ranking Republican senator, John Barrasso, who said he’d told his friend Stephen Harper that Kenney was scheduled to testify before the Committee and Harper texted back that Kenney was very strong and one of Harper’s best ministers.
But Kenney couldn’t bask in Harper’s praise for long. In a delightful twist of schadenfreude, the very next day Kenney lost the support of almost half the UCP membership and was forced to resign as party leader.
With the notable exception of Peter Lougheed, Kenney’s legacy will be as hollow as the conservative premiers who preceded him.
*Hansard, May 24, 2022, starting at p 1419