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Kenney threatens equalization referendum if Trudeau doesn't adopt Conservative energy platform

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. Image: David J. Climenhaga

If you concluded as New Brunswick's conservative premier just did that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's somewhat reduced victory in Monday's federal election indicates a certain level of support for carbon taxes and like policies in Canada, the premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan beg to differ.

Blaine Higgs told reporters in Fredericton yesterday that he's now going to figure out how to comply with the Trudeau government's national climate plan, which includes a carbon tax. "I can't ignore the obvious," he explained. "The country has spoken."

"People voted for it, so we have to find a way in New Brunswick to make it work," Higgs also observed.

Out here on the Great Plains, though, we're made of sterner stuff. We don't have any problem ignoring the obvious. And, no, we're not going to find a way to make federal policies work in Alberta or Saskatchewan if they don't happen to have been made by conservatives. (Or even, as in the case of the current equalization formula, if they were.)

The Liberals may have a renewed if reduced mandate, but here on the Great Plains, we're sticking with the same old climate obstructionism.

Accordingly, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney called the pliant local media together in Edmonton yesterday and told them, in effect, that if Trudeau won't adopt most of Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer's energy platform, as well as find a way to gut the Constitution's equalization provisions, Alberta will hold a provincial referendum on equalization.

Alert readers will quickly point out that such a referendum would be constitutionally meaningless. This is true, as Kenney certainly knows.

However, it's clearer every day that Kenney views the referendum idea, tied to Alberta's perpetual complaining about Quebec getting "our" money and then not running its financial affairs the same way we run ours, as a thinly disguised sovereignty-association vote.

Or, at least, he clearly hopes the federal Liberals, in a slightly more vulnerable position than they were before Monday's vote, will see it that way.

It would be interesting to know if such a deceptive tactic contradicts the federal Clarity Act, which says the wording of any sovereignty referendum must state clearly what it means.

Regardless, perhaps confusing the election results on the Prairies with the national tally, Kenney told the reporters he had set out his demands in a five-page letter -- five pages! must be serious! -- to Trudeau.

The letter calls on Ottawa to create a national energy corridor, repeal the North Coast tanker ban, delay implementation of more stringent pipeline approval legislation, let Alberta off the hook for the federal carbon tax, and make big changes to federal transfer payments to suit Alberta.

Kenney made the referendum threat during the provincial election campaign last spring, in reference to Ottawa's carbon tax. This time, it was tied to Ottawa's tanker ban legislation. Blackmail being what it is, however, it's reasonable to assume that if it works now it will soon be applied to another Alberta demand.

Kenney also told media and MLAs in the legislature he will soon strike yet another "expert panel" to hold hearings on how unhappy Albertans are with Confederation. Presumably the opinions of Albertans who are happy with Confederation will not be particularly welcome.

The names of the putative experts will be announced soon. No word on how much this will cost in these supposedly straightened times.

Meanwhile, in the Prairie province next door, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe was doing much the same thing yesterday, telling his compliant local reporters that the prime minister must kill the carbon tax, allow lots of pipelines to be built, and negotiate a new equalization formula -- because, you know, western alienation.

Speaking of which, Kenney's posturing and claims that even "political moderates" of his acquaintance are openly talking about Alberta separation certainly seem to have really stirred up the province's "Wexit" nuts -- some of whom hastily organized a luncheon yesterday at a Calgary Chinese restaurant to discuss creating a united Wexit campaign.

That scheme was cooked up by Craig B. Chandler, the Hamilton, Ontario, native notorious in these parts for views so far to the right he was made unwelcome in both the old Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties. Apparently he has found a more congenial home in Kenney's United Conservative Party, though.

A summary of the views of many of the folks who have been publicly advocating the Wexit cause -- parodied as Weave or Rednexit by detractors on social media -- suggests they dream of a sort of independent northern version of Alabama or Mississippi, with no gun control, no union rights, no human rights, no abortion rights, no seaport and no industry but dirty oil.

To which the most reasonable response, of course, is no thanks!

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Image: David J. Climenhaga

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