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‘Alberta Open For Business’ After Major Conservative Victory in Oil-Rich Province

Jason Kenney (Photo: michael_swan)
Jason Kenney (Photo: michael_swan)

Kenney spoke of how he would defend Alberta’s resource sector with a “fully staffed, rapid response war room” that would, “effectively rebut every lie told by the green left.”

Jason Kenney and his right-wing United Conservative party (UCP) won a sweeping victory in Canada’s oil-rich Alberta province on Tuesday, pledging to cut taxes, redevelop the territory’s troubled fossil fuel sector, and slash environmental regulations.

Kenney’s victory is bad news for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as Alberta’s incoming conservative leadership seeks to challenge the PM’s carbon emission threshold.

“Alberta is open for business,” Kenney said in his victory speech, ending four years of leadership under Rachel Notley’s leftwing New Democratic party.

Kenney called Ontario and four other provinces opposed to Prime Minister Trudeau’s federal carbon pricing plan the “alliance of Canadian governments,” and stated his first priority as premier would be to cancel the former leader’s “job killing” carbon tax. Trudeau’s federal government responded by threatening to impose its own.

Alberta Battles Both Economic Hardship and Pollution

Alberta has faced economic difficulties since the collapse of oil prices in 2014, and many Albertans view Rachel Notley’s liberal party as guilty for exacerbating the problem with environmental regulations. Shauna Wilton, a professor of political science at the University of Alberta, told the Guardian, “People like and respect Rachel Notley, but there’s a segment of the population that blames her for the oil downturn and sees the carbon tax as the source of all of Alberta’s problems.”

Canada is warming at a rate twice the global average and Alberta is by far the largest polluter in the country. Notley’s government was a critical ally to Justin Trudeau’s government in their nationwide plan to fight climate change.

In a region dependent on fossil fuels for economic success, however, Albertans viewed development as more urgent than environmental concerns, and they expressed discontent with what they perceived to be undemocratic federal policies. A recent poll from the Angus Reid Institute showed 50 percent of Albertans in favor of splitting from Canada, an idea some have dubbed “Albexit.”

Kenney to Amass a War Room to Combat Green Party Lies

Kenney vowed to investigate the funding of environmentalist groups, whom he accused of “a campaign of economic sabotage against the province.” Kenney spoke of how he would defend Alberta’s resource sector with a “fully staffed, rapid response war room” that would, “effectively rebut every lie told by the green left.”

Democracy Watch’s Duff Conacher challenged Kenney’s claim, saying:

“If Jason Kenney wants to stop big money, he should be aiming at all the sources of big money, not just citizen and environmental groups that he’s trying to demonize because he favors the foreign-owned big businesses that are operating in the oil patch.”

The new premier promises to revitalize the region’s oil sands development and complete the Trans Morgan pipeline.

While Alberta is a historically conservative region, the loss is particularly hurtful to Trudeau six months before the federal election. Trudeau recently dipped in popularity after allegations he improperly intervened in a criminal case surfaced, and he now 82% of Canadians live in provinces controlled by center-right governments.

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Peter Castagno

Peter Castagno is a freelance writer with a Master’s degree in International Conflict Resolution. He has traveled throughout the Middle East and Latin America to gain firsthand insight in some of the world’s most troubled areas, and he plans on publishing his first book in 2019.

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