EDMONTON — Alberta’s incoming premier, Jason Kenney, met with his caucus Friday and told members that their United Conservative election win is already starting to ripple through the economy.
“All week long, I’ve been receiving calls from CEOs from major corporations across Canada and around the world who want to invest in Alberta now,” Kenney said in a speech Friday bookended by standing ovations at Edmonton’s Federal Building.
“People are making real, tangible life decisions — buying new houses, investing, unfreezing business decisions — because of the decision that Albertans made on election day.”
Kenney and his cabinet will be sworn in Tuesday.
His United Conservatives won 63 seats and 55 per cent of the vote in last week’s election, defeating Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP.
The NDP took the remaining 24 seats — all but four of them in and around Edmonton. The party will become the official Opposition when the legislature resumes sitting in the third week of May.
Notley met with her caucus members later Friday in their first get together since the election loss.
Notley worked her way around the room, hugging and chatting with her MLAs — many of them soon-to-be former cabinet ministers — before making a speech and taking questions from reporters.
“Obviously, no one likes losing and I wish that we had not,” Notley said. “But we also know, and I think all of us know, that it’s really about how you move forward that matters. And every one of us here is looking forward.”
She noted that before gaining power in 2015, the NDP caucus had just four members in the house.
“I know without question that this much larger group is going to be a historic force in this legislature,” she said. “And we are going to be the strongest Opposition that this province has ever seen.”
Kenney takes the rudder of a fragile economy, with unemployment rates in Calgary and Edmonton above seven per cent, due to a multi-year slump in oil prices.
Kenney won on a promise to slash taxes, cut red tape and reduce minimum wage for youth to embolden entrepreneurs and create jobs.
He also promised to take on all foes of Alberta’s oil and gas sector, with an energy war room to counter misleading stories on the industry.
There will also be lawsuits against the federal carbon tax and on Bill C-69, which is proposed federal legislation to revamp energy project approvals. Kenney has called the bill an unconstitutional encroachment on provincial jurisdiction.
He has also promised to immediately proclaim Bill 12, which was passed by the legislature under Notley, but never formally made into law. The bill allows Alberta to reduce oil and gas shipments to British Columbia as leverage against the province’s opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.
B.C. has already challenged Bill 12 in court, but saw its case tossed out because — given the bill hadn’t been proclaimed — there was no law to challenge.
Notley said Kenny, by proclaiming Bill 12, gains no strategic advantage by reopening that debate.
“The proclamation of Bill 12 next week is simply political posturing and bluster,” she said. “It amounts to blowing up your biggest weapon on the launch pad ,and Albertans deserve better.”
The Trans Mountain project would double the existing line from Alberta to Burnaby, B.C. It would allow Alberta to ship more oil at a better price, but has become a symbol of the debate over growing the national economy versus pursuing a greener energy future.
Ottawa approved the project in late 2016, but it has since been stymied by legal challenges and a Federal Court decision last year mandating more consultations.
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press