It likely wasn’t the answer Jason Kenney was expecting.
Following the news that Kinder Morgan would be suspending all non-essential spending on the Kinder Morgan pipeline in the wake of legal challenges and attempted permit delays, the United Conservative Party leader proposed an idea in Question Period Monday.
“Will the premier join with me in calling on the federal government to withhold transfer payments from the Horgan NDP in Victoria, unless they begin to respect the rule of law and the Constitution of Canada,” Kenney asked, referencing the way the Liberals have done the same to Saskatchewan for not signing onto the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.
But Alberta Premier Rachel Notley revealed she had beaten him to the punch.
“We’ve already made that request to the federal government, and I believe that it is under consideration,” Notley said. “So that’s fine.”
For being the lone holdout on the federal plan, Saskatchewan has already lost $62 million in funding for emissions-reduction programs.
Following Kinder Morgan’s latest action, Notley revealed she had spoken with Horgan for a ‘very frank chat’ and that the NDP would be introducing legislation to give Alberta the power to reduce oil flows to British Columbia.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also reiterated the pipeline would be built with all options on the table and that he had spoken to both Notley and B.C. Premier John Horgan.
But Notley said there are a range of tools the federal government needs to deploy.
“Many of which they are already working on,” she said. “Those tools need to be accelerated, and we are going to do everything we can to make sure that they are.”
The premier’s office later said the NDP’s request is not limited to ending payments related to the Pan-Canadian framework, but in whatever way the Liberals could impose economic pressure, though not specifically mentioning health or social transfer payments.
The issue of reforming or changing the way the federal government provides funding to provinces is nothing new in Alberta, as Kenney has promised to hold a referendum on equalization payments in response to federal carbon plans should he be elected premier.
As for other federal transfers, University of Calgary economist with the School of Public Policy Ron Kneebone has studied the system for years.
“I don’t think any of us have ever asked the question, ‘could the federal government at the drop of a hat simply stop making the transfers?”
Kneebone questions if the move is even legal, adding there would likely be major Constitutional ramifications if the federal government would move forward.
“Then my question becomes is it the politically wise thing to do?” he said. “It would be certainly firing a shot over the bough to not only B.C. but to every provincial government that challenges the federal government’s ability to approve the interprovincial movement of goods and services.”
“Basically saying, ‘if you do this to us, we will fire back hard and high.'”the
The expansion project already has federal approval.
NOTE: An earlier version of this story said the Alberta Government had already requested halting transfer payments to British Columbia. Notley was referring during Question Period to the Pan-Canadian framework. The premier’s office later said however that their request is not limited to the framework and the Liberals have been asked to impose economic pressure to B.C. in whatever way they can. The NDP has not specifically requested halting federal health or social funding.