Kenney leaves meeting with Trudeau with no firm commitments

OTTAWA – Alberta Premier Jason Kenney emerged from his meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Tuesday without any promises on the five demands he brought to Ottawa.

Kenney, however, told reporters that the meeting was realistic and frank.

“We had a very frank conversation about the ongoing economic crisis in Alberta and the impact that has on the Canadian prosperity and, frankly, the unity of our country as well,” said Kenney. “I made the case for action as strongly as I could. I appreciate that the prime minster listened and seemed to be responsive on a number of points.”

Kenney didn’t get a firm commitment on a completion date for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion (TMX). Trudeau, however, said construction has started.

In a statement after the meeting, Trudeau reiterated the Government of Canada’s determination to see the TMX project completed, and highlighted to Kenney that there are currently more than 2,200 people working on its construction outside Edmonton and in Burnaby.

“The governments of Canada and Alberta share a determination to complete this critical project,” said Trudeau.

Kenney also pushed for changes to the federal fiscal stabilization fund. He told Trudeau Alberta wants $2.4 billion in retroactive transfer payments.

Last week, all Canadian premiers agreed to raise the transfer payment issue with Trudeau.

“We already got unanimity across the country,” said Kenney. “Miracles will never cease. You had everyone from the B.C. New Democrats to the CAQ in Quebec, coast to coast to coast, saying we have got to stand with the province that is paying so many of the bills in this federation.

In an unprecedented move, the province took a third of its cabinet to Ottawa this week.

Kenney said the coming weeks will prove whether the Trudeau government is serious about addressing critical issues facing Alberta.

Federal and provincial finance ministers meet next week and reforms to the fiscal stabilization program are on the table.

Trudeau, in a statement, said the upcoming meeting of finance ministers will be an opportunity for Alberta to provide its views on the future operation of the program. 

Western alienation was discussed.

Kenney told reporters he urged Trudeau to take Albertans’ concerns seriously saying poll numbers show a third of Albertans think they would be better off separating from Canada.

“The prime minister agrees that we must not ignore those sentiments,” said Kenney, adding Albertans feel neglected and unappreciated by the rest of Canada.

Last month the CEO of Calgary Economic Development, claimed the prospect of western Canadian separation convinced a tech company looking at setting up a 1,000-person headquarters to choose Halifax over Calgary.

Kenney, however, debunked concerns about companies not wanting to come to Alberta because of separatist sentiments.

“I’m in constant investment promotion mode and I’ve heard that from absolutely no one, Wall Street, Bay Street, Houston or Europe. The reality is that they said they want to be within three hours of Toronto. We can’t move Calgary an hour to the east.”

Kenney also pushed for federal approval of the Frontier Mine oil sands project. The deadline for a decision on the project is Feb. 28.

“That would create 10,000 jobs and $70 billion in revenue for governments to pay for health care and education and it’s been waiting now for eight years for approval so the next few weeks will be critical in determining the seriousness of this federal government to respond to the deep and legitimate concerns in Western Canada,” said Kenney.

“Alberta’s interests are Canada’s interests. We contributed over $600 billion to the rest of the country since 1960. Even during this long recession, we have been contributing $20 billion net to the rest of the federation every year. We need a strong Alberta economy to prosper nationally and the prime minister says he understands that.”

After the meeting, Trudeau tweeted “Hardworking women and men in Alberta are facing tough times. I sat down with Premier Kenney today to talk about getting our resources to new markets, growing the economy, and creating more jobs.”

Trudeau, however, stressed the importance of taking real action to fight climate change, emphasizing that it’s possible for the governments of Canada and Alberta to work together.

Trudeau highlighted last week’s federal announcement that Alberta’s Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) regulations meet the Government of Canada’s stringency benchmark criteria for carbon pollution pricing systems, for 2020, for the emission sources they cover. Trudeau noted there would be opportunities to work in partnership with Alberta on clean energy and innovation. 

The two also discussed work underway by their governments to ensure Indigenous communities benefit from economic opportunities related to the development of natural resources and related infrastructure.

They also spoke about the opportunity of liquefied natural gas exports to Canada’s economy.

Trudeau and Kenney discussed the federal impact assessment regime. Trudeau invited Kenney to provide suggestions for improvements to its implementation. They also expressed a desire to reach an equivalency agreement on methane regulations, which protect the environment.

In addition, Trudeau and Kenney discussed the infrastructure investments Canada is making in Alberta through the Investing in Canada Plan and reviewed a number of other issues of national importance, including removing barriers to internal trade and developing energy projects.

Updated Dec. 11, 7:05 a.m.

READ MORE: Third of Alberta cabinet heading to Ottawa to fight for pipelines, jobs and Albertans

READ MORE: Alberta lost 18,000 jobs in November: Statistics Canada

WATCH: Canada made ‘deal with the devil’ to get seat on UN, says former U.S. ambassador

George Brownwell / Alberta Press

george@albertapressleader.ca

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