Kenney wants $6.5 billion from Ottawa – now
Premier Jason Kenney takes the red-eye to Ottawa. He’s looking for Ottawa to be fair to Alberta, and he’s looking for $6.5 billion and he’s got all the premiers on his side.
What Kenney wants is reverse equalization for the tough times Alberta has faced.
The number crunchers say that’s $6.5 billion, about $4 billion of it for this year alone and the rest for the last five years since the oil price crash.
Kenney’s journey to Ottawa, the belly of the beast, is happening as there’s chatter about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s possible designs to screw over Alberta even more.
Last week, Kenney chinwags with Dominic LeBlanc, a Trudeau sidekick.
“If this stuff means you guys are going to take the oil and gas sector, which is on its knees, and try to decapitate it, it’s going to be a full-on war,” Kenney tells LeBlanc. “If that’s where the direction is, let’s be absolutely clear about what that’s going to mean for national unity.”
For Kenney, the message couldn’t be clearer.
“Do no harm. Just stop kicking us when we’re down. Can you just give us a couple of years to get back on our feet?”
LeBlanc, the Trudeau Liberal, says their intention is not to do harm.
As for the $6.5 billion, Kenney stresses all the premiers are on Alberta’s side, including Quebec’s Francois Legault and Ontario’s Doug Ford, making the fight for fairness easier.
Kenney will be sitting down with Legault and Ford. There will be a news conference. Kenney may also meet with Trudeau’s people.
“This is about Alberta getting back a small portion of the money it has put into the rest of the country for a very long time.
“This is not a handout. This is what’s due to us, a small portion of what’s due to us.”
What Kenney says next is telling.
When he was an MP in Ottawa, no one came from the Alberta government talking about the need to fix equalization. In those days, times were good.
“Those days are sadly in the rear-view mirror,” he says. “The chance of ever getting a fundamental fix on equalization is pretty small, realistically. But this is one way we can get at it through the back door.”
The premier knows full well the “profound disagreements” with Trudeau in a relationship that’s “prickly at best.”
“My job is to fight for Albertans come hell or high water. I’m not going to down tools and just stay at home and not fight on these things.”
And if we’re shafted?
There’s still next year’s vote of Albertans on equalization. There’s possibly setting up an Alberta Pension Plan and a provincial police force.
There’s fighting the Trudeau carbon tax in court as well as the scrap over Trudeau’s No More Pipelines law.
“We’ve got a lot of arrows in our quiver. No one of those arrows is going to be a decisive victory in Alberta’s fight for fairness but together they’re a strategy. If anybody has a better idea I’m happy to hear it.”
Kenney also talked to federal Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, who says he’s 100 per cent in Alberta’s corner.
There is the inevitable question for Kenney. What do you say to those who think you’re soft on Trudeau?
Kenney says he shares the anger of Albertans but wants results.
“Shouting and insults are probably not going to get us very far,” says Kenney. “It may be emotionally satisfying to holler every day, which we do. But the most important thing is to get a darn pipeline built. And guess what? The federal government owns one. Trans Mountain.”
You have to think. Why are they doing this to us? Why does Alberta wear the Kick Me sign?
Kenney points to influential, detached-from-reality Liberals in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Ottawa.
“They seem to live in this fantasy world where they imagine you can just flick a switch, turn off oil and gas and maintain a prosperous, modern economy.
“It is irrational. It is deeply ideological. It is thinking belonging in a first-year college seminar room, not around a federal cabinet table.”
Kenney goes east. He thinks of his old school, Notre Dame in Wilcox, Sask., and its motto: Struggle and Emerge. It applies to this battle.
“We’re going to fight as hard as we can and we will emerge, one way or the other.”
(Rick Bell / Calgary Sun)