Jason Kenney is leader of the United Conservative Party in Alberta. He spoke with Calgary’s Business about the state of the economy in the province.
Calgary’s Business: Is the Alberta economy out of the woods after two years of a recession in 2015 and 2016?
Kenney: Let’s face it: the NDP made a bad situation much, much worse when they came to office. We recognize that the NDP isn’t responsible for the collapse in global commodity prices, but instead of pursuing a pro-growth agenda during the recession, they slammed on the brakes by ripping up contracts with power producers, payroll tax hikes, shutting down coal communities and imposing one of the biggest tax increases in Alberta history: the NDP’s job-killing carbon tax.
CB: What is your party’s philosophy to stimulate economic growth and can you offer examples of what you would do in that regard?
Kenney: Unlike the NDP, the United Conservatives understand that we face a hostile Trudeau Liberal government in Ottawa that has pledged to “phase out” the oilsands. Alberta’s energy sector is the beating heart of Canada’s economy, and we must do everything to oppose the Trudeau Liberal attack on our economy, whether it’s the federal carbon tax or Bill C-69, which effectively kills new investment in Alberta’s energy sector and virtually guarantees that no one will build a new pipeline to access international markets into the foreseeable future. The United Conservatives would seek to reverse the damage to investor confidence caused by the Trudeau Liberal and NDP governments.
CB: Do you believe the current Alberta government is not friendly to business in the province and is actually hurting the economy?
Kenney: The facts speak for themselves: the NDP opposed the KeystoneXL and Northern Gateway pipelines, and we now find ourselves with only one potential pipeline, Trans Mountain, which is right now on life support. Under this government, companies are fleeing Alberta, taking with them thousands of jobs. But the NDP’s failure to improve the situation facing our energy sector often overshadows how disastrous this government has been for small business owners. Between the tax increases and labour legislation changes, small business owners are being squeezed out. Many have already lost hope, and have gone largely ignored by a provincial government that is completely out of touch with this province.
CB: How important is it to the province’s future that we get this pipeline issue – wherever it may be – resolved?
Kenney: I cannot state how critical it is for the vital economic interests of our province to break the pipeline deadlock created by the Trudeau Liberals and the NDP. While I am pleased to see the NDP finally borrow my ideas of turning off the taps and boycotting B.C. exports, it’s unfortunately too little too late.
CB: Are we too dependent on oil in Alberta? And if so, how do we go about diversifying the economy?
Kenney: I don’t accept the premise of that question. Alberta’s oil and gas industry has provided our province with an unrivalled quality of life. It has also funded critical federal programs like equalization, which, given the current formula, ought to be renegotiated. The fact is that Alberta’s economy has diversified significantly since the 1980s. The bigger problem is the lack of respect afforded to our oil and gas industry, and the fundamental lack of understanding of Canada as a resource-based economy. For example, while many on the left slander and protest our energy sector, we end up selling our oil to the Americans at a significant discount because we don’t have access to international markets. Meanwhile, the Americans are able to sell their oil at market price. At the end of the day, Canada is subsidizing the U.S. economy of Donald Trump. What’s worse, when Trudeau killed the Energy East pipeline, he killed the dream of energy independence for Canada. Our friends in Eastern Canada are now stuck importing oil from countries like Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Venezuela, where human rights and environmental regulations are largely ignored.
| Mario Toneguzzi
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