Alberta, Saskatchewan go Tory Blue, face challenges with Liberal minority

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EDMONTON — Alberta and Saskatchewan were painted a solid Conservative blue on Monday, but leaders must now wrap their heads around getting resources to market with a federal Liberal party that will need the help of other parties to remain in power.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney campaigned for federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and had called a Liberal minority the worst case scenario for Alberta, given the Bloc Quebecois, NDP and Greens stated antipathy to new pipeline projects.

When federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh announced recently that he would effectively give provinces vetos over projects that cross boundaries, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe Tweeted a “Liberal-NDP government would be a disaster for Western Canada.”

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Political scientist John Soroski said that since the Liberals came close to the 170-seat majority mark, the future of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to the British Columbia coast is likely secure with Scheer’s Conservatives helping out.

But he noted the federal carbon tax on provinces and Bill C-69, the controversial legislation that overhauls the approval of resource projects, are likely here to stay.

“There could’ve been worse outcomes,” said Soroski with Edmonton’s MacEwan University. “There’s some degree of uncertainty here (with the minority), but I think it’s manageable.”

The Calgary and Edmonton chambers of commerce, in a joint statement, urged politicians of all stripes to keep working to help Alberta’s lagging economy.

“We can make bold choices now to boost competitiveness or risk watching from the sidelines as other nations compete and win,” said Edmonton Chamber of Commerce president Janet Riopel.

In the longer term, however, Soroski noted that the result will likely increase Western alienation, especially as the Liberals will likely need to give heavier weight to interests further left on the political spectrum.

“There’s going to be an enhanced sense of conflict with Ottawa,” he said.

Both provinces did their part in the vote to help the Conservatives in the election, wiping out tiny beachheads the NDP and Liberals held and knocking out two cabinet ministers.

Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi lost to Conservative Tim Uppal in Edmonton Mill Woods, while longtime Liberal Ralph Goodale, the Public Safety Minister, was beaten by Conservative Michael Kram in Regina Wascana.

“From this day forward, let’s remember that any one campaign is only temporary,” Goodale told his supporters Monday night. 

“There will be new challenges to face in the weeks and months and years ahead. And there will be opportunities for all of us … not just to celebrate victories elsewhere but also to reassemble, to celebrate the rejuvenation, recovery and victory once again of the Liberal candidates in Regina Wascana.”

Calgary Centre Liberal Kent Hehr and Edmonton Centre Liberal Randy Boissonnault also got washed away in the Conservative blue wave.

Alberta retained one speck of orange, with newcomer Heather McPherson retaining the NDP seat in Edmonton Strathcona.

Alberta and Saskatchewan have been walking in political lockstep and at loggerheads with Trudeau’s government in recent years.

The Conservatives won 29 of 34 seats in the 2015 campaign in Alberta and took 10 of 14 in Saskatchewan.

Both provinces have resource-based economies and their leaders had urged parties in the federal campaign to find ways to help them leverage those resources.

Kenney, a former Conservative MP and cabinet minister under former prime minister Stephen Harper, made it plain that a Liberal government, particularly one beholden to the NDP or Greens, would be debilitating to Alberta’s — and by extension Canada’s —  economy.

The Liberals are pushing through the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to the B.C. coast, considered critical to giving Alberta’s bottlenecked petro-economy a outlet to foreign energy markets.

But with the Liberals in power that means Alberta will have a federal carbon tax imposed on it, as has already been done in Saskatchewan.

It also means that Bill C-69 is here to stay. The legislation mandates that health and the environment are taken into account when granting permits for resource mega-projects. Opponents, such as Kenney, say that will kill any hope of getting such projects approved.

Both provinces say the feds have overstepped their constitutional authority on both fronts and are fighting the carbon tax and C-69 in court.

Minority governments tend to have shorter shelf lives than the full four year terms of majorities.

Soroski said Kenney needs to put the personal enmity with Trudeau aside for now and “ride this out and make sure the (Trans Mountain) pipe gets in the ground.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 21, 2019.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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