What the Alberta Election Means for Climate Action and Energy Security in Canada

On 16 April 2019, the United Conservative Party (UCP) of Alberta won in a landslide
provincial election against the New Democratic Party (NDP), obtaining a total of 63 seats in the provincial legislature. The leader of the UCP, Jason Kenney, focused much of his campaign on the province’s struggling economy, job creation, and constructing more pipelines in the face of the recession that followed after the 2015 oil market crash. Many of his campaign promises centred around cutting carbon taxes, repealing a number of the former premier’s environmental policy measures, fighting Ottawa and British Columbia on the Kinder Morgan pipeline dispute, and overall maintaining a very confrontational style of politics within Canada.

For his first order of business, Kenney wants to cut carbon taxes in the name of job creation and stimulating the economy. This poses a problem as Alberta is the highest GHG-emitting province in Canada, boasting nearly 40% of Canada’s total emissions. To cut the carbon tax would be to allow Albertan corporations to produce even more emissions without being held accountable to the rest of the country. As Jason Bordoff points out, ‘gutting environmental rules could actually undermine energy production,’ due to the fact that people would not have the assurance that their families, communities, homes, and environment would be protected, and would thus be less likely to support oil and gas pipeline projects.

Furthermore, Alberta’s obsession with getting its oil to market could be at its detriment,
and in some ways demonstrate a form of the Dutch Disease as the province is extremely
vulnerable to market shocks, as shown through the 2015 recession. The province is too
dependent on its oil exports in order for it to maintain a stable economy. It would, therefore, be in the best interest of Albertans and their economy if the government was to focus on diversifying not only their energy sources through renewables, but their other markets as well, so as to ensure energy security and economic prosperity.

Outside of Alberta, the new premier-designate could also pose problems for BC’s energy
security, as Kenney has threatened to “turn off the taps” on oil and gas shipments to the west coast if the BC provincial government continues to block the Kinder Morgan pipeline. Many of the arguments that the previous and newly-elected Albertan government have been making have gone off the idea that not allowing the province to get its oil to market and do what it wants with its resources is ‘unconstitutional’, and yet the same argument could be made with ploughing a pipeline through another province that has not given its permission to do so.

In the weeks and months that will follow Kenney’s election, we are sure to see many
changes to Alberta’s energy and environmental policies. Energy politics within Canada are going to get heated, with the province not only battling its neighbour to the west on pipeline projects, but battling its own federal government on the question of carbon taxes and the climate action plan. The future of energy security and environmental protection in Canada is, to say the least, a precarious one.

Cyan Abbey


Cover Photo: ICE District, Edmonton, Canada – by VanveenJF on Unsplash

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