Jason Kenney and the New Alliance on Canada’s Right

Jason Kenney and the New Alliance on Canada’s Right

Unlike many other governments in Canada, including the federal Liberals under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the United Conservative Party under Jason Kenney is about to take power in Alberta with the backing of a clear majority of voters, just over 55 percent.

And, as I learned while traveling around the province before Tuesday’s vote, it was clear that even though Mr. Kenney’s opponent was Premier Rachel Notley, the New Democrat who broke a decades-long tradition of Conservative governments four years ago, he was also running against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

With a lengthy victory speech that was almost more of a battle cry than celebration, Mr. Kenny made it clear that his fight against Mr. Trudeau and other politicians outside of Alberta was just beginning.

Generalizing about Albertans’ political views can be fraught. But in places like Sundre, a logging and farm town with extraordinary views of the Rockies, it was easy to find people who share Mr. Kenney’s view that the rest of Canada has blocked or failed to act quickly on new pipelines, making the oil and gas industry’s current slump even worse. His supporters chanted “Build That Pipe” at campaign rallies and their victory party.

Much of Mr. Kenney’s plan for an oil and gas revival is based around confrontation rather than negotiation. He will cancel Alberta’s carbon tax, upsetting Mr. Trudeau’s pan-Canadian climate accord. Mr. Trudeau will immediately respond by imposing a federal carbon tax on Alberta with rebates to consumers.

To protest British Columbia’s opposition to the expansion of a pipeline from the oil sands to that province’s coast, Mr. Kenney is threatening to cut off its oil and gas — a move most experts view as unconstitutional.

And his response to Quebec’s opposition to a currently moribund eastbound pipeline proposal consists of threats to pull out of a federal, constitutionally guaranteed economic balancing program that moves tax money from wealthy provinces like Alberta to less prosperous ones including Quebec.

He’s also targeted environmentalists with promises to investigate their funding and to set up a government operation to challenge their criticisms of Alberta’s oil sands, which are a major source of Canada’s carbon emissions.

But the shift in power and Mr. Kenney’s positions might actually benefit Mr. Trudeau. In parts of the country where carbon taxes and other climate measures are popular, the prime minister will be able to campaign against Mr. Kenney and his fellow premiers who are opposed to them.

Inside former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s highly centralized Conservative government, Mr. Kenney was one of the few cabinet members who developed a high, independent profile. Several people I spoke with this week in Alberta expect that Mr. Kenney, rather than Mr. Scheer, could emerge as the Conservatives’ most powerful voice, and Mr. Trudeau’s greatest rival, in October’s campaign.

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