A Jason Kenney win would scrap Alberta’s carbon levy, with the leader vowing to join a legal fight with other provinces to block a federal tax.
Voters in the Canadian province of Alberta, home to the world’s third-largest oil reserves, head to the voting booth Tuesday in a divisive election that could have wide-ranging implications for the country’s environmental policy and global energy markets.
Polls have consistently shown that United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney is on track to unseat centre-left New Democratic Party Premier Rachel Notley. Recent surveys show his lead narrowing, with the UCP at 47 per cent support, to 38 per cent for the NDP, according to poll tracking by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. The CBC projects 63 seats for the Conservatives, to 23 for the NDP. Polls close at 8 p.m. Calgary time.
At stake is leadership in the province that churns out about 80 per cent of Canada’s oil and sets direction for the energy industry, which accounts for 10 per cent of the nation’s economy. Alberta’s current production puts it on par with OPEC member United Arab Emirates, and its crude reserves trail only Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.
A Kenney win would deprive Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of an occasional ally in Notley, who had helped his environmental ambitions by implementing a provincial carbon tax and capping oilsands emissions. The Conservative leader promises to scrap Alberta’s carbon levy and would join a legal fight with several other provinces to block a federal tax that’s imposed on any region that doesn’t have a carbon plan of its own.
On the key issue facing Alberta’s energy industry — a lack of pipelines that has weighed on local crude prices — it remains to be seen how much either candidate can do. Kenney plans to create a $30 million (US$22 million) “war room” to hit back at anti-energy campaigners and investigate their sources of funding. Notley has favoured outreach, travelling the country to drum up support for the industry and pipelines.
But many of the pipeline problems originate outside of Alberta’s borders. TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL delays have been in the U.S., most recently at the hands of a Montana federal judge. Enbridge Inc.’s Line 3 has been pushed back a year because of permitting issues in Minnesota. And the Trans Mountain expansion, purchase by the Trudeau government from Kinder Morgan Inc. last year, has been blocked by a federal judge amid opposition in British Columbia.
“The most important issue is out of their hands, which is market access,” said Laura Lau, who helps manage $1.6 billion at Brompton Corp. in Toronto. “That’s the No. 1 issue by far.”