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Trans Mountain, pipelines dominate opening of Alberta legislature sitting


EDMONTON – Alberta’s politicians returned to the legislature Monday and picked up right where they left off in the spring by bashing each other over pipelines.

Opposition United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney accused Premier Rachel Notley’s government of failing Alberta on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, the carbon tax and Bill C-69, which is before the Senate and would change how energy projects are assessed and approved.

“Instead of following, why doesn’t this government lead in fighting for Alberta jobs and resources?” said Kenney, who led off the first question period of the six-week fall sitting.

Notley replied that Kenney “is absolutely entitled to his own opinions but he is absolutely not entitled to his own facts.”

“The facts are that our government has been fighting with respect to Bill C-69 for well over a year. The facts are that since we’ve been elected, we’ve done nothing but advocate for the Trans Mountain pipeline (and other projects).”

The pipeline project, approved by the federal government in 2016 but stalled ever since by permit delays and court rulings, has been the focus of legislature debate in 2018.

With a provincial election coming in the spring, Kenney’s United Conservatives have seized on the project as a symbol of Notley’s inability to advance Alberta’s core industry, despite seeking “social licence” by imposing a carbon tax on heating bills and gasoline.

Notley has challenged Kenney’s criticism, noting the federal Conservative government he was previously a part of failed to get a pipeline to any coast.

The debate continued following question period on Monday when the Speaker and members of the house agreed to a United Conservative motion calling for an emergency legislature debate on moving Trans Mountain along.

“We have gone through a history during this process with this current (NDP) government … getting this wrong repeatedly,” United Conservative house leader Jason Nixon said in debate. “This government continues to sit on their hands most of the time.”

Trans Mountain would triple the capacity of an existing line to get more Alberta oil to tankers on the B.C. coast and from there to Asian markets.

At present, almost all Alberta oil is earmarked for U.S. markets and, because of a captive market and limited pipeline access, it is selling at a deeply discounted rate.

Trans Mountain was poised to move ahead in the summer after the federal government stepped in to buy it. But it got bogged down in late August when the Federal Court of Appeal ruled more consultation with First Nations would have to be done along with greater study of the impact of increased tanker traffic.

Government house leader Brian Mason said 12 bills are to be introduced during the sitting, which is to run until the first week of December.

Bills to improve accessibility to post-secondary education and to modernize securities regulations were introduced in the house Monday.

Mason said there also will be legislation giving medical professions more power to sanction members for abusive acts, sexual or otherwise, toward patients.

There will be a bill to further implement recommendations of a multi-party panel on child intervention services.

A report on how municipalities are operating and benefiting from photo radar is also expected.

Copyright (c) 2017 The Canadian Press