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Members of Kenney's UCP caucus nix NDP bid to seek details of failed Keystone XL deal

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EDMONTON — Members of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s caucus have refused an Opposition NDP bid to make public details of Alberta’s $7.5-billion investment in the failed Keystone XL pipeline project.

The eight members of the governing United Conservative caucus unanimously rejected an NDP motion in public accounts committee Tuesday.

The motion was to seek from Kenney the details, along with any financial risk advice, he was given when he made the Keystone investment last March.

NDP energy critic Kathleen Ganley, who moved the motion, noted the UCP members voted it down without giving reasons.

"I had hoped that some of them would have shown a deeper sense of duty to Albertans to be open, honest and transparent, but they failed on every front," Ganley told reporters.

"This is a party that claims to be transparent and responsible stewards of the public purse."

Alberta has directly invested $1.5 billion with another $6 billion in loan guarantees, but the NDP says Albertans need to know the rationale and advice Kenney used to make what it calls a risky decision. They also want to know what the final bill will be now that the project is shelved.

"There could be more costs, including (site) reclamation and legal fees associated with the deal," Ganley told the committee, noting the motion comes after the government has declined other requests from the NDP caucus for the information.

Keystone XL, a TC Energy Corp. project, was to take more Alberta oil through the Midwest and on to refineries and ports along the U.S. Gulf Coast to fetch a better price on overseas markets.

When Kenney invested in the project, Keystone XL line was facing multiple court challenges, and the emerging Democrat party candidate, now President Joe Biden, was on record against it.

Biden promised in his election campaign to cancel Keystone and did so last week on his first day in office, saying more product from Alberta’s oilsands does not mesh with his larger goal of combating climate change.

Kenney has called Biden's decision an insult to Canada, given its close and mutually beneficial trading relationship. He has called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to, as a last resort, impose economic sanctions in response. He is also pressing for direct compensation.

Ganley's motion was upheld by her two other NDP colleagues, but rejected unanimously by the eight UCP members sitting on the committee.

UCP member Miranda Rosin instead put forward a motion to have Energy Minister Sonya Savage's department release to the committee details on Alberta's financial exposure on Keystone XL.

Rosin said that would balance the needs of the public to know the details while respecting the confidentiality of sensitive business information, similar to the secrecy surrounding $3.7 billion in contracts signed by the former NDP government to deliver more oil by rail.

"Albertans do deserve to know where the money is spent (and) how much of it has been spent," Rosin told the committee.

"It's important as members of this committee and, just frankly, as ethical legislators to ensure that we have transparency in our governments."

Rosin's motion passed 8 to 3, again along party lines.

The NDP dismissed the motion as a public relations stunt, given it does not address the key information they seek and is information the government would have to make public anyway when the 2021-22 budget is unveiled next month.

"What the government caucus is trying to do here is some performance art," said NDP committee member Marlin Schmidt.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press