The black stuff–and conflict with Ottawa over regulation–will likely play a big role in the outcome.
Alberta’s election has yet to be called, but it will be held before May 31, and controversies surrounding the province’s oil industry are set to be the key issue for voters.
With slumping prices, regulatory uncertainty, and a lack of pipelines hampering the sector, Premier Rachel Notley will be fighting to keep her New Democrat Party in power against a formidable challenge from former federal cabinet minister and leader of Alberta’s United Conservative Party, Jason Kenney.
Oil production in the province continues to grow, yet a lack of progress on pipeline development because of a regulatory backlash from Ottawa has thrown a spanner in the works.
The problems were compounded further last fall when a number of refineries in the US that process Alberta oil were down for longer-than-usual maintenance. Throw in falling prices as a result of the US-China trade dispute and the strength of the dollar, and both Notley and Kenney will be looking to stand out on energy policy.
Notley recently announced that the province would move to purchase rail cars to increase takeaway capacity, and earlier this month touted unprecedented cuts in production in a bid to provide reprieve from artificially low prices which, according to The Globe and Mail, are costing Canadian producers as much as $100 million per day.
For now, Notley and Kenney are in agreement when it comes to taking decisive action to move crude and holding the federal government to task on the issue of regulation, but the harmony is unlikely to last for long. Indeed, the leaders’ views on how to fix the energy crisis over the long term will be what divides them on the campaign trail.
Notley, aware of her voters’ growing resentment towards Ottawa, has begun backing away from her close relationship with the federal government and ramped up her condemnation of how the crisis in Alberta is being dealt with.
Ultimately, the Alberta election may be determined by who voters believe will finally get shovels in the ground to build pipelines, such as the controversial Trans Mountain expansion project, whose construction was delayed by a federal court last August.
The race is already on.