After visiting the U.S. capital twice earlier this year, this week Premier Jason Kenney is on the hill once again to encourage the American market to expand Alberta oil imports, with the trip raising questions among political pundits.
He’s joined by energy minister Sonya Savage to participate in the IHS Oil Sands Dialogue, as well as events organized by the Pathways Alliance, a lobby group representing the six major Canadian oil sands producers.
Savage said Tuesday that there is increasing American interest in Alberta’s energy resources.
“When the United States is looking for reliable, secure affordable energy and looking for more production more oil and gas and we have it,” she said.
She added “We just need to get the policy framework right to be able to get more product into the United States.”
Savage says there is increasing American interest in Alberta’s energy resources.
NOT ACTING AS CARETAKER
However, one political expert said things are not the same now for Kenney and his cabinet ministers to continue to campaign to the U.S. oil market.
On May 18 Kenney won the United Conservative Party (UCP) leadership review by a slight margin of 51.4 percent before promptly announcing he was stepping down.
However he’s staying on until a new leader is selected and now this trip is raising questions for MRU political scientist Duane Bratt.
“Really, he’s a ‘caretaker premier’ at this moment, and shouldn’t be making international trips,” said Bratt.
He added, “If a delegation shows up from Washington, to Alberta, sure, then you meet with them. But to take the time to go to Washington, I think it’s a mistake. I don’t know what interest it serves.”
Savage said internal party politics is not serving as a distraction to promoting provincial economic interests.
“We will continue those dialogues, they can’t stop just because we’ve got political events happening in Alberta we need to pursue and we need to double down on some of these conversations,” said Savage.
She added that the provincial government has an office in Washington D.C. staffed year-round to carry on progress in Alberta-U.S.A relations.
NEW LEADER TO BE SELECTED
However Bratt said continuity will be difficult to establish once a new leader, and interim premier, is in place.
“Even though it’s another member of (the United Conservative) Party, they may be taking that party in a very different direction, depending on how the leadership race goes.”
The UCP will select a new leader on Oct. 6.
Eight candidates are in the running so far.
With files from Canadian Press
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