Provincial News Recap ft. Sonya Savage

This week we are focusing heavily on the portfolio of Energy Minister Sonya Savage. Less than four months after the general election, it’s clear that she is a star of Premier Kenney’s cabinet, and entrusted with a great deal of complex files. If energy companies had any say in the matter, you’d also see energy issues being a ballot box question in the fall federal election. CNRL, Cenovus and MEG Energy took out full page ads in newspapers across the country Thursday asking voters to help influence the outcome of oil and gas projects through their votes. One thing is certain – conversations in Alberta about energy issues and market access aren’t going away!

Provincial News Recap 2019

  • On Thursday afternoon, the latest strategy to promote Alberta’s energy sector was announced, with former journalist Claudia Cattaneo being named as a contractor tasked with developing a strategic plan to “lay the foundation for restoring Alberta’s reputation in the fight for our oil and gas sector”. The plan is to be completed and presented to government early this fall……a timeline perhaps intended to wreak havoc during the federal election.
  • The UCP has filed an appeal notice after an interim injunction was granted by a Court of Queen’s Bench Justice regarding the UCP’s Bill 9 related to wage negotiations with the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees. The legislation, which received Royal Assent following the spring sitting would have delayed wage negotiations until the fall, after the Blue Ribbon Panel’s findings were released in August. Wage negotiations are now back on with the AUPE from August 7-9.
  • The Persons with Developmental Disabilities review panel report was released on Tuesday, and lays a path forward that includes the creation of two engagement groups – the Disability Advisory Forum and the Service Provider Partnership Committee. The review is a holdover from the previous NDP government, and it is likely that the new engagement sessions will be used to focus on matters of importance to the new government which had significant disability commitments in its campaign platform.
  • On July 24, Minister Savage held a late-in-the-day news conference to announce that after consultation with stakeholders and the public, the UCP government would be reversing the NDP government’s plan to transition to a capacity market in 2021and will be sticking with an energy-only market instead. Electricity markets have been a sticky subject as of late with the previous government’s proposed changes including the coal phaseout and mandated renewables targets, power prices dropping and the recession impacting investment. A good overview of the subject can be found in this Calgary Herald column by Kent Fellows, and a bit dated but rather prescient piece from April by resident electricity guru Chris Varcoe can be found here.
  • Oil production limits continue to climb with the announcement through Ministerial Order by Minister Savage that production limits will be raised from 3.74 million barrels per day in August to 3.76 million barrels per day in September due to increased movement of crude by rail, declining inventory and improved efficiencies in export pipelines.
  • CBC deep-dive into serious issues at the Alberta Energy Regulator made some waves this week. The report raises a number of questions about AER leadership decisions to set-up, finance, and staff a parallel agency that would provide training to international energy regulators. It’s alleged that this ICORE project took the focus away from the regulator’s duties in Alberta in 2017 and 2018, a period of time in which Alberta’s energy industry was sounding the alarm over competitiveness issues, partially a result of growing approval times for projects regulated by the AER. The report is a must read but with three independent investigations into AER officials and activities, along with Premier Kenney’s government committed to their own review of the regulator, you can bet there will be more to come in the weeks ahead.
  • The Alberta government’s fight against the federally-imposed carbon pricing regime continues, with Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer announcing on Friday that the province has filed their factum with the Alberta Court of Appeal. In a statement, Schweitzer says the crux of Alberta’s position is that “Ottawa’s unilateral imposition of a carbon tax on Albertans constitutes unprecedented federal interference with our constitutional authority to manage affairs within our own jurisdiction.”
    The full statement can be found here.
  • In just over a month since launching, Associate Minister of Red Tape Reduction, Grant Hunter, has received more than 2200 submissions from stakeholders wanting to see regulatory change. This was revealed in an announcement on Friday that the first two Red Tape Reduction Industry Panels have been launched. Leaders in the Tourism and Hospitality industry will meet on August 6 and the Oil and Gas industry panel will meet on August 8.
    The panels will provide further recommendations on removing regulatory burdens affecting their respective sectors.
    Industry led panels in the following sectors will be established in the weeks ahead:

    • Small Business
    • Agriculture, Agri-Food, and Bio-industrial
    • Forestry
    • Construction
    • Manufacturing
    • Non-profit

As summer soldiers on, we remind you all that the provincial government is in the midst of internal discussions as they prepare to deliver a budget this fall. New West Public Affairs is uniquely positioned to help prepare your organization for the big decisions to come. Please reach out if you would like to chat about how we can help.

That’s all for this week – enjoy the long weekend and we will be back soon with a rundown of the latest news you don’t want to miss!