Kenney tells premiers' meeting national unity still threatened

WATCH: After two days of intense deliberations, the Council of Federation meeting in Saskatoon has wrapped up. Canada's premiers gathered to discuss issues ranging from interprovincial trade to climate change. Heather Yourex-West reports.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says he still believes national unity is under threat despite two days of collaborative discussions with the country’s leaders.

Kenney said his province contributes billions of dollars to Canada’s economy but is blocked in by some jurisdictions from developing its resources.

READ MORE: Could Alberta change or end equalization?

“The level of frustration and alienation that exists in Alberta right now towards Ottawa and the federation is, I believe, at its highest level, certainly in our country’s modern history,” Kenney said Thursday at the end of the annual premiers’ meeting in Saskatoon.

Kenney said he doesn’t think Albertans want to separate — they just want fairness.

During the two-day meeting, Kenney said he spoke with Quebec Premier Francois Legault about moving oil by pipeline as part of a vision to create a west-east energy corridor.

Legault said he’s open to moving liquefied natural gas by pipeline and hydro-electricity through Quebec, but that there’s no “social acceptability” in his province for an oil pipeline.

READ MORE: Oil pipelines remain contentious as more provinces opposed to federal carbon tax

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said he believes there’s a way forward for Saskatchewan and Alberta to get their oil to market and finding a solution should be done quickly.

“The longer you ignore problems that are frustrating one province over another, it creates disunity and it creates a problem that ultimately can magnify and lead into discord and lead to problems and that could be in the sense of our national unity,” Higgs said.

Watch below (July 10): Canada’s 13 premiers are in Saskatoon for an annual two-day summit. They don’t always agree on things, and one of the big topics on the agenda is energy, and how to get it out of land-locked Alberta. Heather Yourex-West explains how relations are apparently thawing between Alberta and Quebec over the issue.

British Columbia Premier John Horgan, who is locked in disagreement over the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project with Kenney and the federal government, said the premiers’ differences are not insurmountable.

“Certain things happen over the course of history that shock you. A man named Kawhi made me cheer for Toronto,” he said, referring to Toronto Raptors basketball star Kawhi Leonard.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, who chaired The Council of the Federation meeting, has said before that he believes Ottawa’s energy policies — like Bill C-69, an overhaul of federal environmental assessments of major construction projects, and its carbon tax — are a threat to national unity.

READ MORE: Quebec energy, health care, cannabis on agenda for final day of annual premiers gathering

Moe said Thursday he did not want to comment further on the issue.

He did say all the premiers agreed to send letters to federal leaders ahead of October’s election, asking them to state their plans on a range of issues including the economy, job training, climate change, reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples and protecting Arctic sovereignty.

READ MORE: Premiers want to ensure local jurisdiction respected when it comes to climate change decisions

“One question in this letter asks the federal leaders if they will commit to a goal of Canadian energy independence and outline how they will achieve that goal,” said Moe.

“I think this would be an important step in building a stronger economy and advancing Canadian sovereignty and Canadian unity.”

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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